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Sunday, February 25, 2018

God Is Not Your Lucky Charm




Some time back I saw this comment on a social media site: “Things are typically MUCH easier when God is behind them.”

Sadly, this is one of the lies that the devil can use to completely distract us from the direction and plans that God intends for us.

Why would I say that? Think of Job.

Here was a man who literally lost everything but his life and his wife, and even she was telling him to just die and get it over with. He went from being healthy and wealthy, having a close knit family of ten children, to sitting in an ash pile scratching his boils with a bit of broken pottery, mourning the death of all ten children and everything he owned, and with his wife telling him to curse God and die. On top of this his three friends who were his peers were telling him it was all his fault and he deserved it.

The truth is, God was the one that started the whole process by pointing out Job’s righteousness to Satan!

Job 1:8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? 

Then the God allowed the devil to do all those things to Job to prove Job’s love and faithfulness to Himself. None of this had to do with Job being wicked or deserving it. Quite the opposite was true.

Things definitely were not “MUCH easier” because God was behind it. In fact, it was MUCH worse because God was behind it.

It is so easy for us to decide that something is or isn’t from God based on how easy it is for us. It is also so easy to judge other people, like Job’s three friends did, because it seems to us that they must be going through all that trouble as punishment for something they did wrong.

We need to be so careful of this! The Lord had some hard words for Job's three friends that judged him so harshly.

Job 42:7-8 And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.

Tragically, many Christians have a heathen sort of view of life in this area. They seem to think that the Hindu and Buddhist idea of Karma is real. In fact, I’ve even seen Christians post things about Karma on Facebook, clearly thinking that it is a correct idea. [Karma: (in Hinduism and Buddhism) the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences. Source.]

There also seems to be an influence of the animistic idea that we can make our lives more livable and pleasant by appeasing the spirits. We see this in the way many Christians seem to think that if they do certain “good, godly” things, God is obligated to bless them. Then, if someone doesn’t receive the blessings they have allegedly “earned,” the assumption is that they must be doing something wrong.

Often times it’s just the opposite. The Bible tells us that "...all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution", not live a charmed life (2 Timothy 3:12). Instead of acknowledging and believing this, too many Christians seem to think of Christ as their lucky charm - He will make everything work out for them, or if something is "of God" it will automatically work out. This then plays out into thinking like the statement above - that things will be MUCH easier if God is behind them, or that if things are hard, they must not be “of God” or you must be "out of God’s will." This leads to making decisions based upon whether or not things are "easy," and determining one's relationship with God based on whether or not "bad things" are happening.

My great-uncle, Bill Ebeling, and his wife, Bea, were missionaries in China when the Communists took over. My Aunt Bea and their children were eventually permitted to escape to Hong Kong, but her husband was put under house arrest at the Hunan Bible institute where they had lived and worked for about 4 years. He had to listen to the Communists teaching their propaganda and indoctrination in the classrooms where he and his fellow workers had been teaching the word of God. I believe at one point he was ill and I know that all the work he had done for his doctorate was destroyed by the Communists. His wife waited about a year for him to be released and finally the decision was made that she should take the children and head for England.

During this time, back at his home church in Michigan, my great-grandmother was much provoked by some of her fellow Christians because they concluded that the reason her son was suffering all this was because he “obviously” was “out of God’s will” or had done something to deserve it. Yes, there he was suffering persecution for the Gospel’s sake, and his fellow church members back home were accusing him of being punished for his sins.

My great-uncle was released shortly after his wife and children left on a ship, but he was able to catch up with them in England. They were naturally very thankful, but what about those who had judged him? They probably just went on their way, with or without realizing how unjust and merciless they had been, and how presumptuous to assume they knew the Lord’s reasons for what happened.

An opposite instance happened to my dad once. He had graduated from high school at a missionary boarding school in Kenya and then spent a year working with his parents. Then he came back to the States from East Africa for college. He was in need of a suit so some family members took him shopping for one. As it turned out, they found one that fit on sale for a good price. The lady’s comment was, “Well, we must be living right.” My dad knew that wasn’t true, as the man was an alcoholic and these people didn’t make any genuine effort to live as Christians. He knew also that it wasn’t because he “deserved” it, but that it was just a blessing from the Lord, undeserved, gracious, and kind.

So many things in life are just that - undeserved blessings. Why do we insist on making it a reward for our “goodness” or “obedience”? Maybe it is sometimes, I don’t know. But we have no right to interpret it that way, especially knowing the deceitfulness of our own hearts and of sin.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Hebrews 3:13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Job obviously didn’t take his blessings that way during the earlier years because it clearly tells us that he was greatly disturbed about the possibility of his children having committed sin.

Job 1:5 And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually. 

