Sunday, January 31, 2010

What Are You Looking For?

"They also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven." Acts 1:11

When I was a child, I can remember driving with my mom, looking out the window and wondering if the clouds I saw in the sky were big enough for Jesus to take all believers into heaven on. I wondered if He'd only need a small, puffy one, or if He'd need one of those thick, blankets that covered the whole sky. Sometimes I thought that if I stared long enough, I might be able to see His form in one of the clouds.

I can also remember going to bed the night before my family was going to Great America (a theme park north of Chicago) and asking the Lord that if He was going to return on the next day, if He'd wait until we were on our way home from the park. Yeah, on those days, it was all about me.

When Jesus ascended into heaven, I don't think the disciples had ever seen anything like that before in their lives. I can almost see the picture in my mind, of them standing, gazing towards the sky. When the angels pulled their attention from the heavens, they questioned why the group was gaping at the sky. I know why. It's obvious why. But the angels, who were completely and wholly dedicated to doing the will of God, were trying to snap the men back to attention by reminding them they had work to do.

They were to go make disciples.

They were to be witnesses in the the remotest part of the earth, to be exact.

We have this same call. We are ambassadors for Christ, foreigners in a strange land, lights in a dark world. But we also are called to watch for the signs of Jesus return. You see, the return of Christ is the great hope of the church. The longing to see Him and be with Him, knowing that one day He will put an end to the rebellion here on earth, is the energizer of the church. He is the Redeemer of all things - men and creation alike, and though we have work to do for now, we look to the day that He returns.

I can imagine that every once in a while, the disciples could be seen gazing off into the sky. Because they saw Him leave in such a spectacular fashion, I am sure their eyes were set on the things above, with a longing in their heart to see Him return. They were privileged to have Him for three years and their dedication to the point of death proves that their lives were irreversibly changed by Him.

So, my questions to you are as follows:

1. Are you busy as an ambassador for Christ? Are you a witness for Him? Who is your audience?

2. Are you looking for His return? Is His return your great hope? What exactly are you looking for?

3. If you set your mind on the things above, does this include the Great Commission and His return?

My daughter, Alex, took this picture - I wanted to share it with you. It was a pretty big cloud.

I wonder if it was big enough...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Set Your Mind

There are a lot of things that we set in life:
  • we set our alarm clocks
  • we set our clothes out that we want to wear
  • we set our keys on the counter
  • we set our ovens to the right temp
  • we set our hair
  • we set our tables
  • we set our clocks ahead or back an hour, depending on the time of year
I think you get the picture. When we set something, there is a reason for it and it takes effort.
For Christmas I gave Dave a charger for his iPhone, where the phone sits in a dock. It's actually a dual dock system, so he had it set up in the kitchen and between myself, Dave and the kids, there is always a phone or two being charged. When I got back from the soccer tournament in Philadelphia, I noticed the phone charger was gone. I found it upstairs in my bedroom, beside our alarm clock. Apparently, the night I came home was the night Dave left at 3 a.m. to go to Haiti. He went to bed at 8 p.m. and slept until 1:30, then got up and went to the airport. To make sure he didn't miss the alarm, he set the alarm clock by the bed, but then also brought up the charger with his phone in it and set that alarm as well. A lot of thought went into that decision, followed by a lot of effort. Bottom line, he didn't want to be late for the airport, he didn't trust the jet lag he had from Liberia and he doubled his alarms to make sure he'd wake on time.

He had a reason for it and he put the effort into doing it.

Colossians 3:1 tells us to set our minds on the things above. This is not a casual, "Hey, when you're driving, look up at the clouds and wonder what heaven is like." That's not his suggestion here. He wants to you set your mind - reason and effort. Purposeful. Do it. Setting your mind on the things above simply means to live with an eternal perspective. Don't get so caught up with life here on earth that you forget about God. See life through His eyes. Don't view Him through life. Purposefully make the decision to adjust where your mind is right now and put it on the things above. So often we want that to happen naturally, but if Dave hadn't set the alarm clock that night, it would have wakened him at 7:10 a.m. because that's what time I have it set to go off. Without willfully, purposefully changing what you think about, your mind will stay right where it is.

As you head into your weekend, one great way to set your mind on the things above is to get in the Word. Read through the book of Daniel and remember what you have been learning on Sunday mornings. Or jump over to Genesis and look for God's hand in history. Or better yet, work on your memory verses. Remember, heaven and earth will pass away, but God's Word will never pass away. That's what makes it so great to memorize.

Be purposeful. Make a point to set your mind on God this weekend.

Have a good one.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jacob I loved, Esau I hated

Most discussions about election and free will within the process of salvation typically end up looking like the above drawing. It's a highly emotional debate. I want to thank you gals for patiently receiving the scripture you did today, that I threw in your lap in a hit and run fashion during study. I must admit, a few of you smiled, one nodded in agreement, one scowled and the rest of you had wide-eyed blank stares. I fear I hit this a bit aggressively without the context being fully understood, so for the three of you who read the blog, if you are still checking, I am going to clarify here a bit.

The Bible is highly unique in the fact that its author is Divine, yet His scribes were human. His message is inspired, but the personality of the writers is evident. Paul shared about his thorn in the flesh, Jeremiah mourned over his persecution, Habakkuk questioned the Lord's purposes and David begged for help. In the same vein, however, we are given God's instructions, His commandments and His promises clearly from His heart as well as His mouth (thus saith the Lord).

