Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


I'm going to shut down the computer for a little while, gals. I am heading out to Colorado the day after Christmas to spend a few days with my extended family, celebrating my mother's 70th birthday (she doesn't read the blog, so I can put the number in print!). And by the way, she really doesn't look a day over 55...but I will be back after the New Year.

This Christmas season has been a memorable one for me for many reasons. But the main one that sticks out in my mind is the overwhelming graciousness of God. As time passes, it seems that this world only becomes more dysfunctional, more wicked, and more self-focussed. I think that every day we move farther from Adam's perfect state simply adds to the horrific condition that sin has afforded here on earth. Oh, I know - sin brought death, and dead is dead - there aren't levels of death. But I think the effects of sin on earth have increased - on the soul there is only one effect, but on earth the wickedness seems to be increasing. Maybe it's because we are filling the earth with sinners.

None of this is a surprise to God. He completely understands the rebellion of sinful man, our dark hearts and our self-preservation tendencies. He knows that we want to worship and follow anything and everything but Him, and He gets the fact that fist-shaking is one of our favorite pastimes when it comes to knowing Him. Being a sinner makes us His enemy. He knows it, feels it, and completely understands it.

So what does He do about it?

"But God demonstrates His own love for us, that while we were YET SINNERS, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

While we were still his enemy. While we were shaking our fist at Him. While we were worshipping someone or something else. While we were sitting on the throne of our hearts, ruling and rebelling, He sent His Son to make the way clear for us to be restored back to Him.

Who does that? Oh, we might do that for our children, but for our enemies? For those who hate us? Only God is gracious to the point of death. And it doesn't stop there. His loving arms reach around His children individually and patiently hold, lead, guide, discipline and even playfully tickle now and again because He loves so deeply. So deeply that while we were still His enemy He fixed the problem. What love is this? How gracious must He be to offer His only Son for the life of His enemy, Kristen Wisen?

And then when I see His hand as clearly as I have over the past few months and years of my life, and I realize that salvation is enough for me but He offers so much more than just salvation, I am humbly overwhelmed at His goodness, His kindness and His grace. And not just in my life, but in the lives of countless believers around the world - how He can be so attentive to so many all at the same time is mind-boggling...but then again, He is God and I am not...

Okay, enough rambling. I just want to say that I love the Lord, and I hope and pray that the sight of that tiny, little baby brings to mind the fact that He was the Father's gift to you for eternity.

While you were His enemy, He sent His Son.

Amazing.

Thank You, Father and Thank You, Jesus...


Really Cool Picture


I saw this today on an Endtimes website called Born to Watch. (www.borntowatch.com) It is depicting the moment when the world will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with great power and all His glory. I just thought it was pretty thought-provoking and so I dragged it off that site and threw it here for you to see. (I hope that's okay...?) Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Highs and Lows

"But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was." Luke 1:28

Before this verse in Luke 1, all we know about Mary was that she was an engaged virgin who lived in Nazareth. Those three words, engaged, virgin and Nazareth, is enough information for you to grab your Bible dictionary and dig deeper into understanding exactly who Mary was. But I want to move on to two other words that stuck out in verse 28 - perplexed and pondering.

Often when an angel appears to men, the response is flat-on-your-face fear, but Mary has a completely different response - curiosity and confusion. The next words that the angel speaks are "Do not be afraid," so perhaps there was some fear mixed in, but you don't see Mary fall on the ground and cry out, "Woe is me, for I am a woman of unclean lips!" or become as a dead man from fear. I have often wondered why she wasn't more frightened and I think it is because God is so kind hearted that He didn't want to scare the living daylights out of her - so the angel's appearance, though definitely supernatural, was comforting rather than frightening. Just my thoughts on that one...

By the way, did you notice when Zacharias questioned the possibility of his wife becoming pregnant that the angel responded with discipline, but when Mary asks how she could be pregnant since she was virgin, the angel responded in a kind explanation? Just interesting, wouldn't you say?

Back to the topic - here we find Mary thoughtful and contemplating. Jump now to Luke 1:45-55. Mary responds to Elizabeth's declaration about her pregnancy with praise to the Lord. Now remember, Mary is an engaged, pregnant woman - this was not socially acceptable and actually rather difficult to explain. But she keeps her eyes on God and humbly praises Him for His work in her life and His plan for the world. Again, I think Mary was a deep thinker - she isn't a reactor but a responder. There's a difference...think about it...

Next we see her in Bethlehem, tending her newborn in a manger, having visitors within hours of His birth, strangers, no less, and what is her response? Luke 2:19 tells us "...but Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart..." Again, a deep thinker. Mulling it over. Treasuring it. Pondering it. What comes to mind with the picture we are seeing of this young woman? I think of God's description of a godly woman: a gentle and quiet spirit. Do you see it?

One last snapshot - forty plus days after Jesus' birth (8 days old He was circumcised and then her purification was about 33 more days), Mary and Joseph take Him to be presented to the Lord in Jerusalem and offer a sacrifice according to the Law on His behalf. They are met by an aged man who speaks a prophecy over Jesus: "And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed - and a sword will pierce even your own soul - to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed." (Luke 2:34,35)

Wow. Every mother's dream prophecy, wouldn't you say? Mary's response is not recorded, but with everything we have learned about her previously, what do you think her response would be? Was she angry at this old man? Did she pull her child out of his arms and storm away? Did she cry herself to sleep and blame Joseph for not protecting her and the baby from this stranger? Did she react?

Or did she respond? Did she hold her baby and look into His tiny, little eyes and ponder this prophecy, knowing God was completely in control? Did she shed a tear, thinking that this Child's destiny was out of her control but His care and protection were temporarily in her hands? Was she perplexed? Did this information go into that treasure box of wonders full of miracles?

Highs and lows. The highs of affirmation of God's plan with the arrival of the scruffy, crazy-eyed shepherds who fell on their faces and worshipped the One that she knew was God. The lows of not even two months later having the reality of His destiny cut deep through her heart. And her response? I think the same because of her character.

Mary was a young woman to have such character and I am confident that the day Jesus died, she was even more mature than the day He was born. Ladies, Mary's choice to respond to God rather than react to life is an example for us today. She was certainly not perfect, but she was chosen for an incredible task.

Oh, to be a woman of great character, one whom God would choose to use in an incredible way! God desires that gentle and quiet spirit in each one of us, and He has shown us that it is possible to be that woman whether we find ourselves in the highs or lows of life.

So...there are some of my thoughts. Are there any you would like to share, having read Luke 1 and 2?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Fun


Here's the perfect recipe for a December Saturday afternoon:


Begin with a counter full of ingredients...




Add a room full of women...










Provide an empty table...







And voila - instant holiday fun!




Thanks, gals, for a great day of baking! The youth group and all of our respective families greatly appreciate your display of love!









Saturday, December 19, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Weekend Wish

"Oh, to have the faith of Daniel!"

"I want the courage of Joshua."

"Lord, give me the wisdom of Solomon..."

"Am I am Mary or a Martha?"

"David was a man after God's own heart. How would God describe me?"