Assuming that things are all caused by us and our behavior is self-focused, as is the heathen manner of thinking. It makes all that happens dependent upon us and it makes us the defining principle in our lives, when as Christians it should be just the opposite. Rather than focusing on everything as God either blessing us for our goodness or punishing us for our sins, we should see everything that happens as for His glory and for His will.

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.

2 Corinthians 4:15-18 For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. 

The problem with people trying to determine what is going on in the lives of others when their thinking is influenced by the superstitious tendencies of mankind is that they will blame or praise others where God is not blaming or praising. And, ultimately, that is what it is - superstition. The idea that we can get God to perform for us if we “live right” or perform the right acts is superstitious. Believing that if things are going badly for no apparent reason, we must be being punished is essentially superstitious also.

Sometimes the Lord does put up roadblocks to stop us from doing things or going places that are not His will for us. So how do we tell the difference?

In the case of Job he couldn’t know. But there was something he could have done. He could have refused to answer or even listen to his accusing friends, and he could have refrained from justifying himself. In the end the main thing that God impressed upon him was that he didn’t know what God was doing. When the Lord spoke to Job personally, it was about all the many things that Job didn’t know about the ways and methods of God. This is something we need to take to heart. We are just as ignorant of the ways and thoughts of God.

Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. 

We also need to not say, as Job sometimes did, that we “don’t deserve this.” Justifying ourselves is just as foolish as blaming where there is no blame. Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

There is also the principle of reaping and sowing in the scriptures, and likely this is something that has confused many of us at times on this subject.

Galatians 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 

Sometimes things certainly do happen that are a direct result of our own sins. But, I think these things are generally more obvious. I knew a person who died in a car accident while driving drunk. He was reaping what he sowed. Another lady had a child with disabilities because she used drugs while she was pregnant. She reaped what she sowed. A mother who spoiled her son and shielded him for proper discipline and training had the grief of seeing him choose to live a very sinful life. She reaped what she sowed.

You see what I mean? Some things are more obvious, but on that last one we cross into more difficult territory. After all, some parents who try hard to raise their kids in the ways of the Lord still have them turn out poorly, as did the prophet Samuel in the O.T. His sons were not godly like their father, and yet God never blamed him for that, while earlier He had severely judged Eli for not properly rebuking his sons for their wickedness.

Judging from the outside is dangerous business because we don’t even know all the internal details of a situation from a human perspective, let alone from God’s. Let’s not assume we know what God is doing, unless we have very good reason to do so.

And, let’s especially not treat the Lord as our lucky charm. Let’s not think that we can make Him bless us by our behavior, and let’s not think that we or someone else is automatically “naughty” just because things don’t go well by our human standards. Whether or not something is "easy" does not indicate that God is behind it or not behind it. There are plenty of examples of all types of situations. When we make assumptions based on this type of faulty thinking, or even superstition, we leave ourselves open to be deceived by the devil or our own sinful selves, and we make God small in our own minds. It is an easy thing to fall into, and so it is important to guard against it.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 

Philippians 4:6-7 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Sew Happy Friday - A Tutorial for Pretty Valances


Image property of sew4home.com

Here is a tutorial over at sew4home for some pretty valances with a lace inset. They also put a few rows of decorative stitching on them, but if your machine doesn't have decorative stitches, this is optional. The valances would still be very nice without them. If you do have decorative stitches on your machine and you haven't tried them out, this might the project to use one of them. :-) You could also sew on ribbon instead.

Home made valances and curtains can add a lot of color or personality to a room since you can use fabrics that would never be used in pre-manufactured types. I've made quite a few over the years. Some for myself, but also some for my siblings. In a room where there are Venetian blinds, and cheerful valance can really make in look more cheerful and homey (homely - of you're British).

Link:  Lace & Decorative Window Valances

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Memories - My Grandmother's Mystery Quilt

This beautiful vintage quilt belonged to my Grandma Van Nattan. I'm sorry to say that we do not know who made it or what its story is - as with many handmade things that were passed down to us from her. It may have been made by my great-grandmother (or some other relative from that era) because these fabrics would have all been from before she died. It is highly unlikely that my grandma herself made it as I never knew her to sew projects of this type. It also could have been given to my grandparents as a gift from one of their supporting churches when they first went to be missionaries in Africa. The timing would have been right for that as well since a lot of scraps of this vintage would have been available at the time. It might have been a wedding gift, but I'm going to say I think some of the fabrics *may* be too recent for that.

I also don't know what the pattern is. I would describe it as a cross between the "Dresden plate" and a "card tricks" block. Maybe a reader can tell us.