Throughout the Word we are given two perspectives - God's and man's. Paul said to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, and yet he eloquently taught that salvation was by faith, through grace alone. Is this confusing? Well, of course it can be, especially if you confuse the perspectives. When it comes to salvation, there are mounds of scripture on both sides, that talk of man's responsibility to act on the gospel message and God's sovereign choice of man. So there has to be a balance, there has to be truth in both. God's Word is infallible, so this cannot be a contradiction.

I have no aspirations of solving this theological debate with one simple blog. But I want to encourage you ladies to continue to seek God when you study the Word. Yes, there is plenty about ourselves in there, but let's not start with us. Let's start with Him. We want to see Him and know Him and love Him for who He is. So for now, let's set aside the human perspective and seek God's perspective on salvation.

As we look at the lives of Jacob and Esau, using our consistent hermeneutic of comparing scripture with scripture, we come upon those verses we read today stating that God hated Esau, that God loved Jacob, and that no matter how hard the offspring of Esau would struggle and battle for survival, God was going to wipe them out (Romans 9:10-13, Jeremiah 49:7-17, Malachi 1:1-4). Esau gives us reason to understand God's hatred because he is described as an immoral and despicable man (Hebrews 12:6), that he lived for the day (Isaiah 22:13) and that he eventually married heathen women (Genesis 26:34,35). So, we get it - Esau was a rotten guy, that's why God hated him. Right?

But we have to remember that Romans 9 tells us clearly that God's choice was not dependent on future actions of either child, but solely for His glory so that His purposes would be accomplished. The fact that without previous knowledge of character or actions, God loved one and hated the other is very difficult to grasp, if we look from a human perspective. Here's why: we want to assume that we all start on an even playing field - that we are all relatively good and that when we choose to reject God, the bad takes over and it's all down hill from there. This is seen in our court systems where each man is considered innocent until proven guilty.

Shift to God's perspective now - "There is none righteous, no not one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God; ...for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:10, 23) No one starts innocent until they are proven guilty. All are guilty. Period. End of discussion. Jacob was just as guilty in his sin as Esau. Abel was as guilty as Cain. Noah was as guilty as the people clamoring to get into the ark. Joseph was as guilty as his brothers. But Kristen, you say, Jacob, Abel, Noah and Joseph were good guys. And my response to you is, Why were they good guys?

Because of God's work in their lives.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:4-7)

Can you see God's perspective here? First of all "But God" always shows us a shift in action - we are one way, BUT GOD changes everything! We were dead - He made us alive. His great love. He raised us up. He seated us with Jesus. He will show the riches of His grace to us for ages to come. Kindness toward us. It's all about Him and His actions, His work. Dead people cannot do anything to help themselves.

So any good you see in the men listed above came from the work of God in their lives. And in like manner, any bad you see in the list of other men is exactly who the first list of men are without God's work in their life. Make sense? It's exactly who we are without Christ.

Just as Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 1:26-31, " that no man may boast before God. But BY HIS DOING you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord." It's all about Him - His work, His doing, His choice, His plan.

So, great, Kristen. Then I should just sit back and do nothing? I have no responsibilities? Remember the Word gives two perspectives. It assures us that God has a plan and a calling for each of us, and then holds us responsible to act by faith upon the Word of God. Faith without works is dead. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Hear the Word of the Lord and respond today.

It is a mystery, how God's sovereignty and man's will are intertwined, but as we go through Genesis, we cannot study the story of these two men solely from man's perspective. Their specific stories are given from God's perspective as well, and we must handle scripture responsibly. So like it or not, hate means hate and love means love.

Do me a favor and read the whole chapter of Romans 9 and summarize its teaching in one sentence, then post it in the comment section. Just wondering what you'll find...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Be Astonished

"Look among the nations!
Be astonished! Wonder!
Because I am doing something in your days -
you would not believe it if you were told."
Habakkuk 1:5

Habakkuk was a frustrated prophet. We know this because in his book, he starts it by saying, "The oracle which Habakkuk the prophet saw." Oracle can be translated burden as well. This prophet carried the burden of bringing the Word of God to a people who were down trodden and oppressed. In the opening verses of his book, Habakkuk calls out to the Lord and asks him why the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. Verse 5 is God's answer.

As I have dipped my toes into the world of writing, I have learned a lot. One thing that stands out when I read this verse is the use of exclamation points. My editor told me once that she will use possibly only one exclamation point per chapter she writes. She said that when you use one, it should really make a point. Of course, then I had to erase the 75 exclamation points I had used per chapter and change my writing style a bit.

Now, I know that the punctuation is not inspired, but in light of the message God is giving Habakkuk, I personally think that the four exclamation points are necessary to emphasize the message in verse 5.

God is doing an incredible work among the nations. We need to be astonished and amazed. Why do we see God's work and think, 'Oh, that's nice.' The fact that He chooses to work and walk among us is a blessing in and of itself, but we are so comfortable in our lives that we have missed out on the opportunity to be astonished and amazed. So I am going to share a story from Dave's trip to Haiti and I am going to give you the opportunity to be astonished.

One of the seminaries that Dave spent time at had a woman who had worked there for 30 years. She was an American missionary and she had every reason to be sorrowful - not only was the structure in shambles but students and teachers alike lay dead within the ruins. But she looked at Dave and the pastors with him and said, "Did you hear the good news? Senegal, which is a muslim country, is opening its borders to Haitian refugees! This is the first time in its history that they are letting refugees in the country! Do you think that God caused this earthquake so that a dark, muslim country could receive missionaries from Haiti to bring them the light of Jesus Christ?"

