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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Laying Aside Weights – Dream Homes and the Beautiful Life


Hebrews 12:1-2  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

In winding down this series on laying aside weights I come to a subject that has not been easy for me to deal with.  The reason is not because I don’t know what I think about it, but that it is one of those packages without a handle.  Have you ever tried to pick up something that had no handle?  It’s not easy.  With this, I don’t know for sure where to grab hold of it because there are so many ways it can play itself out in our lives today.

Proverbs 31:30 says,  Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.  This verse appears to be speaking in relation to individual women as the last half indicates.  But, I want to focus on the phrase “beauty is vain” here.

First of all, please don’t get me wrong.  I have no problem with making ourselves attractive in a modest and wholesome manner.  I have no problem, as regular readers will well know, with making our homes comfortable, attractive and homelike.  My concern about the “beautiful life” is that there is so much vanity available for us to imbibe in a capitalistic world gone crazy.  There is a lot that is purely of the world and the flesh.  In fact, it is probably safe to say that this subject, like that of perfectionism, is quite close to being a “sin which doth so easily beset us”.

Never Satisfied

In a number of cultures now there are aspirations to gracious living and “the beautiful life”.  These things take on different aspects depending on the group you’re looking at, but there is an obsession with the beautiful life, dream homes, gracious living and being outwardly “gorgeous”.  Consumer-driven commercialism, T.V., internet sources, the DIY movement, and more have presented a multitude of ways to become more lovely, stylish, beautiful, etc.  The “before and after” images and episodes, which are common, give an added “inspiration” to covet better houses, furniture, décor, clothing, makeup, even faces.  (It’s always important to remember that Paul wrote Christians through the Holy Spirit that comparing ourselves among ourselves is not wise! 2 Corinthians 10:12)

This ideal has made its way into the Christendom (meaning all areas of religion that claim anything to do with Christ) in various ways as well. Some groups – Mormons, “Biblical Patriarchy”, Reformed, and Charismatics, to name a few – even put a spiritual connection/obligation on living the beautiful life and having a beautiful family.  Among some “christians” it is as if it were a moral duty to present a lovely image to the world.  Some even have the ideology that by flaunting their wealth they will impress others; and in the case of some, such as the Dutch Reformed and some mega church gurus, there can be a belief that they are “showing how much God has blessed us” by doing so.

One of the problems we need to confront is the confusion between the beautiful life of gracious living and the beautiful life of holy and grace-filled living.

Growing up in Western Michigan I had the opportunity to see that the beautiful life mentality does not lead to happiness and contentment.  One young lady we knew came from “an elegant home” in a “prestigious neighborhood” in the suburbs.  Her mother had strict rules for the décor of their house which applied even in the kids’ own rooms.  I was in that house once and saw the almost austere gorgeousness on display there.  One day this particular young lady had occasion to visit my family’s house.  We lived in a parsonage with mismatched trim and carpeting, cheap paneling, etc., which was very plainly and inexpensively decorated.  When she came in she exclaimed, “Oh, it’s so cozy!”, and was obviously very pleased.  I was rather surprised since our house was so unstylish.  Probably the young lady could see that our house was used for love, family comforts, friendship and general amiability rather than as a show piece and investment.  She preferred humble comfy to “the beautiful life” in a “dream home” – at least when she met it face to face.

My mom also had two different friends – one a believer and one unsaved – who had all white living rooms in which their children were not allowed.  She was totally unimpressed with this kind of décor.  Her attitude was that any room in a family home that was such a show piece that it was off limits for the kids was a waste.  Can you imagine Jesus Christ being impressed with that?  Matthew 19:13-15  Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.

My mom lived in numerous small, unimpressive dwellings during their years as missionaries, yet one friend of hers once told her that she envied her because my mom knew what her work for the Lord was.  Mrs. Brown (as we’ll call her) had no clear idea apparently.  She did try, but she also worked outside the home and  spent a lot of time and money making her house and family “beautiful” and redecorating periodically to impress her social club….er…church friends.  (Yes, the church you fellowship with can and does affect your thinking about and contentment with your living arrangements!)

My family also knew a lady (a believer) years later who moved her family from one house to another in search of her “dream home” but never found it.  She undoubtedly wasted a goodly portion of her husband’s hard earned money purchasing and selling houses in such quick succession.

The common theme that stands out in all of this to me is the emptiness.  None of them were fulfilled with their beautiful life, their dream home, or their gorgeous houses.  Some were never ultimately satisfied with what they had either.  They were always straining toward something better.  This disturbs me as I find myself having similar feelings and I don’t want to pour my life work into something that only ends with emptiness.  After all is said and done, she who dies with the most beautiful dream home dies

2 Peter 3:10-11  But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,

How were the Christian ladies bettered in a way that counted for Christ?  They weren’t.  We can’t take the things of this life into eternity with us.  In the end, perfect house décor, “dream homes” and the beautiful life are all very much of this world and not of the one to come.  Somehow, in light of the things that Jesus and the apostles taught, they can’t matter all that much.  Luke 12:15  And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.  The Lord Jesus said, “…The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”  Matthew 8:20 

The apostle Paul asked for some things to be brought to him, 2 Timothy 4:13  The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.  This shows that some things in this life do have value, but they are not the main event in life.