We often read the Word and study the characters to learn more about ourselves, our God and to give us godly examples to imitate. Peter was fiery and quick tempered, but his impulsiveness gave him a boldness to speak truth without apology. John was kindhearted and meek. Joseph trusted the Lord, despite how unfair life was to him. Nehemiah followed the call of the Lord amidst major oppression. Esther mustered the courage to save a nation. So many stories, so many lessons to learn.

But there is one person in the Bible that we tend to shy away from. Oh, she gets plenty of attention and for some, she has been elevated to a level that places her second only to God the Father. Because of this misplaced worship, we tend to completely disregard her story to avoid the appearance that we worship her as well. Yes, you know who I am talking about - Jesus' mother, Mary.

There is a great pendulum swing in feelings toward Mary - the Catholics hold her in such high esteem that they teach she herself was an immaculate conception. We evangelicals are at the other end of the spectrum, and we barely whisper her name because we don't want to raise her above any other common woman - she was just an instrument of God's choice.

Are you kidding me? Yeah, she was an instrument of God's choice, just like David, Joshua, Joseph, Peter and Esther. Just like us. We need to get past this and see what we can learn from this humble girl.

So my weekend wish for you is actually an assignment. I want you to read Mary's story. Take a look at Luke 1 and 2, and write down some observations about this gal. Her story is unique to say the least, but we have a lot to learn from her. Then next week we'll compare notes.

Sound like a good plan?

Have a great weekend, gals. We are 7 days away from Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Your Petition has been Heard


"But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Luke 1:13-17

As a child, I was taught that when Zacharias drew the lot to burn the incense before the Lord, that he brought his life long petition before the Lord in prayer - the request of a child. But ladies, I am not sure that's exactly what he was asking for as he prayed that day in the Temple. Let's take a closer look:
  • Elizabeth was advanced in years (1:7) - not only was she barren, but she was getting up there in age. Now, we have the story of Sarai and her pregnancy at 89 years old, so perhaps we just assume that when a story starts out with barrenness, that God is going to step in. But was that at the forefront of Elizabeth and Zacharais' minds? I think there comes a time when you accept the obvious - Elizabeth not only was barren, but most likely she was beyond the bearing years - that's why the scripture tells us she was advanced in age...advanced beyond what? Beyond the childbearing years...
  • Zacharias was a priest whose service would be called upon for two weeks each year in Jerusalem. The privilege of lighting the incense within the Temple would be a once in a lifetime calling - chosen by lot, which is another way of saying chosen by God. So, if you are given the once in a lifetime opportunity to light the incense inside the Temple and offer a prayer before the presence of the Lord, don't you think that this would be a sobering responsibility? Do you think this would be an appropriate time to bring a personal request, or was Zacharias speaking on behalf of the children of Israel?
  • So what would be an appropriate request on the behalf of the children of Israel? Well, at that time Israel was being occupied by Rome, who was making their lives miserable. Time and time again in the history of God's relationship with Israel, rebellious Israel would find itself in captivity. They would repent and cry out for salvation, and God would provide a savior in the form of a judge. But for nearly 400 years God had been silent - no judges, no prophets, nothing. I believe Zacharias was crying out for salvation. I think he was petitioning for a savior. The prophets had told of a coming Messiah, and I think the prayers of all the priests on behalf of the children of Israel were strikingly similar - I think they cried out for salvation.
  • The real evidence of what Zacharias was asking for comes in the response of the angel. He says that God has heard his petition and Elizabeth would bear a child. "There," you say, "that proves he was praying for a son!" Not so fast. It goes on to say that this child will be great in the sight of the Lord and that he will turn many hearts back to their God. Then in verse 17, the angel says that this baby will be a forerunner before HIM, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to make the people ready for the Lord. I believe that in that one simple word, we find evidence of Zacharias' true request. "Him." Who? Well, we know it is Jesus Christ - John the Baptist is the forerunner for the Messiah, Jesus Christ. If Zacharias' request was simply for a son, then the angel would have explained the fact that the baby would prepare the way for the coming Messiah. But, if Zacharias had asked for a messiah, the angel could refer to the answered petition with the pronoun "Him," as in, "Your son will prepare the way for Him."
So, what's the big deal, Kristen? Though we know that at one time in Elizabeth and Zacharais' lives the desire for a child was great, I believe that the petition that was answered that day by the angel was the request for a Savior. 400 years of silence was broken and the answer was "yes." In essence, in the fulness of time, God was finally ready to answer the cries of not only His people, but of all creation and announce the beginning of His plan, starting with this barren, aged woman's only son as the bearer of the good news, that the time of the Messiah had come.

Yes, this baby would be an answer to an old request of this elderly priest, kind of a bonus thrown in. But more importantly, and more appropriately, this baby was the start of the answer for a Messiah, for salvation for all of mankind. Zacharias' prayer was heard that day - it was God's time to save the world.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Expectations

I've been thinking a lot about expectations these days.

I knew you all were expecting me to post an entry here on Groundwork for Grace. You were probably waiting on pins and needles, right?? (You don't have to answer that...you'll pop my bubble!) We had to unplug the computer for a few days while the carpets were cleaned, but we're back on-line now, and I'm proud to say I navigated my way to the back storage areas of Blogger all by myself! No techno-geek husband help required!

I was expecting a big..HUGE..been hearing about it for days... storm here in Holland today. I stocked up on food, toilet paper, Christmas cookie ingredients...I was ready!! Humph..I don't know what happened up in Grand Haven, but here in Holland...ppfffttt...we got nothin'..zilch...nada..
My kids were expecting a great day of fun in the snow and instead it was like playing in a giant slurpee. They came in soaking wet, but I didn't mind too much as it gave me time to work on some of my Christmas preparations.

We're hosting Christmas at our house this year. My brother and his family will be coming in from Washington D.C. and my parents will come from the Chicago area....12 people and 4 dogs at our house for 4 days. Paul can hardly wait!!!! He loves lots of noise and chaos and dogs running everywhere....or not. He does, however, love me and my family. So he's trying to stay positive. As I worked on my menu and tried to come up with ideas of things to do together, I began to formulate these Norman Rockwell images in my mind.....good conversations around the dinner table, the cousins playing nicely together, playing cards at night, working a puzzle in front of the fire. Everything was looking swell in my mind until I came to Christmas Eve. That's when I realized that I had better check my expectations at the door.

You see, no one in my extended family knows the Lord. And... my brother and his wife parent very differently than we do, which sometimes causes tension. And...my sister-in-law (who I love) is a rather emotional person whose moods can either make or break an entire day. Holidays can be stressful! So while I know how I would like our time together this Christmas to turn out, in reality I have no idea what lies ahead. If I haven't lost you by now, raise your hand if you can relate.

We all have expectations..if not for Christmas, then for our lives. We expect certain outcomes to situations we encounter and certain behaviors from our friends, our children, even our God. So what happens if those expectations aren't met? How should we respond?

I was reminded this week, while reading an Advent story to my girls, that even though God had told Israel exactly how he was planning to send their Messiah, many had other expectations about how their rescuer should arrive and what He should do when he got there. And what about Mary? She was having an ordinary day expecting to marry the love of her life when overnight her whole life changed.....Joseph's too.