Wow. What a perspective. Is it possible? Is God really in control?

We need to look at the nations, observe, be astonished and wonder at this amazing God we serve. He is doing something in our day that even if we were told, we'd struggle to believe it.

See you in the morning...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Churches Helping Churches

This past week James MacDonald from Harvest Bible Chapel and Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church in Seattle flew to Haiti with my husband and a team of videographers and an award winning photographer to capture the images of the crisis and to find church leaders so that they could begin to formulate a plan to help the church body in Haiti.

On Saturday night, Dave is giving a report of that trip and how International Aid was a part of this adventure. We are meeting at the International Aid building on U.S. 31 at 7:30. This meeting is open to not only our church family but also to the community, so invite a friend and come for a time of sharing and prayer for the church in Haiti.

"So then, as we have opportunity,
let us do good to everyone,
and especially to those who are of the household of faith."
Galatians 6:10

International Aid
17011 W. Hickory
Spring Lake, MI

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Therefore IF...

"Therefore if you have been raised with Christ,
keep seeking the things above,
where Christ is,
seated at the right hand of God."
Colossians 3:1

Hopefully by now you've almost got it down. I just wanted to make a few, quick observations about each phrase...just little things that come to mind when I think of this instruction.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ
  • I love the word "if" here - Paul was an incredible communicator and it is not a mistake that he uses the word "if." This makes me pause and think - either I am raised with Christ or I'm not. If I am going to follow the instructions of the rest of the passage, I had better be sure that it applies to me.
  • "raised up with Christ" - what exactly does that mean? We were dead in our sins and have been made alive in Christ. He has raised us up from the dead. Not only has He raised us from the dead but He has elevated our status from slave to sin to fellow heir, child of God. The way this is phrased, by the way, puts the raising in someone else's hands, not ours - we have been raised, we did not raise ourselves. Christ is the "raiser", we're just along for the ride!
keep seeking the things above
  • Again, Paul makes me smile here. He assumes that if we are believers, we are naturally seeking God, so he encourages us continue in what should come naturally to us. However, we know the truth - so often our flesh chooses for us and we don't really have any interest in seeking God. He's saved us, what else do we have to know? Paul won't even make room for a strange comment like that - he teaches with his assumption. You're a believer, then you naturally seek after God.
  • As for the things above, Paul wants us to get out of our comfort zone and quit living horizontally. Quit trying to rationalize life in view of your own experience and knowledge. Vertical view is the godly view. If we seek the things above, there is an implication that the things above will shed a different light on life than only focussing on the things below. How often do we justify our sinful responses because of how we are being treated, rather than choose to have a godly response despite other people's sin?
  • By seeking the things above, there is also an implication of effort. Seeking doesn't mean that you walk in the kitchen and see your keys and say, "Oh, I found my keys!" Seeking means that you pull up the couch cushions, check the bathrooms, dig through your purse and find your keys on the front hall table. Then you can truly say that you found them. If we are seeking the things above, we are putting in effort to learn God's ways, His thoughts and His Word.
where Christ is
  • If there is any doubt of whether there is life after death, Paul uses these three simple words to remind us - Jesus is alive. He is not below, in the grave, waiting in Sheol, or doing some kind of soul sleep. He is alive and in heaven...
seated at the right hand of God
  • And here's what He's doing...He is seated. This is a comparison to the priestly duty of interceding on behalf of the people. They never sat because their work was never done. But Jesus' work is finished. He accomplished on the cross our ultimate intercessory work and there is nothing left to do to bridge the gap between His Father and man. Therefore, He gets the honor of sitting.
  • Of course we know that He is still interceding but as One who understands and identifies with what we are going through. (just had to throw that in)
  • The fact that He is seated at the right hand of God tells us that He is in a place of honor. By seating Him at His right hand, God gave Jesus equal honor with Himself, as well as authority and power. It made Him pre-eminent over all. It underscored that Jesus is God. Period.
So, keep working on this verse but as you think through each phrase, let your mind drift to the heavenlies. Get a picture in your mind of what we are to seek that is above. What does this verse teach us about God? about Jesus? And then test yourself - what are you seeking? Where do you find wisdom? What is your life built upon? What difference would it make if you sought what was above? What would that look like in your life?

Make it personal.

Have a good one!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

True Sacrifice

This is a picture of an altar, built by the Temple Mount Institute, as a replica of the altar God commanded Moses to build on Mount Ebal, overlooking Shechem:
“And there you shall build an altar unto Hashem your God, an altar of stones: you shall lift up no iron tool upon them. You shall build the altar of Hashem your G-d of unhewn stones.”(Dvarim / Deuteronomy 27:5,6).

I guess the uniqueness of this command from God was the fact that He wanted "unhewn stones." This meant that no metal tools could be used in its construction. I came across this recently and have been reading a lot about the Temple Mount Institute's desire to start the sacrificial system up again in Israel.

Fast forward to our study of Abraham. The concept of sacrifice didn't start with the law and as a matter of fact, it didn't start with Abraham either. Culturally, sacrifices to pagan gods were common far before the story of Abraham and Isaac happened. We looked at the first sacrifice ever made and in actuality, it was made by God to cover Adam and Eve's nakedness. The killing of the innocent to cover the guilty was exampled by God and then commanded to be imitated by mankind. Cain and Abel knew they were to bring sacrifices to the Lord, so we see the concept of offering a gift to God clearly within the first generation of humans to live on the earth.