The Dream Life

God created a beautiful world.  We’re created in His image, so it also gives us pleasure to make attractive spaces and things.  But, beauty living is overrated.  A perfect living room or dining room or even a house is not essential.  It is not next to godliness, and often it isn’t even comfortable.  Comfortable houses may be pleasant but they probably aren’t elegant and may not be “beautiful”.  [Painting by Carl Wilhelm Hols]

Having a house to keep, clean, decorate, etc. is time consuming, no doubt about it.  But having your “dream house” can be so much more consuming.  Mandy at Biblical Homemaking found to her chagrin that having her large “dream house” required much more work than the small house they left behind.  Now she struggles to stay focused on God and people.  He has to remind her more to think on Him than He did back when they were in the small house.  Link: letting go of your dream house (Disclaimer on versions other than KJV and possibly some content.)

Having a beautiful life can also tempt us to pride.  It can tempt us to think selfishly, as the rich man in the parable who decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones.  Yet God called him a fool!  Luke 12:18-20  And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?

1 Timothy 6:9 says, But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. More possessions mean more trouble, more work, more complications, more things to go wrong.  Living “the beautiful life” requires more money, more time on pointless things (manicures, pedicures, yearly fashions, new cars, new paint, etc.), more care for weeds and thorns rather than for the fruit unto righteousness. Luke 8:14  And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. The beautiful life can choke us and make us unfruitful.  These things are weights that need to be laid aside.

We all feel the pull of things and of making things beautiful, elegant, pretty, cute, etc.  Books, T.V. shows and internet sources are rampant with such things.  This is the reason that Home Depot sponsors HGTV.  Many of those  shows make people want to “improve” their life ($$$) in some way.  The DIY movement entices us by saying we can have “the beautiful life” at a fraction of the cost – but what is the work and time investment?  Don’t be fooled into wasting your life on projects to “keep up with the Joneses on a shoestring”.  We need to weigh things carefully so that we don’t spend our time and resources wastefully.  We need to weigh our motives and discern if we have a good reason for some project, or if it is just a desire to keep up with the rest of the pack living the beautiful life.  I know.  I struggle with these things myself.

Some of us love to garden, but that also can become a snare.  The creation of God in flowers and plants is beautiful, but it can be overdone.  My desire at this point in my life is to make gardens that are less work to maintain and that also produce some useful things while still being beautiful to look at (mixing herbs and flowers).  Gardening is very therapeutic, so it can offer a great escape from stress, depression and anxiety, but as with all beautifying ventures, it can be overdone.  I’ve seen yards that obviously consumed huge amounts of time to be maintained.

Some people also get caught up in the beautiful family image.  The late Vision Forum Ministries and other “Biblical Patriarchy” groups encourage this to a great extent.  Some Christians colleges do as well.  Beware of the vanity of pride that comes from showing off beautiful daughters with long flowing hair and handsome sons all dressed to certain specifications.  It is very enticing to think that we can exhibit spiritual things with beautiful outward appearances.  1 Samuel 16:7  But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.    [Painting by Walther Firle]

What is the Christian’s dream home? 

Heaven.  John 14:1-3  Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

What is “The Beautiful life”? 

Walking with God and doing His work and will.  Psalms 90:16-17  Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it. 
Micah 6:8  He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

The fruit of the Spirit - Galatians 5:22-23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Beautifying the inner man - 1 Peter 3:3-4  Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

What is Gracious Living?

Living in the grace of God - 1 Corinthians 15:10  But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain…  (What a thing to be able to say with the apostle Paul!)

2 Peter 3:18  But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

The Ministry of Less

I have a friend who has a “beautiful home”, or it could be if she made it that way.  She has decorated it to be comfortable and pleasant up to a point, but it is not pristine or gorgeous inside.  It is, in fact, a bit humble.  I thought it was a bit odd at first until I had occasion to visit some Christians who have a show place style house.  Then I understood.  She did not want to make other Christians who live in humble houses feel ashamed or intimidated when they visited her house.  She herself had formerly had a nice house in the suburbs and she figured it out when she moved to another area.  She intentionally made their current house plainer so that it would be comfortable to all.