Is your response to failed expectations like hers? She called herself a bondslave of the Lord and trusted in her Master. We may not know what lies ahead, but our Father in Heaven does. We may be surprised by the events in our lives, but He is not. Mary goes on to rejoice in God her Savior...she tells of His mercy, how it is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him. She recalls his mighty deeds and ends by remebering how He spoke to Abraham and his descendants forever. Hmmmmm...that sounds strangely familiar. Anyone remember our memory verse? Psalm 115? Anyone???

Kristen shared in one of her previous Bible studies that we should picture ourselves with a yoke across our shoulders carrying a pair of buckets, one at each end. Whatever is in those buckets will spill out onto others around us when we trip..or stumble..or bump into someone or something...when our expectations aren't met. If your buckets are full of stress, anger, despair, crabbiness...or yourself, that's what others will experience. BUT, if you buckets are full of God's word, His love, the fruits of His spirit...well, you get the picture!

Advent seems a great time to get rid of our own ideas about who He is and what He should do for us and focus on the real Jesus of Scripture. My wish for you these next few weeks is that you would take some time each day to focus on the Savior...to fill your buckets with truth about who He is, what He has done for you, how He wants you to respond. Fill your buckets to the brim with the character of Christ...and then spill it all over everyone around you as you bump your way through the holidays.

I'll pray for your buckets, if you'll pray for mine!

Grateful for Immanuel...God with us!!
Beth

Monday, December 7, 2009

Gone for a few days


Good morning, ladies!

I trust you had a great weekend. I am just writing you a quick note to tell you that I am in Chicago this week and Beth is covering the blog for me - this is assuming that she can maneuver her way in the back storage areas of blogger-world, but she has a techno-geek husband, so I would expect in a day or two you will hear from her!

I put a picture of Chicago here so you could see where I am going. If you start on the right side of the picture and count 9 buildings to the left, I am staying on the 35th floor of that 9th building. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Just joking...I wanted to see if you'd try!

Have a great week - I will see you all online next Monday, Lord-willing! Let me leave you with this one thought:

"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:3-4

This is my message to you this week...thank you for the honor and joy you have allowed me to experience through blogging with you this fall. Have a great week!

Kristen

Friday, December 4, 2009

Weekend Wish

Is there anything that brings more joy to a child than a snow day? Well, guess what, ladies - today you are going to have a house full of happy children!

I woke up at about 5:45 this morning and stumbled downstairs to my computer. On my way, I looked out the window and could no longer see the driveway, and the dark, night sky was strangely light. I knew immediately what was happening...it was still snowing and that meant there was a good chance school would be cancelled. And of course, it was...

My children all have about the same response when I tell them to stay in bed. Christopher was in a deep sleep and as I quietly said his name to wake him, he mumbled a response. "Snow day - stay in bed." His voice strengthened. "Really?" "Yep," I answered. As I closed his door I heard him call out, "Good call!" I'm not sure if he was talking to me or the Lord, but I headed back up to the girls' rooms to let them know.

Alex sat up in bed when I walked in and when I told her she said, "Sweet!" and dropped back down onto her pillow. Nicole was the only casualty of the morning. She was already up and getting ready to shower, but promptly turned around and hopped back in bed, and nearly two hours later she is not up yet. So starts the Wisen's snow day...

My weekend wish is another simple one for you today. If you have children, I'm wishing you a wonderful snow day. Make a big breakfast, bundle the little ones up and let them make snow angels and snowmen. Have a big saucepan of REAL hot chocolate waiting for them when they come back in. Make cookies with them and find a Christmas movie to watch in the afternoon with a big bowl of popcorn on your lap. Nap with them by the fireplace or play a board game to pass the time. But enjoy your children today!

If you don't have children, I still want you to have a wonderful snow day! Get your weekend prep done quickly, then light a fire in the fireplace, grab that book you've been meaning to read and a cozy blanket and have at it! Don't forget to spend some time with the Lord - may I suggest reading through Job 38 and 39? This is God's reply to Job, describing His power and control over creation - in it He mentions His storehouses of snow and on a day like today, it doesn't hurt to be reminded where all this beautiful white stuff came from! I love these chapters because they are so descriptive of creation and the Creator, that I can't help but sit in awe of who He is and who I am not!

So, have a great snow day, gals, and a wonderful weekend. We've held off on the snow until December, which is a rare occurrence in Michigan, so ladies, we might as well embrace the change...there's no fighting it!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thankful Today for Love

How cute are they???

James MacDonald has defined love as "You before Me." It's my favorite definition to use, since it's so simple and so right-to-the-point. You before Me. Your needs before My needs. Your happiness before My happiness. Your choice before my choice. Your interests before mine.

When I talk with brides-to-be, I can see the love glowing from their faces and its a perfect time to talk about true, godly, sacrificial love. But how often do I truly love my husband? Am I instructing these young gals to do something that has become rare in my own life?

Having an engaged daughter in the house is a lot of fun. It's fun to plan the wedding. It's fun to watch her try on her dress and see her face sparkle with delight. It's fun to add special, unique details that will make her wedding a day to remember. (As you can tell, Dad's the one paying the bills and Mom's the one having all the fun!)

Young, engaged love is so selfless. Austin lets Katherine eat the best bite of his cookie (he eats around the edges and gives her the soft middle piece). Katherine scratches his head as he naps on the couch. Austin drives out of his way to pick up something Katherine has forgotten at home and needs at school, just to make her smile and not worry. Katherine heats up leftovers for her starving fiancee and feeds him first, before putting a plate together for herself. All they can think of is each other's well-being and happiness. It's so nice to have them around.

But something happens after the marriage and we start to take each other for granted. It may take five or ten or twenty years, but it happens and it's sad when it does. Instead of scratching his head while he naps, I read a book. Instead of feeding him first, I tell him there is cereal in the pantry. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not really all that bad - but it's not as self-less as it was in the beginning. It's just very comfortable...

Same with our relationship with Christ. We are so overwhelmed with His gift of life, that we would cut off our right arm to please Him when we are first saved. But over time, our love becomes second nature and we find ourselves pointing to the pantry, as Jesus stands hungry for our attention at the kitchen counter.

What can we do about this? Is lack-luster love simply inevitable?

Well, there's good news, gals - we don't have to stay in this comfortable but lazy love. We can make the choice to pay attention and love deeper. Remember, love means "You before Me" which makes love a choice. I can choose to be loving to Dave and put his needs before my own. I can choose to love Dave and put his interests before my own. I can pour into his life and look deep into his eyes and be thankful for the godly man God gave me for a husband. I can go deeper...

And the same goes with Christ. I can choose to love Him as well. The only way I can put His needs, or desires, or will before my own, is to know what His will is - by being in His Word. The more I know Him, the more I will love Him. I can choose not to take Him for granted, but to have a grateful heart for His presence in my life! I can make this choice...I can go deeper...

So, today I am thankful for love. I am thankful for the swirling, emotional, selfless, engaged love that lives in my house right now. I am thankful for decades-old, kind-hearted, comfortable but willing-to step-it-up and go deeper love that I have for my husband. I am thankful for eternal, patient, all-encompassing, sacrificial, faithful and ever-present love, given to me by my heavenly Father.

As a matter of fact, before the snow comes tonight, I just might take my husband for a walk on the beach, stop him along the way, look deeply into his eyes, smile, give him a kiss and lift my leg...