Just a word of advice: Be sure your family knows the stories behind heirlooms or other items of particular interest that you will leave behind when your time comes to go. We have a lot of heirlooms, especially from my dad's side of the family, of which we know little other than that they were owned by my grandparents for some reason. If it's important enough to hold on to and pass on, it's important enough to leave the story with it. If you have too much stuff to tell all the stories or write them down for the family, then you may have too many things to leave. Just sayin'... :-)







Sunday, February 18, 2018

God Ever Cares - An Important Reminder



God Ever Cares


HE careth for YOU – 1 Peter 5:7

GOD EVER CARES! Not only in life’s summer
When skies are bright and days are long and glad,
He cares as much when life is draped in winter,
And heart doth feel bereft, and lone, and sad.

GOD EVER CARES! His heart is ever tender!
His love doth never fail nor show decay.
The loves of earth, though strong and deep, may perish;
But His shall never, never pass away.

GOD EVER CARES! And thus when life is lonely,
When blessings one time prized are growing dim,
The heart may find a sweet and sunny shelter--
A refuge and a resting place in Him.

GOD EVER CARES! And Time can never change Him.
His nature is to care, and love, and bless.
And drearest, darkest, emptiest days afford Him
But means to make more sweet His own caress.

J. Danson Smith

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Evening Song - How Great Thou Art


Psalm 86:9-10 All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name. For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Thoughts from Hymns: Where Did We Come from? Where Are We Going?




This is an article that I wrote years ago before I was married. My husband and I edited and updated it last night.

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These days it seems that no matter what country or part of the world one comes from or lives in violence, trouble, and turmoil are either present or near at hand. It can become quite easy to have a very limited view, seeing just our own troubles and the fearfulness of the time in which we are living. Christians today are often sadly lacking in a historical view of our spiritual ancestors despite talk about "our historic faith," "historical positions," "Baptist History," and so forth .

The third verse of the old hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers" is a potent reminder, however:

"Crowns and thrones may perish,
Kingdoms rise and wane,
But the Church of Jesus
Constant will remain;
Gates of hell can never
'Gainst that Church prevail;
We have Christ's own promise,
And that cannot fail."

Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Continue Reading.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Evening Song - I'll Fly Away

Yesterday was my dad's birthday. He loves this kind of music, so this is in honor of him. :-)  Enjoy some authentic American style music.

Psalm 90:10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. 





Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

FREE Scripture Graphic - Quietness and Confidence




Here is another remake of a vintage graphic that I did. I'm not sure where I got the original, but I did some work on it before I added the verse. You can save the image from here, or you can go over and download it here. (Use the download button in the lower right corner.) Note: I am not sure if this will be a good size for printing if you save it from here since the size is restricted.

If you wish to use this online, please do not link to the graphic from here. Save it to your own computer and then upload it to the place where you store graphics online for you own use. Thank you. [Note: It's ok to link from here only if you are sharing the link to this specific post on my blog on your blog or in social media. :-) ]

Enjoy!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Hard Questions: What Is Your Red Hot Center?




Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Not long ago I saw a commercial on YouTube by journalist Bob Woodward who has an online course that you can take to improve your writing and research skills if you are or want to be a journalist. The thing that struck me was his comment about going to the red hot center of what is important in someone's life because that is where the real story is, where the truth is about them.

This is something that kind of bothers me at times about a lot of Christians, and about myself as well. There are so many voices in our world today calling us to causes, problem solving, "passions," and so forth. This is one thing that frustrates me when I see people writing or posting about things that they view as "extremely urgent" but that are not things worthy of being the red hot center of their lives.

Continue Reading.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Evening Song - For Me to Live Is Christ, to Die Is Gain


Philippians 1:18-21 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Sew Happy Friday - A Tutorial for Memory Projects with Jenny Doan


Here is a tutorial from the Missouri Star Quilt Co. where Jenny Doan teaches how to make some memory quilt items with your loved one's clothing. There is also instructions for a simple pillow to make with a shirt. I suggest putting a pillow form inside rather than stuffing it directly with the poly-fiber filling because then you can take the outside cover off and wash it (it is made from a shirt, after all).

Also, remember that a lot of ties are not washable, so you may wish to make a wall hanging rather than a table runner if the ones you are working with require dry cleaning. Table runners used on the dining room table are more likely to get dirty and need to be cleaned.

This would be a nice way to use up clothing that you no longer use that still has a lot of wear in it as well. If you have some things that you especially like that you can't or don't wear any more, you could make a memory quilt of your own (or any family member's) clothing.

Fabrics that cannot be ironed are not a good idea for this project.




Thursday, February 1, 2018

Creatures Great and Small - Blue Birds


One winter when we lived in Tennessee we were having some difficulties and access to part of the septic system had to be dug up to check if some kind of work was needed. Apparently the fresh expose dirt attracted these blue birds and then they decided to eat some of our bird seed. They didn't usually come to our feeder there. The feeder was right outside the dining room window (this was before I was married and is my parents' old house), so I was able to get some very good shots of them from fairly close up. These have been cropped down to make them appear closer than they were. It was thrilling to be able to take these photos.