A dream home or beautiful life in the worldly sense is not necessary to serve Christ.  In fact, perfect homes often limit the amount of serving that can be done in them because they are too perfect to be comfortable and useful.  They tend to be obviously expensive and self-aware.  And then too, when we spend less time puttering around our “beautiful things”, we will have more time to spend actually ministering to others. [Painting by Margaret Isabel Dicksee]

The seduction of fine things is also that they are difficult to hold lightly.  It is hard to take joyfully the spoiling of your goods when you’ve put a lot of focus on your earthly possessions.  Hebrews 10:34  For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.  It is also hard to extend hospitality without grudging.  1 Peter 4:9-10  Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

My own grandparents struggled with this in the first house they actually owned.  Because they’d always lived in parsonages, mission houses and rentals, they had a hard time not putting too much value on the house they owned in their retirement.  The living room in that house had a white carpet when they bought it, but instead of changing it (it was a small room) or having it dyed, they covered the main thoroughfare with runners and plastic and then fussed about any stains or marks guests got on the carpet.  I never understood their behavior when they could have afforded to change the carpet and avoid the worry.  It really was an unnecessary weight.

This isn’t to say that it’s “evil” to have some luxuries or nice things in this life.  But, don’t set your heart on them.  Don’t give yourself to them.  Sometimes God gives us some fleshly comforts to enjoy for a season – good vanity to help us stay in the fight or to keep us in good health so that we can serve Him more effectively.  We will know the difference if we’re honest with ourselves about these things.  Sometimes, for His reasons, God gives much.  It is not evil or wicked to enjoy that while it lasts, contrary to what some Mennonites and Amish might teach.  But, we need to remember Proverbs 23:4-5,  Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven. 

The luxuries of this life are Of This Life.  Paul said he learned to be content with both much and little.  This is the key.  Philippians 4:11-13  Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

In Conclusion

So, these are some weights we need to lay aside -
Dream houses
The beautiful life
Gracious/beautiful living

The worldly, earthly versions of these things are all choking thorns that make us unfruitful.  Paul said,  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, Philippians 3:8 

Remember the story of Mary and Martha?  When Jesus visited Martha’s house she became very distracted with serving her guests. 

Luke 10:38-42  Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Jesus was not looking for a “beautiful home” and lovely family, a beautifully appointed table, an elegant meal, amazing “foodie” dishes with rare ingredients, fine china, clean carpets, dust-free mantles, immaculate guest chambers, etc.  No.  He said ONE thing is NEEDFULsitting at His feet hearing His word.

God’s creation is full of beauty, true.  But, most of that is free!  Beautiful faces and bodies still age, become ill, die and rot.  Beautiful homes and things may perish in fire or flood, or be stolen; and you can’t take them with you.  Beautiful gardens may die or be plucked up by the next owner.  Beautiful clothes do little to nothing for the inside person.  Beautiful families may or may not grow up to love and serve God. 

If you get nothing else out of this please remember these two things:

1. Beauty is vain (Prv. 31:30).

2. The needful thing is to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His word.

Matthew 6:19-21  Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

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Martha and Mary – A poem by Annie Johnson Flint

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Because Christmas Isn’t Always Merry…

 

This is always a tough time of year for people who are suffering, grieving, alone, troubled, in crisis, etc.  The emphasis on happiness, “merriness” and festivities can make those who are struggling feel extremely lonely.  In consideration for that, I wanted to post some comforting things here today.

Isaiah 41:10  Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Poems:

His Billows – by Annie Johnson Flint

“I Am with You” – by Annie Johnson Flint

I See Jesus – by Annie Johnson Flint

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Words of Comfort:

No Greater Love

“Fear Not” and Comfort Verses

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Hallelujah, What A Savior – Philip P. Bliss

It Is Well with My Soul – Horatio G. Spafford

 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Thoughts from the Past – Lists

 

April 6, 2006 (edited)
Lists

Today I was feeling discouraged that I haven't been getting "enough" done when I realized that I haven't been making "to do" lists for myself. You see, making a list of the things you need to do has more than one benefit. First, it reminds you what needs to be done. Next it helps you put things in order of priority as to what should be done first and when. Lastly, as you mark things off your list, it helps you feel satisfied to see what you have accomplished. Sometimes we actually forget what we've done when we don't have a list.

In thinking on lists, it occurred to me that this is one area where Christians get into trouble. Lists of what needs doing are helpful. We are given some in scripture, but there are many things added by various people that are actually not clearly listed in scripture (observing Christmas, homeschooling, “courtship/betrothal”, higher education or no higher education, etc.).

Setting priorities is also good, but we can get into trouble there as we are often tempted to place what we think or have been told is "God's will for us" ahead of our true Biblical responsibilities (Exp.. - Parents are responsible for the raising and training of their own kids before helping other people's kids; so, if teaching Sunday School is keeping you from training your own kids properly, you need to stop teaching Sunday School.)

But, it is the "accomplished list" that can be a major downfall to believers.