Or maybe we can do that in the house instead...


Monday, November 30, 2009

Sometimes We Have It Easy


Yes, sometimes we have it easy and we just don't realize it.

I was reading in Philippians this morning and came upon one of my favorite verses. Paul was encouraging the church in Philippi to be anxious for nothing, to let their gentle spirit be known to all men, to let the peace of God guard their hearts and then he said, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." (4:8)

Wow...that's quite a list - true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent and worthy of praise. If I asked you to name something that fit all these categories to set your mind on, what would you say? Of course there is really only one answer - Jesus. He alone is worthy of praise. "...keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth..." (Colossians 3:1,2) The instruction to set our minds on Christ is not a new one from Paul and I think its the key to the Christian walk. If we set our minds, or dwell, on Christ, our feelings and our actions will be directly affected.

So, this holiday season, how hard is it to dwell on Christ? Do we get caught up in Christmas shopping, decorating, baking and addressing Christmas cards that we don't have time to dwell on Christ? I know it sounds ridiculous, but if we are truthful, the weeks in between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be some of the most hectic and stress-filled of the whole year. It seems that we dwell in List-land, or in Preparation-ville, or in How-Do-I-Keep-Everyone-Happy-This-Year Town instead of dwelling in Christ.

Well, might I suggest that of the whole year this should be the easiest time to dwell in Christ? Here's why: He's everywhere you go. Try this - go to the mall and do an hour or two of shopping. When you get back into your car, before turning on the engine, just sit quietly and listen to what is playing in your head. It should be Christmas music. Joy to the World. O Come All Ye Faithful. Possibly even Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. The radio, the stores, the television - they are all filled with Christmas music and remember gals, there is no Christmas without Christ! So even if it is a secular song, let your mind drift to the Lord - think about His incarnation, His sinless life, His selfless sacrifice, His resurrection and His ascension. Without those things, December would simply be another February, or June, or October.

But in this crazy, lost world, a whole month out of the year is dedicated to remembering Jesus Christ! Dave and I went out for a drive the other day and passed a house whose lawn was covered with secular Christmas decorations. He turned to me and asked, "Isn't it strange that they celebrate Christmas without Christ?" It really makes no sense whatsoever! So as you drive and see the lights, let your mind see Jesus. As you hear the music, thank the Lord for the cross. As you wrap the gifts, remember the most precious gift of all. Gals - take advantage of this wonderful season, where everywhere you go points to Christ!

Sometimes we have it so easy and we miss it...let's not miss it this year.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of your Son. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for giving us a month to immerse ourselves in Your story, Your sovereignty and Your grace. May we develop a habit during the next five weeks that continues on throughout the next year, of dwelling on Christ who is truly honorable, truthful, right, pure and lovely, of good repute, excellent and completely and utterly worthy of praise. Thank you for making it so easy for us to dwell here...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Weekend Wish

Well, friends, I have just spent the last hour trying to make this blog look seasonal...I've lost half my settings and adding a post is a new challenge, but in the end, I think it works!

I trust you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday, but ladies, a new season is upon us, and it's time to roll up our sleeves and embrace the change! Yes, you know what I am talking about...that change where your house goes from browns and oranges to reds and greens! Where your blueberry candles get traded out with evergreen scents. Where your snowmen replace your pumpkins and where your mums get exchanged for poinsettias!

Yes, it's Christmastime. Did any of you do the black Friday thing? I'd love to hear your stories! As for the Wisen family, we put up trees and jammed them full with ornaments, filled our mantle with greenery and lights, hung a few wreaths, set out our nativity scene, re-vacuumed the whole house and collapsed on the couch. No lines or power shopping for us...

Christmas seemed to sneak up on me this year. I'm not sure why and it's not like I'm behind in my preparation, I just don't have that "feeling" yet. So I am going to start with the basics and give you a preparatory wish for the season for your Weekend Wish.

My wish for you is that you remember this one fact about Christmas this weekend: Jesus came.

That's it.

Jesus came.

Let me show you how my mind works: Jesus came. He showed up. He said He would and He did. It's a done deal. We don't live like the OT saints who looked ahead to a promise - we can see the promise kept, fulfilled, completed. Even though we have eternity to look forward to, there are no "what if's" or "I hope's", because Jesus came. He showed up. He did exactly what He said He would.

The next question in my mind would be this: how is my life different because Jesus came? I won't give you my answer but you think about it yourself. I would also ask: What if I was on the other side of this historic event (like the OT saints)? What would my faith look like? Which side would I rather be on?

That's really the foundational fact of Christmas - it's what the "advent" is all about: Jesus came.

He showed up.

It's done.

To start out this season, let's agree to stick with the basics and set our minds on the things above. If our mind stays there, then imagine where our conversations will go...

Have a great weekend!

Kristen

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cherished Ritual by Joanna Fuchs






Hi, Friends,
Found this prayer and wanted to share it with you.
Please know that I thank the Lord for you.
Wishing you all a blessed Thanksgiving!

Kristen


Lord, as we pause in our busy lives
to gather around the Thanksgiving table,
sharing the precious bond among family and friends,
let us remember that this abundant harvest,
this feast of delicious and nourishing dishes
is the fulfillment of our faith
that You will always provide for us.
As we go through this cherished ritual,
the Thanksgiving holiday ceremony,
let us feel the comfort of Your care for us
in every bite we eat and enjoy.
In this tradition,
begun by courageous travelers long ago
to thank you for their lives and safety,
we thank You
for the joy and happiness you give us, to lift us up,
and also for the sometimes difficult lessons and challenges
You give us to make us stronger, better,
and more aware of our need for You.
Thank you for the support and courage You give us
to get through troubled times.
Thank You for answered prayers
and also for the times You said "no,"
to keep us from stumbling off Your path for us.
We know that in all things,
You are working for our good.
Now, as we draw together in unity
to savor this wonderful dinner,
we are thankful for those who prepared it,
for those who join us to enjoy it,
and most of all, we thank You, Lord,
for the many different kinds of blessings
You continually grant us.
We pray that You'll bless this food,
and bless all of us as we gather together.
In Jesus' name we pray,
Amen.

Thankful Today for Twins


We have so much to be thankful for, don't we? We could spend the next week just making lists and telling stories and praising the Lord, and I hope that's exactly what you do. Actually, I hope you don't stop in a week. We need to have thanksgiving and gratefulness drip from our lips every day, because we know the Creator of the universe and the Savior of our soul - this is great cause for praise.

I want to share with you a quick story about my twins. I have had some say to me, you're not an authentic mother of twins since you didn't carry them or go through the first two years of their lives. Having adopted them at 6, I understand I missed a very stressful, hectic time in their lives, but my response to the critics has always been, "At least your twins understood English!" (My girls are from Romania.)

Oh, the stories I could tell, but there is not enough time or space on the internet for me to do that now, so I will share this latest one. Let me start first by saying that the twins have had us laughing from the day we adopted them. They love life and attack it with such energy that from day one, whether it was watching their tiny bodies struggle to carry suitcases 4 times their size, or jumping into the pool with their clothes on without understanding what that would actually mean, watching the wrestling that ensued when we asked them, "Who's stronger?" or enjoying the hours of dress-up fashion shows, the twins always have provided entertainment and fun. Sure, we've had our tough times, but in light of the sheer joy they have brought to our lives, the struggles pale in comparison!