Why did the pagan communities sacrifice? I am sure there are a list of reasons but the most obvious one was as an act of worship and appeasement to their god. When Abraham took Isaac up onto Mount Moriah to sacrifice his son to the Lord, he told his servants he was going to worship. Worship and sacrifice are intrinsically linked. It's a heart condition that causes an action. Perhaps I should say faith, worship and sacrifice are intrinsically linked.

But by the time the Old Testament closes out with the book of Malachi, the sacrificial offerings of the children of Israel were no longer out of worship but out of duty. Their hearts were not behind their actions and God called them out. The whole book is the accusation of the Lord upon the wayward children. I wanted to quote a verse here but I can't limit myself to one verse, so do me a favor - grab your Bible and read through Malachi. It is shocking, sad and scary. Here, look at this for an example:

"If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name," says the Lord of hosts, "then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart." (Mal. 2:2)

Not only does He describe what they are doing but He threatens them as well. I can't help but see the church in general in the book of Malachi. We have become so accustomed to our traditions that the meanings behind our practices are becoming lost. Why do we pray for our food at mealtime? Why do we sing before the sermon on Sunday? Why do we tithe or even take communion? Why do we "spend time in the Word"? Are these truly acts of worship or are they acts of duty?

Abraham exampled true worship for us this week. He set aside his feelings and by faith, obeyed the command of God, offering the very best, the most precious and the most costly possession he had. We cannot help but pause and wonder what we withhold from God. But go one step further - what we give to God, is it truly our very best and do we do it out of a heart to bring honor to the Lord, to truly worship Him?

Read that question again and slowly this time.

I am convicted this week to offer my very best, to set aside my will to worship the Lord, to examine what I lay on the altar to God, to dwell on the call to be a living sacrifice. When I went to bed last night, I thanked the Lord for proving Abraham in such a dramatic and public way. It is encouraging to me that man can truly walk by faith and worship deeply in a way that pleases the Lord.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Sorry, gals. This isn't going to be eloquent or life changing. Just a quick update and then I have to fine tune my lesson for tomorrow.

This weekend I was in Philadelphia with the nine boys in the picture at the National Indoor Soccer Championships. Seven of them are from my son's high school and two from their cross-area rivals, Freedom. To watch these young men come together and compete on the same team, having fiercely compete against each other in the past was an amazing feat in and of itself. But to see them battle against teams who were physically much larger, and with skill and teamwork get themselves into the finals - that was just an absolute joy! We lost in the finals in overtime to the team which won last year but that hardly put a damper on the fun that we had. So, I just wanted share my me, there are a lot of stories from this weekend!

And before I sign off, I want to share a prayer request with you. Dave left this morning at 3 a.m. for Haiti in an airplane filled with medical supplies from Amway. He accompanied James MacDonald from Harvest in Elgin, and Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill in Seattle. These pastors are meeting with church leaders in Haiti to see how the church in America can reach out and help the church in Haiti. Dave is a part of these meetings and has connections with supplies through International Aid. Right now they are at a seminary and Dave just texted me that they heard gunshots and there was a body down outside the seminary. I know things are very unstable, to say the least, so please pray for safety and wisdom for this team. Liberia was a great trip for him and this Haiti trip happened rather quickly, so he has hardly had time to get his bearings. Lord-willing, he will return on Tuesday night.

Check out this website - - this is the site that James and Mark have posted, encouraging the church to rise up and meet the needs of fellow believers in Haiti.

Have a great day and I'll see most of you tomorrow!


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Prayers for Haiti

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ,
keep seeking the things above,
where Christ is,
seated at the right hand of God."
Colossians 3:1

I don't know about any of you, but last night when I went to bed I struggled with what to say to the Lord about what has happened in Haiti. The devastation is overwhelming, to say the least. I kept seeing the haunting images: the children, collapsed building after collapsed building, the dead. I guess I didn't even know where to begin.

But He brought to mind our memory verse in the midst of my struggle and instead of putting my thoughts on human suffering, I made a conscious decision to seek the things above, to search the heart of God and acknowledge His sovereign rule over man and nature. Make no mistake, this is a massive crisis. But God rules and He reigns, and He doesn't rule and reign without purpose. So I prayed that God would be glorified through this disaster, that hearts would turn to Him and find true healing and peace.

As many of you know, my family is really into adoption and over the years we have sponsored children from third world nations through Compassion International. When my twins were doing country reports in sixth grade, for Christmas we "gave" them each a little girl from the country they were studying that we would sponsor. The girls write their "little sisters" a few times a year and send pictures.

Nicole did her report on Haiti and her "little sister" is named Sementa. I don't know what Nancy's status is at the moment and I am not sure how to even find out, but I do know this - if a very dark nation, entrenched with voodoo practices and witchcraft, Sementa knows the Lord so her eternity is secure. This is a great comfort at this time when we don't know about her well-being.

As we seek the things above and try to look at the Haiti disaster through the lens of God's Word, let us remember that life is fleeting but eternity lasts forever. Pray for the believers in Haiti - the nationals, the missionaries, the ministries who are providing aid. Pray that as they meet the physical needs of the injured and broken, that they share the Bread of Life and Living Water with the dying. In this terribly dark nation, their only hope is Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Remember Lot's Wife

Three sobering words found in the middle of Jesus' teaching about His return.