There are so many lists of "spiritual things" (and I use that term very loosely) that have been made into "accomplished lists" - really, "look-what-we/I-did lists". Church attendance, giving, Sunday School Bibles "present", building funds, buses, missionaries supported, salvation and baptisms for the year, etc. are some of the lists that are generally seen and admired or mourned. Other lists or notations come in where perhaps a certain man or woman is boasted to have led "so many thousand (or million) souls to Christ" or raised "so many hundred orphans in ______ for the Lord."

2Corinthians 10:12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.

How do they really know how many people Moody or Billy Sunday actually led to Christ? Who was counting? And what about the false births...or the real ones that the "counters" didn't know about?  This is not to say it is wrong to relate stories or biographies, for many are related in scripture; but the comparing or lifting up of men and women for admiration is the problem.

For Christians, the "accomplished" list of spiritual endeavors is a very dangerous thing. Besides the problems mentioned above, there is the issue of whose job it is to do the recording anyway. Scripture indicates it is the Lord who is responsible to "keep records" on these things. An important aspect of this is that only He knows what's really been done and what counts!

Jeremiah 17:10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

Romans 14:12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

We often may not even know how something we said or did affected the outcome of some fruitful event on God's list. We also have little idea of how God rates the "value" of various activities. Our standards of what "counts" and what "doesn't" has largely been based on man's definitions which, more often than not, have been proven to be off the mark when examined with scripture.

Christ told the disciples in Mark 10:43, But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: 44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. 45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Based on this, the young girl who runs the errands and washes the dishes for the lady who prepares the meals, for the lady who runs the kitchen which feeds the staff and workers of the "great, godly man" who preaches the sermon that "wins a thousand people to Christ" may have a greater reward than the said famous preacher. Or perhaps it will go to the mentally slow Monastic vows rest on the false assumption that there is a special calling, a vocation, to which superior Christians are invited to observe the counsels of perfection while ordinary Christians fulfill only the commands; but there simply is no special religious vocation since the call of God comes to each at the common tasks.
- Martin Luther
fellow who sweeps up after the whole crowd!

We don't know what's on our "accomplished list" in God's records, but it may not be what we expect at all. Therefore, we should allow the Lord to make our "accomplished lists" for us, and not be overly concerned about what is boasted by others. Instead of feeling discouraged that we are not "doing enough" or not doing "what counts", we should entrust our works into His care and leave the reckoning to Him.

Paul wrote, 1Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. If Paul did not judge himself in these matters, why should we? The Lord knows what we have done and why. That should be sufficient for us!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Re-run of Holiday Challenge Number 5 – Remember the Poor

 

I haven’t written a new Holiday Challenge for a couple years now.  I did have an idea this year, but I didn’t get onto it soon enough and it seemed unfair to post it so late, so it will have to wait, if I use it at all.  As some of my readers may remember, I started this Challenge a few years ago to encourage those who do celebrate Christ’s birth at this time of year to think more scripturally about what they are doing.

I found a video this week that touched my heart and gave me a desire to repost the Holiday Challenge Number Five – Remember the Poor.  (A link to the video is at the bottom of the page.)

This happens to be my favorite challenge of the lot.  It is not too late to take these thoughts to heart and DO something about it.  Please, if you claim Christ and claim to be honoring Him in your celebrations this time of year, consider these things prayerfully.  There is so much that could be done.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Thousand Word Project– Vintage Winter Vignettes, Part 2

 

 

Ooo…I don’t miss those snowy roads, but they sure are beautiful.

My grandparents’ (?) car parked in front of their house.  Notice this photo is not black and white.

My uncle and his cousin.

All photos – near Gull Lake, Michigan. Various dates.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Hard Questions - Are You Riding On Past Victories?

 

My dad used to tell us, “You can’t coast on past victories.”  What he meant was that things we did in the past for the Lord aren’t “enough to last a lifetime”.  We have to keep pressing forward, finding new things to do for Christ, and striving against sin in the present.  Past victories may be sweet memories, even invigorating, but they don’t suffice to justify our existence today.  We would think it strange if an unemployed and poverty stricken man enjoyed boasting of the $50 an hour he once made but showed no interest in finding a new job.  If a father asked his child, “Well, son, have you been obedient today?” and he answered, “Well, I was last week,” the father would be quite unimpressed.  Boasting of past blessings and victories is pretty much the same.

Martin Lloyd-Jones had this to say:

“I have always found it depressing to listen to the kind of people who, whenever you meet them, will always for sure tell you the story of their conversion many years ago. They tell you that story every time. I have known people do exactly the same thing with revival. There is always something about an initial experience that is remarkable and outstanding. And a time of revival is so amazing and wonderful that it is not surprising that people go on talking about it. But, if they give the impression that they have had nothing since that wonderful experience, that ever after they have been walking through a wilderness, and travelling through a desert, then it is absolutely wrong. Their idea of the Christian life is of a dramatic experience, perhaps at the outset, after which they just trudge along, living on the strength of that and partly keeping their eye turned backwards as they go forward.”