One particular funny thing about the girls as they learned to speak English was the fact that they wanted so badly to communicate but would often misuse common words with great confidence. It was frustrating for them, I am sure, to try to communicate with us when we couldn't figure out what they were saying. But usually the other twin would jump in and translate for us and we'd laugh when we'd realize what it was they were saying.

Fast forward 12 years. Recently one of the girls was in a basic psychology class at school. She was really geeked about the class and day after day she would come home and tell me about this disorder and that disease. The other day she came home and told me about a very serious presentation some kids made in class about "post dramatic sports disorder." Once again a smile came across my face as I tried to explain to her what the actual title of the disorder was, "post traumatic stress disorder." We laughed and she has actually used her title as a punchline for a joke since then. Great fun.

I am thankful for my darling twins. The Lord has richly blessed David and I with the privilege of being their parents. I look forward to years of joy and laughter in my relationship with them, for the past 12 years haven't disappointed. God has taught me more about myself than I dare to repeat through the adoption process and this Thanksgiving, when I glance across my extended-family-filled room, I know that God's gracious hand brought these two girls into my life and I will thank Him for that.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Isaiah 49:6

My mom sent me this verse as another reason to give thanks. She said, "It was too small a thing to only save Israel, so Jesus saved the Gentiles as well..."

Read and see it for yourself:

He says, "It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth." Isaiah 49:6

It was God's plan from the beginning to be a light to the whole world - Jesus didn't fail with Israel and decide to add Gentiles as a last minute change.

Thank you, Father, for clearly showing Your plan and following through with it.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Justification

Justification is one of my favorite words. If you sit in one of my studies, I like to throw it in here and there, and then remind you of the definition. This week in our study of Genesis, we are going to see Abraham's faith counted to him as righteousness. It's his salvation experience. He is justified through his faith, not his actions. It's going to be a great lesson!

Paul, in the book of Romans, tries to explain the whole concept of justification by faith, rather than by works of the Law. He is writing to people who have been saved but have lived under the law for so long, that they can't help but hold on to their tradition. In teaching them that the Law was never intended to be a tool of salvation but an object lesson to point to the Savior, Paul uses Abraham as his premier example of one who was before the Law and was justified by his faith. (See Romans 4.)

This weekend my family went up to our cottage, about an hour away from home, and brought with us a handful of the kids' friends. Sunday morning, after a big pancake breakfast, we sat with them and David talked about what we have to be thankful for this year. We can all list the blessings of health and family, possessions and peace, but he encouraged the kids to go beyond the physical and thank the Lord for the spiritual blessings He has bestowed on us.

He focused on justification and when he asked what it meant, I piped in with my typical response, "It's a clean slate - God marks our account as if we had never sinned or as if we had always obeyed and we receive Christ's sinless record as our own." Good job, Kristen. Nice answer. But David, in his patient manner, explained that it actually goes a bit deeper than that.

Because God is just, He doesn't grant amnesty. Like a president on his way out of office, God doesn't simply grab a bunch of humans and mark their accounts clean. Dave mentioned that he struggles watching the show "Cold Case" because the concept that people who committed a crime and weren't brought to justice until 10, 20 or 30 years later bothers his sense of justice. When a crime is committed, a price must be paid. Again, because God is just, there has to be justice.

So when our account is wiped clean, it's because it's been paid. We receive Christ's sinless record, because He took our filthy, disgusting, criminal, marred, sinful one. To be justified means to have the price paid, to have our account cleaned, to have Christ's righteous record put as our balance and, moving forward, we remain protected within the person of Christ. "For you have died and your life is hidden in Christ in God...."(Colossians 3:3) Justification completely envelopes me in Christ, so all God sees is His Son. I have to be careful not to simply define justification by what happens to me because of it, but by the process that was taken on my behalf out of love for me by a righteous and just God.

So this Thanksgiving, let's fall on our faces before God and thank Him for the precious gift of His Son. Yes, I have a clean slate. Yes, He sees me as always and forever obedient. Yes, it's as if I never sinned. But because God is just, sin had to be punished. Therefore, I am justified by Christ's blood, by His taking my record and punishment and giving me His, through His grace, through faith which is given to me, because He loves me.

Whew! What do I possibly have to complain about after that???

See you on Tuesday morning!

Kristen

Friday, November 20, 2009

Weekend Wish

This is kind of a big weekend:  
  • It's the last weekend before the holiday season officially kicks off (with Thanksgiving and then on into December).  
  • It's the last weekend we can say, "Hasn't snowed yet!" (Snow on Wednesday, supposedly...)
  • It's the last weekend we can set aside thoughts about Christmas shopping (Are they really moving black Friday up to Wednesday this year???)
  • It's the last weekend we can look at our fireplace and not feel guilty that there aren't stockings hanging yet (As the kids get older, is there any other option for girls' stockings than perfume and lip gloss?)
  • It's the last weekend you can find a radio station that won't play Christmas music 24/7
Okay, gals - it's coming and we can't stop it, so we might as well enjoy our last, holiday-pressure-free weekend.  So I'll make this short and sweet.  My wish for you this weekend is that you find time to take a walk with someone you love, that you stay up late and sleep in late, that you pop in a favorite worship CD and read a good book, that you eat a cookie without wondering how many calories you just ingested, that you hug your children without wondering if you need a bigger size than you bought, that you don't even think about where to put the tree yet - but most of all, spend time with your Savior, reading His love letter to you with a good cup of coffee.

Because a week from now, the craziness begins and you'll wish you had savored the stillness while you had it.

Have a great weekend!

Kristen

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Don't you just love...

...how the Bible is like a master recipe book? Take a handful of verses in Genesis, throw in another verse in Psalms and top it off with a few verses in Hebrews and voila! You have a type of Christ!

(What is she talking about?) <--that's you

For those of you who weren't at study today, the answer is: Melchizedek! Genesis 14:18-20, Psalm 110:4 and Hebrews 7:1-3 are all the verses we have on this mystery man, but we are told that Christ would be a priest in the same manner as Melchizedek. So, as believers, we study, we dig, we compare scripture with scripture and we draw closer to the Lord with our results.

I'm not going into the details of our conclusions because I taught through it already today, so call me if you need to understand the specifics here. My point is this - don't you just love how the Bible, written by so many different men, over 1500 years, just flows seamlessly together and all points back to God? His plan, His story, His will, His character. It's all about Him. He is the theme of the Word. And it's actually fun in the process!

Hope you all have a good day...I'm just stoked about how cool the Word is...

Kristen

Monday, November 16, 2009

Seeing Lot in Me

This week in our study of Genesis we take a closer look at Lot, Abram's nephew. It's really only an introductory story, but it sets the stage for things to come. Now, if I asked you what you know about Lot, I would think that most of you would instantly think of Sodom and Gomorrah. And that's a horrible story from the start to the finish. But do you know what haunts me? It's what Peter says about Lot in his second letter:

"...and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation , and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment..." II Peter 2:7-9

Initially, when I read this, I got frustrated with the descriptive word used for Lot: Righteous. Are you kidding me? Righteous? The man who offered his virgin daughters to spare the lives of strangers? The man who was surrounded by heinous, obvious sin and still chose to sit in the gates as a leader? The man whose daughters got him drunk in order to get pregnant?