Today we looked at the story of the demise of Lot's wife. She doesn't play a huge role in the Sodom and Gomorrah story. We don't see her making dinner for the angels. Neither do we see her pleading with her husband to spare her daughters lives when he offered the girls to the ravenous crowd to save the lives of his guests. Rather we only see one action on her part - one short verse tells her whole story: "But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt." (Genesis 19:26)

Fast forward to the final week of Jesus' ministry here before His death, and we find the disciples asking Jesus what to look for that will signal His return is near. After a lengthy discussion filled with signs and teaching, Jesus compares the state of the world with society at the time of Noah and Lot. Life will be going on as usual, people eating, drinking and getting...well, you know the list. But Christ's return is going to bring sudden destruction to the world. In both Noah and Lot's case, they were pulled to safety just before the judgment came.

But then Jesus says, "Remember Lot's wife." He goes on to say, "Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it." This is a sober warning because I link these words to something Jesus said in Matthew 24:10 and 12: "At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another...most people's love will grow cold." These verses are talking about within the walls of the church. We know that the church is filled with wheat and tares - true believers and look-alike believers, and as the persecution of the church increases, MANY will fall away and MOST will have their heart grow cold.


God doesn't use words like "many" and "most" lightly. He knows what's going to happen and here He warns us that the true colors of men will show through in the last days. His words, "Remember Lot's wife," is a warning to us. A day is coming that if we seek to save our lives, we will be forced to make choices that place us against God. But if we lose our life because of our love for God, we will certainly save it. This is a warning and it is a promise. When we see the events unfolding that Jesus talked about in Luke 17 and in Matthew 24, we must remember that at the same time most of those around us are going to succumb to the pressure of persecution and seek to save themselves. This will only add to the suffering and sorrow of those days.

Lot's wife couldn't bear the thought of leaving her home, her children and her life, and when instructed to set her eyes to the hills, all she could do was ache for her home. So she turned her head. Perhaps the noise was deafening. Or maybe she didn't believe it was real. But she made a choice to follow her heart rather than God and she paid a great price for it.

Jesus has warned us not to look back. He is not going to surprise us with anything - He has given us plenty to understand and follow. The next questions are then, are you prepared to lose your life for Him? Do you believe that a time is coming where you will have to choose between God and your life?

"Not here in America, Kristen - you must be thinking of China or North Korea."

Oh, yes, I do mean here in America, ladies. It's coming and the reason I can say it with confidence is because I have a credible source that tells me it's coming - the Word of

Gals, remember Lot's wife. Learn from her lesson and resign in your heart today to prepare yourself for what lies ahead.

By the way, thanks for a great study today - it's wonderful to be back in the swing of things!


(This second picture is one of the salt formations I told you about today. It is found along the Dead Sea and the locals refer to these formations as "Lot's Wife.")

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Secret to the Christian Life

It's not really a secret. It's rather obvious. But with the busyness of life, of the Christian life, it is often overlooked.

What do I mean by "busyness"? I mean:
  • nursery work
  • women's studies
  • worship services
  • children's musicals
  • Christmas previews
  • retreats
  • small groups
  • choir practice
  • Sunday services
  • counseling ministry
  • men's breakfasts
  • volleyball and basketball nights
  • mother/daughter salad suppers
  • teaching Sunday school
  • youth activities
...and the list goes on and on. That's what I mean by "busyness." All of these things are good things, but they keep us very busy. And fitting each of these things, or half of these things, or a fourth of these things into your schedule is not the secret to the Christian life.

So here it is: "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth." (Colossians 3:2) it really that simple? What exactly does that verse mean?

As believers in Jesus Christ, and followers, we are instructed to set our minds on Him. Notice it doesn't merely say "set your eyes" but "set your MIND." Have you ever heard this before?

"You do what you do and your feel how you feel
because you THINK what you THINK."

What we set our minds on will affect our actions and our feelings. God wants us to set our minds on the things above - on Him, on eternity, on His Son. If our minds are set on Him, then we know what our goal is, what our focus should be and we will stay the course. Lot's wife did not set her mind on God, but turned back for one last glimpse and it ended her life. Peter took his eyes off Jesus and allowed his mind to be filled with fear because of the storm around him. That could have ended disastrously as well, but Jesus intervened, and Peter walked on water and lived to tell about it. When we take our eyes and our minds off God, life becomes difficult, uncertain and downright scary.

This week, as we start up our study again, we are going to be committing to memory this passage from Colossians. Ladies, there's a reason for it. It is the secret to the Christian life. As simple as it sounds, in all things, if we set our minds on God, our eyes, our hearts, our bodies, our lives will head in the right direction.

So, I have one final question: How do we set our minds on the things above?

Oh, fine...I'll answer my own question. You can't set your mind on something you know nothing about. Therefore, you have to KNOW GOD. If you want to fill your mind with Him, if you want Him to sit on the throne of your life, if you want Him to be the center of your attention, you have to get to know Him more, enlarge your view and understanding of God, spend time with Him.

He gave us a massive revelation of Himself so that we are without excuse...

So grab that revelation and start getting to know God better, and I'll see you in the morning!


Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Day in the Life...

Dear Diary,

Another busy day. I noticed a few days ago that the tear in the far corner of my sleeping room was finally getting large enough that I needed to repair it. I worked on that stupid tear from sun up to sundown today. The fabric of the tent is so heavy that, though it provides wonderful warmth at night, and even drowns out any outside noise, it is a bugger to sew through! I finally finished and after soaking my hands in warm water, I felt the strength return just enough for me to jot a few notes in my diary.