My family had a friend who once said something to this effect – “They talk about revivals and how we need to get all fired up again for God.  I don’t want to go up and down all the time.  I would rather just live with a steady zeal all the time.”

What are you doing?  Are you riding on past victories with nothing to speak of from recent times?  If so, what can you do to get back into “active duty” as it were?  Or, are you one of those Christians who lives a rollercoaster life plunging to defeat or lethargy then bounding up to exultation and zeal after a good “revival”, only to follow the same path of descent again after awhile?

It is something worth thinking about.

The apostle Paul said, Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:12-14 

Paul was not content to “rest upon his laurels” as it were, yet if anyone had room to boast in accomplishments he did.  Instead he left us an example of pressing forward – whether it was in the body (during his missionary journeys) or in spirit (during his prison years).

Hebrews 6:1-3  Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,  Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit.

The Christian life is one of moving forward, of not lingering indefinitely over the foundations.  We should never stop growing. 

2 Peter 3:17-18  Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. 

1 Corinthians 15:57-58  But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Thousand Word Project – Vintage Winter Vignettes, Part 1

 

My great-grandparents’ home in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  A day in winter.

Probably Kalamazoo Ave., Kalamazoo, Michigan.

My great-grandparents’ house on a winter night.

My grandfather and his two oldest children enjoying a snow storm, probably at Gull Lake, Michigan.  (My mom is the one in the foreground.)

All photos were taken before 1950.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Random Winter Evening

 

Verse for Today:

Psalms 118:24  This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

This Evening I like the…
Smell of…a wood fire.
Sound of…the dog snoring in front of the crackling fire.  My husband typing.  (He’s working late tonight, but thank the Lord he can work from home!)
Taste of…chocolate.
Sight of…electric lights.  These early evenings of winter make me thankful for electricity.
Feel of…warm extra layers of clothing.

Good Things about Today:

The sun shone – almost ALL DAY LONG!  PRAISE THE LORD!

Things Already Accomplished Today:

Not much. A load of laundry.  Cleaned up the kitchen some.  Dinner.

This morning I thought I really needed a day to “play”.  I’ve had so many things hanging over me since I fell behind while we were sick.  I’d gotten some pressing things done and felt like some things weren’t that important today after all and I needed a break.  So, I got a slow start, read, played a couple simple games on my cell phone, and played “in and out” games with the cats.  (I’m a semi-automatic door opener apparently, and had both our cat my brother’s playing with me this morning.)  Then my sister-in-law came and we played with fabric and made plans for a project.  Eventually she went to get some stuff  from her house and brought my mom back with her.  We discussed projects, looked at fabric and talked, and talked, and talked.  A good time was had by all. :-)

Things that Need to Be Done – Hopefully Today:

A blog post.  Ahem!

Random Photo from My World:

Not a recent photo, but our cat has been doing quite a bit of this lately due to cold weather. :-)  She likes this afghan pretty well.  (Btw, that afghan is not as bright as it looks in the picture.)

Quote for Today:

Mrs. Liscombe sang for us.  I could not make out what it was she sang, being unfamiliar with the music and unable to understand the words.  She possessed a voice of some beauty, but was evidently determined to be classed among the sopranos who are able to soar highest, and when she took certain notes I experienced a peculiar and most disagreeable sensation in the back of my neck.

“I wonder if we couldn’t bring in a stepladder for her,” murmured the Skeptic in my ear.  “It give me a pang to see a woman, alone and unassisted, attempt to reach something several feet above her head!”

Grace S. Richmond, A Court of Inquiry

Sunday, December 8, 2013

God the Artist

 

A friend of mine used to comment on what an amazing artist God is.  She especially appreciated the beauty of a red bud tree against cedar trees, which “coincidentally” happens quite often in Tennessee where she lived.  This poem made me think of her comment, so I put it together with some photographs to illustrate it.

God the Artist – Angela Morgan

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

“Living Without the Greens” – Some Memories from the Past By My Dad

 

My Gramma “milking” by hand. 
I’m suspicious this picture was posed. :-)

My dad got inspired by that story that has been around for awhile now about the old lady who didn’t bring her own grocery bags from the store and was rebuked by the clerk at the check out counter.  The clerk blamed the lady and her generation for not caring for the earth properly. “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

The original author of that piece waxed eloquent on that one pointing out all the ways that people “back then” didn’t “care for the environment”.  You know – things like using cloth diapers, walking instead of driving, hanging the laundry outside to dry, refilling pens and razors, etc.

Well, my dad read that piece, and reprinted it, then he added a lot of things from his own experiences in life.  There is a lot of food for thought here and I thought it was a very interesting read.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Living Without the Greens

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Full Time Christian Service?