But God calls him righteous, so, in light of what we have learned about people who are righteous, what does this tell us about him? His actions did not make him righteous. God's choice of him made him righteous. The future sacrifice of Christ made him righteous. And, if we're being honest about our assessment of him, he did respond in obedience to the angel's message of coming destruction.

So, once I settled down about Lot being called righteous, a second wave of thoughts hit me. These verses tell us that Lot was tormented by what he saw day after day. He must have hated the sin that surrounded him.

Gals, I really don't think that Sodom and Gomorrah was very different than where we live today. The overt sexual sin, not merely homosexual but heterosexual as well, is prevalent, or should I say rampant here in America. Name a television show that doesn't promote sexual sin. Our songs are filled with sexual innuendos and blatant overtures. Even some of the Christian songs have a sensual tone and possible double meanings to them - you don't believe me? Start listening closer to Christian radio.

Here's my problem. Lot was tormented. Could that word be used to describe us? Are we tormented by the incredible rebellion towards God that surrounds us? What does that torment look like in your life? Can you watch a show that promotes sexual sin and write it off as mere entertainment? Where do you take your stand?

These verses are convicting to me, as I look at my own life. I feel like the frog in the pan of boiling water (not sure anyone has ever really tried this experiment). As the water heats up, the frog just adjusts until eventually he dies from the high temperature. Am I so accustomed to the sin of the world that I don't even realize how it has ramped up around me, because I've simply adjusted to it? Think about television 20 years ago and then think about what we watch today. Shocking, isnt' it?

There is good news, however. Having been justified freely by His grace, we don't have to hand God a pile of good works to earn His favor. He has given us the identity of His Son. We are righteous in the eyes of the Father, for we are covered in His Son's blood, enclosed in His being and justified by His sacrifice. Any good works we hand Him are simply offerings of love and gratitude.

So, as we head on into our study and we meet characters like Lot, may our hearts ever be reminded of His love and His goodness. May we open our eyes to our sin and may we chose to live tormented lives, rather than comfortable, mediocre existences that hardly look different than the world we live in...

See you in the morning!

Kristen






Friday, November 13, 2009

Weekend Wish

Welcome to November in Michigan! This is a picture I shot this morning. We have had a beautiful fall season and the mild weather the past two weeks added to its majesty.

But now things have changed. Most of the leaves have fallen in this area and any leaves remaining are mostly dead, so if you're looking for fall colors, you have to look at the piles of leaves which have been blown to the curb for the city to remove. Within the next couple of weeks, it is very possible that snow will fall and that white blanket of covering will begin a new season of beautiful, clean backdrops as we look from our windows across the freshly covered landscape.

But the small window of time between the symphony of color we call fall and the freshness of snow we call winter is not an overly attractive time in Michigan. It is easy to look at the bare trees and dread the coming snow. It is even easier to look at the neutral colors and fuss over the changing temps (although today is in the 60's and incredibly mild).

But I tend to like this little window of time, because I am fascinated with trees. I have one tree by my house whose trunk has grown in the shape of a curly rotini noodle. There is a tree on Stanton on my drive to church that the whole trunk has twisted over the years that it looks like the dress of a little girl when she stops suddenly from twirling in circles.

Trees easily give glory to God. In the spring their small leaf buds bring with them the promise of new life. I love when whole trees burst with blossoms even before their leaves show up. I have a couple Magnolia trees and I eagerly watch for their buds because they tell me that warm weather is right around the corner. In the summer, the shade of a good tree seems to provide not only covering from the sun, but there always seems to be a breeze in the shade. It's like trees have their own air conditioning systems. In the fall, the colors are spectacular and even breath-taking. Though fall tends to have a lot of rain, occasionally the sun pokes through the clouds and the colors become alive! There are times that I have to stop on my driveway, put the car in park and just soak it up!

But bare trees speak volumes about God. When I look at a bare tree, I see the arms of creation reaching up to its Creator, as if begging to be lifted into His arms. It reminds me of picking up Calvin from the nursery when he was a toddler. The minute he saw me the arms were raised high.

Bare trees also remind me of worship. They know who their Creator is and they offer their worship to Him constantly. Out stretched arms - tree after tree after tree. I don't have to witness to them - they point all men to the Creator. I don't have be a testimony to them - their mere existence shouts glory to God.

Bare trees also remind me of my dependence on God. Those trees have a life cycle and throughout that whole cycle, they depend on God's grace for their existence. Sunshine and rain come only from God and I've never see a tree complain about the temperature. Even stripped bare, the tree sets it sights on its Creator and waits for the season of harshness and struggle to end.

So, my weekend wish for you, I guess it's only for you who live in the north, is that you look at the bare trees as you drive around and don't grumble because the winter is coming. Let your heart be driven to the Lord in praise for these humble plants who tirelessly raise their arms in praise to God. Put some good praise worship on your I-pod and take a walk. Join in the praise, as you follow the lead of the bare trees.

And by the way, it's okay to raise your hands in praise. (This is where I would put a smiley face if I knew how to cut and paste with any proficiency!)

Kristen

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Reason number 87 to be in the Word

(I think I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but it is our power source...)

Follow my logic - if "faith" is believing the Word of God and acting on it, no matter how I feel, because God promises a good result, then how can you step out and walk by faith without being in the Word of God? Think about it and fill in the blanks:

By faith, Noah _______.
By faith, Abraham ___________.
By faith, Joseph ___________.
By faith, Peter _________.
By faith, Paul _________.

Each one of these men acted on God's instruction in their life and walked by faith. But how often do people say they are stepping out in faith, without knowing God's Word? The conversation goes like this:

"It's going to take a lot of faith, but I know this is what God wants for me."

"How do you know this is what God wants for you?"

"I just feel this is right."

"Oh, you feel it."

"Yeah."

How much greater would it be to make decisions in life based on the Word? So when people ask you, you can say, "This is what God's Word says, therefore, by faith, it's what I am going to do!" Doesn't that make more sense? Ground our life decisions on the Word of God and then by faith, act on them?

When we walk by feelings, then there's no difference between us and unbelievers (Eph.4:17-32). When we walk by the Word, that's when faith kicks into high gear. We aren't going to need faith in heaven, so we may as well use it up while we're here on earth.

So, let me give you one more thing to think about and fill in the blanks:

By faith, (your name here) __________.

(What do you do by faith?)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Labels

Labels sometimes frustrate me. I understand that often times labels are a simple way to generalize what someone believes without a lot of verbiage, but for some reason in the church we have turned labels into judgments. They can be demeaning. We say someone is a "________" and then roll our eyes, to which the recipient of our comment nods understandingly and purses their lips in agreement. Fill whatever label you want in the blank: Charismatic, pre-tribber, post-millennialist, Calvinist, mid-tribber, Arminianist, pentecostal, amillennialist, creationist, preterist, pre-wrather, literalist, or one of the hundred plus denominations that dwell within the sacred walls of Christianity.