You would think that after twenty-four years - yes, twenty-four - I would be used to tent repairs and living the life of nomads. I should have known in my first year of marriage that Abram loved to move around, but twenty-four years ago next month we left Ur and we've been on the move ever since. About six years ago, I did convince him to leave dwellings with some of our excess servants in the several places in the land that Abram enjoys to see the most and that has enabled me to travel with him more frequently. He has built me beautiful yet temporary homes. Still, I shouldn't complain.

But Hagar and Ishmael continue to be a hinderance to my joy.

The boy is thirteen now and is starting to assert his authority as Abram's sole heir. I try to explain this to Abram but he doesn't seem to have an ear to my criticism. It must be my time of life. I don't really struggle with negativity, except when it comes to them. Hagar now lives in the south, but I don't trust her and won't let Abram travel there alone, so when I do go, she is cordial but there is always a look in her eye that reminds me of my loss and her gain. Ishmael is not a bad boy, I guess, he's just a constant reminder of what I was never able to give Abram myself.

As for Abram and me, we are aging well and I actually think he prefers to travel with me. We talk together all day and God has graciously increased our flocks and our help. We really have no concerns. The locals are friendly at all our dwellings and they seem to recognize Abram as a man blessed by God. Though they don't quite understand it, they respect it.

My greatest concern for Abram is that though we see God's hand, it's been over thirteen years since God met with him. We feel His presence, and perhaps as long as we live respectable lives, He feels no need to intercede. Abram has his heir that God promised and since Hagar claims that an angel gave her the same promises about Ishmael's future that God gave Abram about his future heir, I will submit to His will. Is it what I thought it would be? Not quite. I thought I would hold my own child on my lap, but I am decades past that dream. I thought we'd fill the home with children if we followed God, but His plan has only included one child. I thought I was the object of God's affection, but it must be only Abram. I thought that Ishmael would call me mother, but I blew that opportunity years ago.

I am no longer sad about being barren. I understand that this is God's plan for my life. I can no longer apologize to Abram for something that I cannot control. But still, maybe once a year, I'll have a dream about being a real mother. When I awake, sorrow floods my soul and it takes me days to recover because the dream stirs up feelings I had forgotten. But life goes on and I am committed to pouring myself into my husband, traveling with him and living a contented life in the land God has given us.

It's a good land and he's a good man.

What do I have to regret?

Tomorrow I will go to town and replace our everyday dishes with some beautiful new ones. I have this thing about pottery and the locals are so talented. Perhaps some new fabric will have arrived from the east.

It will be a good day. I can feel it in my old bones.

Goodnight, Diary.


(Time to return our thoughts to Genesis, gals...hope to see all of you on Tuesday!)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Prayer Request

Today my husband and daughter left for Liberia. They will be gone for nine days, serving with a team from the Harvest Bible Chapel Fellowship. There are eight members on the team. Dave will be preaching and working on elder training and yearly budgets for the church and school. Katherine will be the official photographer, work with a soccer camp and serve on the praise teams for the 5 church services that they will be holding.

Please join me in prayer for the travel safety of the team and for the various responsibilities they have. Stomach ailments are a common problem, and prayer that they would stay healthy would be greatly appreciated. Also, if you would, pray that Jesus Christ would be first and foremost on their minds and hearts as they minister to these dear people. Three of Dave's messages are specifically gospel centered and will be used by the churches to introduce the lost to the Lord. So, this is an exciting week for my daughter and husband, as well as the whole team, and I appreciate your partnering with them in prayer.

Now as for the pictures I have posted, these are from Dave's first visit to Liberia. I thought initially that Dave loved to go there (this is his third trip) because he loved the ministry and the people. But I was a bit off. There is a more specific reason. He loves Jeremy. That is the little boy in the top picture. You can see him on the far right, behind the little boy with the beige buttoned shirt in the second picture. I think that Jeremy is the reason Dave keeps going back.

I might get the details wrong, but I think Jeremy is the son of one of the pastors. He attached to Dave on the first trip, because he found out that Dave was the American with an endless supply of candy in his pocket. He would sit beside Dave at church and out of the corner of his mouth he would say, "Candy." Dave would reach in his pocket, grab a round sour and pop it in his mouth. It was all on the sly, because there were about 200 kids there and Jeremy had no intentions of sharing Dave or his candy.

Recently a group from church returned from Liberia and Todd Hostetter asked Dave if he remembered Jeremy. He also asked if Jeremy talked much when Dave was there. Dave said, "I think he only said one word to me and that was candy." Todd said that when he got off the plane in Monrovia, Jeremy was there and he ran to him and said, "Where's David?" The little boy apparently has a great memory.

So in the next 24 hours Jeremy and Dave are going to reunite and spend the week together. I sent him with a five pound bag of Jolly Ranchers. That should hold their relationship in good stead until we visit again in April. Dave is taking the twins, Christopher and a couple of boys from the youth group, as well as myself, back there for spring break. Or at least that's the plan. And I am sure we'll be bringing more candy when we go.

So now you are caught up with what's new around here. Thank you for your prayers. I am sure there will be stories when they return.

And most likely more pictures of Jeremy.

Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Quick Passage Study

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." Mark 8:34-38

This is quite a statement by Jesus. At first glance the easiest way to study this is by asking the question, what does God require of me? But lately I have been encouraging you to do something else before you seek out personal application in the Word. I want you to find God first. Ask yourself, what does this passage reveal about the character of God? What do these verses tell me about Jesus?