 

Here is an article I wrote a few years back.  It is on the subject of Christian parents training their children towards “full time Christian service.”  Please read it and give it prayerful consideration.  In light of the intense scrutiny that is being placed upon the Patriarchal Movement and parents who force their children into a specific “spiritual” mold, I think this is a timely thought.

Full Time Christian Service?

Colossians 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Many Christians have the sense to realize it is presumptuous and proud for parents to determine that all of their children will be "doctors or lawyers". We consider this overbearing and unreasonable. This kind of parent does not really care what their child is qualified to do nor what interests them; and pity the kid who doesn't fulfill their dream. The parents may resign themselves, but they will never quite accept it. Of course, this can happen with any number of professions - farmers, mechanics, military, etc. Parents may assume their children will either enter some certain profession or follow their father. Sometimes it's simply a matter of, "All my kids have to go to college or university."

There are unsaved people who have the sense to realize this attitude is unfair to the child. In fact, many consider this an outdated attitude, or perhaps something that parents of high social status fall into because their goal in life is prestige. But how goes it among God's people? We would agree it is not right for parents to place unfair demands on their kids as far as occupation is concerned in the doctor/lawyer question (and others), and yet are not many Christian parents doing the exact same thing in their own context?

Continue Reading.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thorns

 

Here is an item I posted some years back.  It is a good challenge to think about how we can be thankful for our own thorns in life.

Thorns

2Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able
to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort
wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us,
so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

Sandra felt as low as the heels of her Birkenstocks as she pushed against a November gust and the florist shop door. Her life had been easy, like a spring breeze. Then in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor automobile accident stole her ease. During this Thanksgiving week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss.

As if that weren't enough her husband's company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come. What's worse, Sandra's friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer? "Had she lost a child? No - she has no idea what I'm feeling,"

Continue Reading

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sew Happy Saturday – Vintage Coats


One of my uncles very kindly converted a lot of old photographs and slides that belonged to my grandparents to digital format.  I thought it might be fun to share some of those that relate to either sewing or past styles here.  Today, in honor of the season here in the northern hemisphere, we’ll look at some vintage winter coats that belonged to my Gramma and her friends and/or family.



Here is my Gramma (right) with her aunt (left) and another lady.  This photo was taken in 1931 and was probably during her years at Wheaton College.  The coat she’s wearing looks like a kimono style and appears to have a velvety texture.  Of course, this was during the Depression.  Gramma was very blessed that her father didn’t lose his money or job.  He was not what we’d call wealthy today, but due to his wise use of a good income, they never suffered like others did at that time.



Gramma (center) was at Bible school in Philadelphia when this was taken.  She went there after she graduated from Wheaton.  She was planning to go the missionfield at this point and wanted more Bible training.  Check out the wiiiide collar and snazzy buttons on this coat. :-)  The lady on the left was her best friend, Bea, who later became her sister-in-law.  (By the way, that is her younger brother in back on the left.  He’s not the one who married Bea.)  The ladies’ hats are cute, but I doubt that they kept their heads terribly warm. :-)



Here is Gramma with her parents aboard a ship.  I’m pretty sure this is the same coat as in the picture above, but here she has it all buttoned up.



Another coat she wore during her time at Philadelphia School of the Bible.  Note the wide fur collar and the big buttons.  She seemed to like big buttons. :-)  (That’s “Aunt Bea” again on the left.  The poor lady in the middle looks like she has headlights because the sun is reflecting off of her buttons.)



Yet another coat of hers with big buttons (second from left). :-)



Years later – 1946, the family was home from East Africa on furlough with the three oldest kids (no. four came later).  Aren’t their little outfits cute? [That’s my mom on the right.]  This furlough had been much delayed due to WWII.



Gramma and my mom in the 1960s.  Although this coat is different from the one I was used to her wearing, the overall look here reminds me very much of how she looked in winter when I was growing up. 

She loved those thin little, rubber “boots” that slipped on over her shoes.  I don’t know how she kept her feet warm in a Michigan winter.  Obviously she didn’t.  My mom’s boots here are much better suited for that weather and snow.  [That’s an ice fishing hut in the background.  This was on a frozen lake.]

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Chocolate Dump Cake

 

This recipe came to us from my aunt.  It is very simple since you mix the cake up right in the cake pan!  No bowls, no other messes.  It is not the cheapest or most low-fat cake you will find, but if you need a cake in a hurry this one will certainly go together quickly.

Our family is no longer particularly worried about the oil issue as it turns out oil is not nearly as “unhealthy” for us as the so-called experts claimed at one time.  I do recommend that you use a healthy oil such as grape seed or something similar.  Some olive oils might have an odd flavor in a sweet dish like this, but it could be used as well.  I have not tried coconut oil as yet, but I hope to do so.  I am not sure if melted butter would work or not, but I will probably try that as well at some point just to see.  (That would make an extra dirty dish, though.)