Don't get me wrong - I don't mind being called a calvinist or a pre-wrather or some of the other labels given to me. I don't have a problem with standing on a doctrine and receiving a label for it. What bothers me is the fact that there are so many labels or doctrines within the church today. And here's why it bothers me:

"If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain." I Timothy 6:3-5

How great are those words? "Great?" you ask. Yeah, great and scary. Great because they describe exactly what is going on today in the church, and scary because they describe exactly what is going on today in the church. For there to be so many differing doctrines within the church today means that somewhere along the way someone quit agreeing with sound words and started advocating a different doctrine. And then a portion of believers embraced that differing doctrine, which has lead to millions of hours of controversial debating, which has caused angered outbursts, name calling, broken congregations and friendships, as well as constant friction at the cost of the sound words of Jesus Christ.
What's the solution? Give up on doctrine and just love each other? Accept each other and not debate theological differences? Recognize that each of us has our own perceptions and convictions, and keep our mouths shut? Sorry, it's not that easy. Just do a word search on "doctrine" at Biblegateway.com and you'll find that doctrine is actually very important in the Christian life. We are called to ignore strange doctrines (I Tim. 1:3), to uphold good, sound doctrine (Titus 1:9), to recognize that a time is coming when men won't listen to sound doctrine (II Tim. 4:3), and not to be tossed about by every wind of doctrine which comes from evil and deceitful men (Ephesians 4:14).

And there's basically two ways to know sound doctrine - be in the Word personally on a regular basis and listen to sound, Bible teaching on a regular basis. There is no substitute for feeding on the Word. If you are not under good, solid Bible teaching, then how will you recognize the deceitful doctrines of the evil one? If you are not pouring over the Word, seeking the heart of God, being taught by the Holy Spirit through the revelation of God in written form, then what is your foundation for life? Your feelings? What sounds good to you? What seems just to you?

I love a good theological discussion - put a Bible on the table and have at it. What drives me nuts is when experience and feelings weigh more than the Word of God in a believer's life. And what has happened in the church today is that believers have placed experience and feelings above truth and have accepted all kinds of doctrines, which are not found in the Word. This has produced all the denominations and labels that Christianity now defines itself by - and what a mess we have made of things! What a poor testimony for Christ that His own children can't agree on what His Word teaches!

So, where did this rant come from? I don't know - I just woke up from my Sunday afternoon nap with a burr under my saddle. What can we do about this? Get in the Word, ladies. Get in the Word and stay there. And if you're going to have a label put on your beliefs, you'd better be able to back it up with the whole of scripture, because anything less is more often than not a product of a depraved mind and is deprived of the truth.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Weekend Wish

This is my mom. She might not be thrilled with me at the moment for choosing this picture, but I have my reasons. So let me address my mother first - Mom, you are beautiful! I've never seen a bad picture of you, except for that one Dad took when you had the surprise extraction of your wisdom teeth when I was younger. Other than that, I don't want to hear it - you are gorgeous!

Now, on to my post. This picture was taken last Christmas when my whole family (sisters, husbands, nieces, nephews) all went to Aruba together over the holiday. I captured this shot on a typical afternoon at the pool. Kids were swimming or floating in the ocean, adults were warming themselves in the sun, and Mom...was reading. I wanted to share this picture with you because this is a typical Judy VanKampen pose. Warm, lovely smile, reading glasses and monster book in her hands.

Notice the title of the book - "Titan - the life of John D. Rockefeller." Mom doesn't tackle fiction books. She likes historical biographies and when she's done, she never forgets what she read. She is a walking Brittanica Encyclopedia. When we travel with her we don't need a guide, because she's read a book on it, guides us with great ease, and is a bastion of information.

We're all glad she moved on to Rockefeller because we were getting worn out by her latest conquest, Genghis Khan. Before that she was into the founding fathers and we have all received copies of James Madison's autobiography, amongst others. Actually, she just sent me her latest book craze (yes, Rockefeller was so last year) and it's about 5 inches thick and I think it's the first in, like, three, based on the history of the world by Winston Churchill, or someone like that.

When I was younger, Mom taught women's Bible study. She still teaches in her home today. Tuesday mornings was study and I can remember coming home from school on Tuesdays and all of Mom's books were spread out across the kitchen table. It wasn't left overs from study - she was getting ready for next week. She had her Bible, a few commentaries, the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge and always a book or two by Spurgeon. Now, this hasn't ended. As she continues to teach, Mac Arthur and Kent Hughes have been added to her collection and though I don't live near her, I still receive her wisdom via email. Her lessons are well studied, full of wisdom and love, and she is always overly prepared to share with women the Word of God.

That's why, when I saw this picture, I thought, "What a great way to tell the women about my mom - an image from my past captured in the present." When I think of my mom, I think about how well-read and well-studied she is, and how much she loves to share what she is learning. She's a great communicator.

My weekend wish for you is that you take some time and think first about your own mother. What picture could you share that would capture who she is? Once you've figured that one out, make it more personal. What will your children remember about you? What image does your family have in their minds about who you are and what you devote your time to?

You might be pleased with what you think of or you might feel like you don't have a good answer. Are you known for your temper or your gentle touch? Are you the fun parent or the disciplinarian? What hobbies do your children see you involved in and do they understand why you spend so much time doing them?

My final question is this: what would you like your children to remember you by? It's not too late to change their memories. If you fear that perhaps they won't even have fond memories of you, now is the time to discuss this with the Lord and find out who He wants you to be.

Have a great day of worship and don't let it end as you walk out the door of the church!

Kristen

(P.S. Love you, Mom! Thanks for teaching me how to responsibly study the Word and how to communicate it, as well.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lesson Wrap-up

I need to start by thanking Beth for giving me all that extra time this morning. Secondly, I need to thank the rest of you for all the additional extra time I took from you. It was just one of those lessons - so much to read, so much to say, so much to show - didn't want to save it for another day.

For those of you who are not in the Genesis class, today we got through the flood and finished with that strange story of Noah and his sons, at the end of Genesis 9. We won't go through the Table of Nations, name by name, but we did mention it and will start up with the Tower of Babel in Genesis 10 next week.

As we move away from Noah, I wanted to just give you a few of my wrap-up thoughts that I ran out of time for this morning. (Do I not talk fast enough or what is up with that?) There are a lot of biblical parallels between the coming Day of the Lord, where Christ returns for His people to gather them to Himself and bring the wrath of His Father upon the world and what happened at the flood. Don't miss the fact that the sin of man brought destruction upon the world at the flood. What the earth experienced was the wrath of God, in water form. Water is a highly destructive power - we all can attest to the damage on a very small scale that water can do to our homes and our properties (right Laurie?). God's wrath literally destroyed the world and reshaped it, and after the flood, everything changed.

Then He promised never to destroy the world again with water. The key to that phrase is the words "with water." He's going to destroy the world again, just not with water. We do have water damage in the world - flooding, hurricanes, typhoons, etc. but the entire world will not be completely devastated by a flood again.

No, the next time He'll use fire.

II Peter 3:4-7 begins, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation." This is what the world says today - we, as believers, can warn the world of pending judgment, just as Noah did, and their response is disbelief and mocking. It goes on to say, "For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded by water." In other words, when the world laughs at our assertion that Jesus is coming back with judgment, they miss the fact that God created the world from the very words of His mouth and that He re-formed the world with water during the flood. Literal creation and a world-wide flood are widely rejected today, not only outside the church but within.