So this morning, I thought I would take a highly application-oriented passage and try to set aside my part and first find God in it. So here are my observations (I am sure there even more, but we have to start somewhere...):
  • Jesus had an eternal perspective - if He only focussed on life in the here and now, there wouldn't be any worry about losing one's soul. But Jesus tells us that the price of earthly gain is one's soul
  • Jesus also wasn't a polished salesman - His description of the life of a follower was sobering at best. He didn't sugarcoat the truth, but He was an honest realist.
  • Jesus knew the heart of men - He understood sinful man's tendency for self-preservation and He warned His followers to asses their motives. Even His choice of the word "ashamed" shows us that He understood the inward struggle that believers would face
  • Jesus promises salvation to those who truly follow - again, with His eyes set on eternity, He honestly lays out the struggles on earth that pale in comparison to the eternal glory to come. He doesn't imply anything. He knows the future and shoots straight from the hip
  • Jesus sovereignly knew the end of the story - there is no hopefulness (as in, I really hope that I get to come back and get you!) in Jesus' statement, but rather there is sheer confidence, because He knows how everything is going to play out
Okay, so we have five simple observations on the character of Jesus - He had an eternal perspective, He was an honest realist, He understood the heart of man, He gave promises and He displayed His sovereignty in His confidence of the future.

Was there ever anything wishy-washy about Jesus? No, never. Was He ever unsure of Himself? Nope, never. Is He the same today as He was 2,000 years ago? Absolutely yes.

Now, moving forward with the confidence that Jesus' words are truth and life, we can boldly lay out the personal application, starting with the imitation of Jesus. Let me explain - without even dealing with His teaching yet we already can say that to be like Christ, we need to live with an eternal perspective, be honest and realistic with our words, consider the affects of our sinful heart on truth, share the promises of Jesus with others and rest with confidence in Jesus' description of the future. The only way we can put these things into practice in our lives is by knowing exactly what Jesus said and who He is, therefore we need to be in the Word even more! See how that works?

This post is getting long, so I will wrap it up by saying, after you study the passage for the character of Christ and you transfer His character into an example for how you are to live, then you are ready to examine the passage for personal application. With this particular passage, that process is pretty easy and I'm going to let you do that for yourself...feel free to share your findings in the comment section.

Remember, if you only seek the Word looking for yourself, then you'll miss the true beauty of the revelation of the Author Himself. Seek Him first, apply to yourself second...make sense?

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Fear of the Lord

The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge....Proverbs 1:7

I fear the Lord. I think I fear the Lord. Yes... I definitely fear the Lord. Do I fear the Lord as much as I fear satan? I think I should. I think I should fear Him much more than satan. I probably shouldn't even fear satan...he doesn't/shouldn't have any power over me. (rabbit trail...get back to the point, Beth) Do I fear the Lord enough? What does it mean to fear the Lord? How does that give me knowledge?

This is a sneak peak into my brain as I read scripture. I have conversations with myself...sometimes I even talk out loud.

Please tell me I'm not the only one.

Well imagine my delight when I ventured into Proverbs 2 and I found out how to answer all my questions! Not only that, but it came in the form of an if...then statement. I love if..then statements. They mean if I do _____ (fill in the blank) THEN______ (fill in the blank) will happen! Easy, right?? Great for us list checkers...except for one thing. With this one, you can't just go through the motions...check, yep, got that one, check.... You've got to put your heart into it. And not just put your heart into it as in hard work, although that's part of it. You've got to put your heart into it with all the longing and desire you can muster.

Take a look at Proverbs 2:1-5

My son, IF you will receive my words
And treasure my commandments within you,
Make your ear attentive to wisdom,
Incline your ear to understanding;
For if you cry for discernment,
Lift your voice for understanding;
If you seek her as silver
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
THEN you will discern the fear of the Lord
And discover the knowledge of God.

Did you catch the hard work part? We need to receive His words...that means we better be in the Word. Not only in the word, but we need to treasure His commandments within us. For me, to treasure something within me means I need to know it really well. I can't treasure something within me that I read and promptly forget. It's got to be something I can hold on to, remember, pull out to find comfort and joy and tuck back in for the next time. I might even need to...gasp..memorize it.

I have to incline my ear to understanding. This one prompted another conversation with myself about what inclining my ear looked like, but I'll let you all work that out for yourselves.

Then comes the heart...the passionate longing heart for wisdom of the Lord.
We need to want it so much that we cry out and lift our voices begging for it. It needs to be valuable to us...a precious hidden treasure that we search and search for....because if it is... if we search as if for hidden treasure, we WILL DISCERN THE FEAR OF THE LORD AND DISCOVER THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.


Is my heart in it? Have I truly cried out for discernment? I know I have a few times... especially when I'm hurting. Why do those two always seem to go hand in hand? How attentive is my ear? What things in my life have my heart more than learning the fear of the Lord? oh I have guilt. I don't want it to be something I have to do. I want to want to do it. Have I thought of wisdom, and fear of the Lord, as a hidden treasure that I must find? Seeking hidden treasure..silver...That sounds like a book I'd read my kids. That sounds like an adventure.....

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Proverbs...something for everyone

It's late ladies, and I was getting ready to climb into bed when thoughts about what I had read in my Bible yesterday came swirling back into my head. Because I know that sleep doesn't usually come quickly when my brain is mulling things over, I came back out to the computer to talk with all of you!