If you want the edges of the pan to look better than this, you will want to wipe them off before you bake the cake. :-)  I used a chocolate butter frosting to frost this cake.

I made this cake in a disposable pan to take to an event where we were asked to help provide cake.  As you can see, I still use some sprinkles occasionally just for fun.  We get very few food colorings in our food any more, so I figure it’s OK for a once-in-awhile treat. :-)

Chocolate Dump Cake

Dump into a 9x13 cake pan:

2 C. flour
1 1/2 C. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 C. cocoa powder
1 egg
1 tsp. salt
1 C. buttermilk
1 C. oil
2 tsp. baking soda

Mix fairly well. 

Add 1 C. boiling water.

Mix thoroughly.

Bake 30-35 minutes at 350F.

Note: The last time I made this I reduced the oil to about 3/4 C. and it still turned out fine.  I think I also reduced the sugar to 1 C.  I also used peppermint flavoring instead of vanilla, but I was not impressed with how that worked in this recipe, so be forewarned.  Almond would probably be fine.  This cake also keeps well in the freezer.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Two Poems about Thankfulness for Hard Things

 

A Thanksgiving

For all Thy blessings given there are many to thank Thee, Lord,
But for the gifts withholden I fain would add my word.

For good things I desired that barred me from the best,
The peace at the price of honour, the sloth of a shameful rest;

The poisonous sweets I longed for to my hungering heart denied,
The staff that broke and failed me when I walked in the way of pride;

The tinsel joys withheld that so content might still be mine,
The help refused that might have made me loose my hand from Thine;

The light withdrawn that I might not see the dangers of my way;
For what Thou hast not given, I thank Thee, Lord today.

Annie Johnson Flint

Psalm 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. 12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.

A Thanksgiving for Hard Things

Thank You, my Father that Your wisest choosing,
To my own wayward heart is ever proving,
That some glad joy I longed my life to garnish,
Would but have left me marred with rust and tarnish.

Thank You, Lord, for that most kind depriving,
Which mercifully withstood my soul's mad driving,
Has kept me from some greater, horribler loss,
While teaching me the glory of Thy cross.

Thank You that the smaller scars I have sustained,
Have kept me, Lord, from what I might have gained,
Of deeper wounds that span the years of life,
And bear the loathsome fruit of constant strife.

Thank You for Your thoughtful little tokens,
Reminding that I'm loved, though sorely broken;
And so I find these smaller blessings meet,
To bring me here in worship at Thy feet.

Thank You, Lord, that that which seemeth good to Thee,
Hath overruled that which seemed so good to me,
And so withheld some earthly satisfaction,
That I might serve Thee here without distraction.

O Thank You, God, that confidence yet growing,
Can rest in Thy great wisdom, safely knowing,
Though troubles come which I can never tell,
Yet my Redeemer doeth all things well.

By Mary Stephens
Originally written in Nov. 2004

1Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Mark 7:37  …He hath done all things well…

Romans 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Some Thoughts On the Resignation of Doug Phillips of Vision Forum Ministries

 

Ecclesiastes 10:1  Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.

This post is not likely to be a popular one.  Some things in this life are not pleasant to deal with.  For those who wonder why I would address this subject, let me give a brief explanation.

The “patriarchal” movement, as it is called, is generally an extremely conservative Christian sect which promotes and preaches the idea that the father is the central and most important figure of the home.  It is considered his right to rule the home as he sees fit, but in a way that too often goes well beyond the requirements of scriptural headship.  The so-called “Quiverfull” movement is based on the ideology that we should “trust God with our families” and by “faith” “receive every blessing He wants to give us” in regard to children – usually meaning that any form of birth prevention (even non-life-threatening ones) is “wicked” or sinful.  (It is not uncommon for this to extend even to the point where the mother’s life is in danger or her health is seriously compromised.)  Because there are many different groups who hold to part of the theories surrounding these views, it’s hard to give basic beliefs that apply in all cases.  One common view seems to be that through having large, father-centric families, they will be able to “reclaim” society and win the “war” against an evil culture.  Of course, this is not the message of the gospel preached unto us.  See 1 Corinthians 15:1-10.

Doug Phillips is a well known and prominent leader in the “patriarchy” and Quiverfull movements as well as in the homeschooling world.  He has taught many followers on the subjects of fatherhood, motherhood, marriage, the family, the father-centered home, purity, homeschooling, courtship/betrothal, the restoring of America and the church through the restoring of the home/family, multi-generational family “Visions”, and the need to “take back” America through large families that are then trained up to be “warriors” who will go out and win the “war on culture”.  After all of this, he has been unfaithful to his wife – a direct failure of the things for which he has so strongly spoken. 