The passage ends by saying, "But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men." Judgment is coming, ladies. Just as God clearly warned Noah and told him exactly what He was going to do, He has warned us and told us exactly what He is going to do.

There are many similarities between Noah's time and ours with one GIGANTIC difference. God has shown favor to a lot more people than just one. I cannot imagine what Noah's life was like before the flood, during the flood or even after. I am so thankful for the body of Christ that is with me to walk through this corrupt world. It breaks my heart day after day to see the God of the universe trampled upon by the evil thoughts and intents of men, but then I realize that there, but for the grace of God, go I. I am those sinners but for the grace of God.

Thank you, Lord, for removing the blinders and saving me. May I boldly proclaim your plan for the world and may I cry from the rooftops that your judgment is coming. Salvation is in your hands, Lord. Obedience is my calling.

Hope you all enjoyed Noah and I trust you will find time to look at the homework this week. May you be blessed by your time in the Word.

Kristen

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Wonderfulness of the Word

Yesterday my husband was asked to speak at a church where a friend from college is the pastor. He spoke from Habakkuk. Yep, that's right - Habakkuk. When he started his message he said, "I hope by the end of this morning you'll love Habakkuk as much as I do." And guess what? I think he accomplished what he set out to do. Habakkuk is a wonderful, overlooked little book, rich with wisdom and encouragement. If you're interested in hearing his message, click here and pick the sermon by David Wisen.

All this to say, as I sat, soaking in this little prophetic book, I became overwhelmed with a sense of joy for the Bible. Yeah, not overly profound, but as I sat there, the wonderfulness of the Word washed over me. So many different authors, so many years to write it, so many different audiences but one central theme - Jesus Christ. What a unique, wonderful Book!

It is the most translated, most read, most printed, most hated and most loved book in the history of the world. It speaks into astronomy, physics, medicine and biology. In contains history, poetry, patriotism, wisdom, short stories, prophecies, letters, and mounds and mounds of instruction. It has survived time, persecution and criticism. It is read by all age groups, all races and all social classes. It is life-changing. It is authoritative. It is well-written. It is inspiring and inspired. It reveals the heart of man, but more importantly, it reveals the heart of God.

And I not only own one, I live by it. Or at least I try to - there is so much to learn, so much to glean, so much to know and so much to grasp, that sitting there listening to my husband teach about Habakkuk, I realized how little I know. Therefore, I want to thank the Lord for each day that I have to pour over His wonderful Word and soak up its richness.

Wow...I need a nap...

See you in the morning!

Kristen

Friday, October 30, 2009

Weekend Wish


"But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord..." Genesis 6:8

What exactly was the favor (or grace) that Noah found? Was it the opportunity to build a monstrosity of a boat? Was it the privilege of witnessing to a lost community with no converts? Was it the joy of living on the water with your family in close proximity along with thousands of animals? Was it living nearly 350 years after the earth was destroyed?

We find the answer to this question in the very next verse: "Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God." Because of God's grace extended toward Noah, he no longer identified with the sinfulness of his society but was separated from it - set apart from it - and was declared righteous. Here is the first consequence of his finding favor with God. Was Noah a really good guy? Did God look down at man and decide that Noah was the best option? We are actually told that when God looked at man, what He saw was that "every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." So Noah fell in that category.

But God, in His gracious mercy and wisdom, reached down, removed the blinders of sin from Noah's eyes, revealed Himself to him in a mighty, life-changing way and applied the righteousness of His Son to Noah's account. From Noah's perspective, it was the promise of a payment, but that promise was made in eternity past, given in the garden and fully applied to Noah's life. Therefore, Noah was a righteous man because of God's favor.

Noah was also blameless in his time. What in the world does this mean? Again, this points to the righteousness of Christ. God did not prepare His wrath to pour out on Noah because when God looked at Noah, he saw a blameless record. It was as if he had never sinned. It was as if he had always obeyed. How can a man be blameless? Was Noah sinless? Of course not. He was blameless before God because he was covered with the righteousness of Christ. Noah was justified through the future sacrifice of Jesus, which God applied even before the fact because of the nature of who He is - if Jesus says He'll do it, it was a done deal.

And finally, Noah walked with God. This was another facet of God's grace in Noah's life. He didn't have to go through this life (or the next) alone. He walked with God. "Walked" implies fellowship, relationship, intimacy. We are given some of their conversations in the next few chapters and we see immediate obedience on Noah's part to the instruction of God. But don't you wonder if there were conversations that weren't recorded? Noah didn't have the whole of scripture like we do...but what we are given of their relationship, we see a loving Father instructing an obedient son. Noah could have been stubborn and made the process a lot harder, but when he came into an eternal relationship with the Almighty Creator, he chose immediate and complete obedience.

Are we so caught up with life that we neglect to see the difference between the life that finds favor with the Lord and the life lost from His touch? I think it was pretty obvious to Noah that he was alone in the world. Do you ever feel alone? Do you ever look at what the Lord has called you to do and wonder how this could be considered "favor"? Do you ever feel that your witness is rejected so much that it's not worth trying anymore? Noah lived this life, but it didn't produce bitterness or even weariness. It produced obedience.

My weekend wish for you is that you remember that you have found favor with God. You are righteous and blameless in your time. That's what justification does for you - that's what the blood of Christ accomplishes for you. But as His child you have the choice of obedience. You can struggle with God, or fight with God, or wrestle with God, or you can walk with God. What does God's favor in your life produce? Struggle or obedience? Discipline or blessing? Remember that His favor includes His involvement. May Noah be a witness to us thousands of years later of a righteous man, who was blameless in his time, who walked with God.

Have a great weekend, gals!

Kristen

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Remember...


Psalm 105:5 instructs us to "...Remember His wonders which He has done, His marvels and the judgments uttered by His mouth..."

This is the next verse we are to put to memory - don't give up, gals...keep working on it! Studying Genesis is a great way to remember His wonders and His marvels, as well as look at His judgments. Has He ever uttered a judgment so far that hasn't come true? We know the curses at the fall are true. We know His counsel for depression is true. We know that He destroyed the earth, save Noah and his family - so that judgment was true...God is so NOT like us...He keeps His word and He only speaks truth.

But what of His wonders? Creation, salvation, grace, faith...we can see His wonders and His marvels in the first few verses of Genesis, let alone the first few chapters. I pray that this study is making Him larger in your life - you see His involvement, His heart, His hand throughout history.

But what about the wonders in your own life? We are instructed to "remember His wonders" - can you sit and list out His wonders and His marvels within the context of your own life? I guess a better question might be, will you sit and list them out? And what benefit comes from remembering His wonders? It doesn't take much, gals, just look around you. What do you see? Can you see God in your every day life? In your children? In your home? In your marriage? In your church? What is He doing? We must live with the reality of His involvement, or we will never become more like Him.

I put a picture on this entry that I took last winter from my deck. How can I possibly look at it and not see God? How can this picture not draw my heart closer to Him, knowing that the Creator of the universe has done the most wonderful thing of all - saved a wretched sinner as I?

Noah found favor with this God.

So did I.

How wonderful is that?

Remember His wonders...