Because yesterday was the start of a new year...and because it was the start of a new month, a month with 31 days in it...I decided to read through the book of Proverbs again; one chapter a day.

What struck me as I began to read, was that Proverbs (and I would add all of scripture) has something for everyone. It doesn't matter if you are naive or wise, young, old or full of understanding, it was written for you and it delivers.

Read through Proverbs 1:1-6 and see what it promises to give you, wherever you may fall in your level of knowledge and understanding. There's no shame in being naive or young, only encouragement to grow and a warning.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

The chapter goes on to warn of sin and then tells us about wisdom.

WISDOM...the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.....Oh how we need wisdom!!!
We must not be content with being simple-minded!!

The chapter ends with a great promise. In fact, verse 33 made me smile, because I realized that I was starting off 2010 in a much better place and with a much better attitude than I started 2009. One year ago, I was scared. As the economy spiraled downward and the world became unstable and talk of terrorists, recessions, one world currencies and end times swirled around me, I walked around with a pit in my stomach more days than I care to admit.

But this year....this year I have the wisdom to believe in verse 33.

But he who listens to me shall live securely
And will be at ease from the dread of evil.

......and that makes me smile!

Looking forward to digging into the word and growing in wisdom with all of you in 2010!
All glory and honor and praise to the author and perfecter of my faith!

Friday, January 1, 2010

What Will Happen in 2010?

Those of you who know me know my interest in the scripture that tells of Christ's return for His bride. I love end times studies, blogs, discussion boards and even those end-of-the-world movies. So as we enter a new year and we think through the events of the old one and wonder about the events of the new one, my mind is naturally drawn to Christ's return.

Obviously He didn't choose to return in 2009, and at the start of 2009 I didn't expect Him to, just as I do not expect Him to return in 2010. Don't get me wrong - I live with expectancy, but not of a surprise rapture, but rather with the expectancy of fulfilled prophecy pointing to His coming. In His Olivet Discourse, Christ listed exactly what to look for before His return, since the disciples had asked Him that very question. He described natural disasters and human-imposed persecution, false Christs and prophets performing all kinds of wonders to mislead the masses and lawlessness abounding. He instructed His followers to flee and hide and wait for the supernatural heavenly sign of His return - the natural lights darkening and then as lightening flashes in the sky, Christ will return, His glory filling the darkness, bringing great joy to believers and great dread to the rest of the world.

Then Christ said, "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door." (Matthew 24:32,33) Here is the call to live with expectancy. Just as nature reveals what is coming next (falling leaves means winter is coming, tender buds promise of warmer weather), Christ had just given a description of what to look for before His return.

So as I said earlier, I live with the expectancy of fulfilled prophecy pointing to Christ's return. So what has happened this past year that falls in the list that Christ gave? Yes, we have had war in the world and many, many rumors of war. There has been famine and earthquakes as well. There has been persecution of believers all over the world and plenty of false prophets to add to the list. These things are all general descriptions of the downfall of humanity that have been happening since Adam, though I think I could make a good case that they have increased in intensity in the past few years.

But one of the more specific things that Christ described, a man of lawlessness standing in the holy place, is not yet upon us. First of all, there is no "holy place" for him to desecrate. But mark my words, it's coming and last year was a big year for the Temple Mount Institute, as they prepare for the day that they will restore the sacrificial system in Jerusalem. To date, they have made ready all the utensils and garments for the priests to perform their duties and this past year they built an altar. They have purported on their website that they have prefabricated the walls of the Temple and upon permission, a holy place will be erected within weeks. Add to that the political talk of dividing Jerusalem and establishing an official Palestinian state, plus the continued threat of Iran's nuclear program, and Israel remains the center of attention for prophecy watchers.

In addition to no Temple, this man of lawlessness is still a mystery. Many have theories and I have read some pretty convincing reports claiming to know the identity of the anti-Christ. But for now, he still remains a secret. But in the past year, the concept of a One World currency became front and center of the economic crisis that hit the world in the fall of 2008. I have read reports that not only are the world leaders considering this move to a common currency, but that banks already are in possession of the monetary unit. I have also read that instead of currency, the world is turning to complete electronic transactions which would require micro chips to be embedded in the body as a identification and record-keeping device. Whether or not either of these claims are true, they are definitely preparing the world for what believers know will be a time of alignment with a ruler that demands worship and kills anyone without his identification mark.

One other event that has moved us closer to literal fulfillment of Jesus' words was the gathering of the world leaders in Copenhagen to discuss the issue of global warming and how to solve this life-threatening crisis. Without recognizing that "He's got the whole world in His hands..." the world has clamored to the conclusion that if we all work together, we can save the world, or at least make it a better place. With that delusion as their motivation, the world leaders, despite evidence to the contrary, began the process of developing a treaty that will hold every nation accountable for its CO2 emissions, forcing developed nations to pay underdeveloped nations for their emission rights. I don't see how this decreases the CO2 emissions, but it spreads out the wealth in the world. I am sure I am simplifying what was discussed there, but the bottom line is, when the world finishes this treaty, America will no longer be an independent, free nation, but we will be linked to a One World Governing unit which puts us one step closer to a realization of a one world ruler that has the capability of demanding something upon the whole world.

It's been a busy year. A lot has happened, putting us one year closer to Christ's return than we were at the start of 2009. What will happen in 2010? I can't say for sure, but I can say that it's going to be another year of expectancy and watching for me. By the way, the picture above is a fig tree - it's a pretty simple concept that requires all of us to be watching...