Galatians 6:14  But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

The entire situation is very unpleasant, but it is my hope that through this perhaps some people will begin to question the ideology that places the father and families in a place of importance that often supersedes that of Jesus Christ and his bride, the church.  I hope that there will be those who in questioning this ideology will find that it is not a righteous and biblical interpretation for the church age, but is based upon a misguided doctrine that removes Israel from all of the promises and blessings in the Old Testament and appropriates them to the church, and that in realizing this, they will also realize that “patriarchy”, as taught by these people, is not true Christ-centered, Christianity.  It is my hope that they will re-examine the teachings of the New Testament and realize the liberty that we truly have in Christ.

Galatians 5:1  Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Because so many people in the conservative parts of the Christian community have bowed to Doug Phillips and Vision Forum in one way or another, accepting their teachings without examining the scripture to see if these things be so (Acts 17:11), it seemed needful to bring this subject forward for examination.  If you’ve never had to deal with this subject nor its adherents, you are blessed.  There are some sweet people among them, but there is also a strangeness to the manners and behavior of too many of them that has bothered some of us on more than one occasion.  The smell of legalism and bondage is heavy around this movement.

So, here are some things to consider specifically relating to the details surrounding Mr. Phillips’ sin and resignation.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Thanksgiving Challenge

 

This year I’d like to do just a small challenge relating to Thanksgiving, which is on the 28th of November this year.  (It was on Oct. 14th in Canada, but I’m sorry to say I didn’t think of it earlier.)

We have many, many blessings to be thankful for in life, it is true.  I have no problem with people who are posting something they are thankful for each day on various social medias.  I think it’s a good idea.  The scripture clearly teaches us to Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:  Psalms 103:2 

However, this year we have been through some difficult experiences.  The two biggest from my perspective are that my mom had major surgery in January and we undertook a trip to Australia in Sept./Oct.  These were both difficult things.  As some of you know, I’ve had trouble with anxiety and also some physical limitations.  The fact I was even able to get on a large jet for some 15 hours and fly thousands of miles over water with a whole lot of other people at close quarters is nothing short of a miracle to me.  Five years ago it would have been impossible.  My husband and I have been through some other situations in addition to these this year that have been difficult to deal with in various ways.  As much as I disliked all these situations and some of the things we had to deal with, I am truly blessed to see how the Lord has used those things to draw us closer together and to show me things in my husband that I respect and appreciate.  I am also humbled to see what He has done for me.

Having these thoughts on my mind maybe it was not surprising that the Lord would point me in the direction of challenging us to thank the Lord this year particularly for the hard things – the hard things we’ve had to deal with this year that have grown us, made us wiser, given us a better perspective and more compassion, brought us better relationships, and made us lean more on the Lord.

Nothing is wasted with God.  If He allowed it, He can and will use it in some way to improve us for His purpose – if we love Him. Romans 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

I don’t believe that “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  That is not true as a general statement, and I’m not talking about that kind of cavalier attitude.  Just ask anyone who has burned out their brains with drugs or alcohol or destroyed their lungs with tobacco. Or ask someone who has suffered permanent health problems from an accident or illness.  Many things that don’t kill you outright will indeed weaken you.  So here I’m talking about being thankful for those things beyond our control that are the result of circumstance (for lack of a better word) or the result of other people’s choices.  I don’t really see consequences for sin as a matter of praise, except in as much as His chastening reminds us we are truly God’s children (Heb. 12:8).

I have shared in a general way some of the things I’m thankful for.  How about you?  Can you see the hand of God in some difficult situation that you’ve been through this year?  Can you thank Him for allowing that situation or event so that you could sustain the results of growth that He has given?

Hebrews 13:15-16  By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.  But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Lord willing, I’ll post some more things for consideration on this subject over the next few weeks.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sew Happy Saturday – The Blind Quilter

 

Something to encourage and inspire you in your sewing (and life) today.

Diane Rose – The Blind Quilter

Yes, she really is blind, and she’s made hundreds of quilts – not homely, ugly quilts, but pretty, colorful quilts.  Don’t let your limitations hold you back from doing something useful with your life.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Memories of Great Meals – Australian Originals

 

Meat pie – and Australian tradition.  (This one was store bought.)

Enjoying my piece of meat pie with sauce.

 

Sausage roll and sauce (we’d call it ketchup), another Aussie tradition.  (Also store bought.)

 

 

 

 

Damper, another original Australian food. 
Sorry it’s a blurry.  They were in a hurry to eat! :-)

Ground Kangaroo meat!

My brother cooking the ‘roo burgers on the “barby”. :-)

My ‘roo burger with pickled beetroot, and with grated carrot and cheese (something my sister-in-law’s mother liked to add to burgers).  Of all the Aussie originals that we tried, I think this was the best! :-) 

Of course, it wouldn’t have been right without sausages as well, so we had those too.  They were a bit different than American varieties of this type.  I liked them better, but they were still rather rich.