December 18, 2007

a knight in the bus

The bus plows through the industrial area of town where I work and scoops up the humanity that waits on muddy remnants of snowdrifts on curbs. On this route, I avoid the back of the bus. My body doesn't go there, and my eyes rarely shift that way. Smoky, greasy, uncouth...my imagination paints pictures of the men who sit back there, since I rarely venture past the back doors of the bus. But today the homeward-bound bus was full, and the tide of new passengers at stop two or three sent me shuffling into the back of the bus...the area I imagine to be dirty. But to my surprise, I was only there a few moments when the man sitting in front of me gave me his slippery orange seat. I hardly looked at him, either, and some of the men around me were similar to my imaginings, but in the one man's kind gesture I saw a gentleman. Yes, even in the back of the bus.

Some mornings the bus seats are like precious treasures. There are days when, before I even maneuver through the slush and smoke of the terminal and pull out my bus pass, most of the seats are taken. Last week, on a full-bus morning, another gentleman gave me preference when a seat opened. Indeed, another gentleman, in the front of the bus.

In general, I really appreciate chivalry. It reinforces that yes, ladies are different than men, and that that is significant. It seems to show appreciation and respect and doesn't have to have romantic overtones. There might be times when I think a man deserves to sit more than I do, but it is still nice to be offered the seat first. Especially with a stranger, I might take the seat he offers if only to encourage this last shard of gender distinction in our culture.

Years ago I heard that some feminists hate to have doors opened for them. With that in mind, when a boy opens a door for me, or even for a group of people, I often try to say thank you, just to show that it is appreciated. There are times where I have balked at chivalry because I felt that to accept someone's offer was to indicate a particular interest in that person, but how nice it is when a man knows to watch out for the ladies around him (in purity, like a brother). Do boys realize what a nice gesture it is to open a car door for a girl? I don't think I did until one day I almost unconsciously expected it, and it didn't happen.

Ultimately, appropriate gender behaviour must be rooted in Scripture, or we have no authoritative model. If I speak not of Christ's calling, then what I say is merely suggestion. In our cultures and subcultures the expectations on men vary greatly. What may be considered nice here (ie, helping a girl with her coat or chair) might not have be taught in another area. The one act of helping with a car door is nice, in our culture, but it isn't essential. The big picture of gender roles in Scripture is much more vital.

I believe that it was Elizabeth Elliot that said something to this effect: when men are manly, woman become more womanly, and so it goes from there, as each gender complements the other. What a beautiful picture of the divine balance between the sexes. Elliot says, "It was God who made us different, and He did it on purpose.... God created male and female, the male to call forth, to lead, initiate and rule, and the female to respond, follow, adapt, submit...the physical structure of the female would tell us that woman was made to receive, to bear, to be acted upon, to complement, to nourish." (Let Me Be a Woman, p59) Recently someone commented to me how blessed we are to have the Bible to define gender roles for us. Indeed, we are.

November 03, 2007

Obedience

"...obedience is the gateway through which knowledge, yes, and love, too, enter the mind..." - Anne Sullivan (Helen Keller's teacher)

"Revival will come when prayer is no longer used as a substitute for obedience." - A. W. Tozer

"...in order to experience true revival most of us don’t need to hear one more truth than we already know. We just need to obey the truth we already know...." - N. L. DeMoss

These quotes were striking to me this week, especially the truth of the last one. I am a person who listens to a lot of Bible teaching. My sister said that I'm the biggest "sermon-listener" she knows, or something like that :). I try to consistently do devotions, and attend church. I think I pride myself in having Bible knowledge. But what good is that without obedience? God knows how many truths I agree with:
"Yes, we should be diligent in prayer..."
"Yes, we should take captive every thought to Christ..."
But he also knows that often I just allow truth to pile up in my mind rather than letting it settle into my life through meditation, prayer and obedience.
Sometimes I think I need to turn off the sermon...
and face my Lord.

"Some of you have read...a lot of...great books by other Christian authors. You listen to Christian radio. You go to church Sunday after Sunday. You hear the preacher. You have heard the truth, and you maybe even agree with what you’ve heard. The question is are you doing what you’ve heard?" - N. L. DeMoss

Find the article the quotes are from here.

October 31, 2007

Sanitized confessions...

...how many of us have spent significant portions of our lives paralyzed by fear of exposure? We respond in groups by either clamming up or deflecting conversation because we don't want anyone to know the depth of our issues. And if we ever do give voice to our struggles, we sanitize it. We don't really want others to know how much we're hurting right now. And we don't want anyone to know how much our sin has hurt others.

Oh that we would be a church of humble women who are honest about our sin. Instead, so often we are a mix of shame and pride. We're ashamed of ourselves because of what others have done to us and what we, in turn, have done to others. And we're too proud to admit it to anyone. We must become women who value confession.
-Wendy Alsup

Paul's honesty:

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent … The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (I Timothy 1:12-15)

October 30, 2007

Make no provision for the flesh

From Nancy Leigh DeMoss' October 18 broadcast Far from Sin:
You are saints, and that’s why we have to be serious about mortifying—putting to death our sinful flesh and anything and everything that feeds our flesh. I know that when we talk about this the word legalistic will probably surface, but I want to know, why are we so prone to defend choices that take us right to the edge of sin? Why are we so reluctant to make radical choices to protect our hearts and our minds from sin?...So what if you wouldn’t even consider getting drunk...but you are out of control when it comes to food or shopping or some other “Okay for Christians” addiction? It’s the heart...You’re considered spiritual. You’re a Christian leader. You are considered good. People respect you. They look up to you, but your heart is filled with pride, jealousy, and anger. You are self-righteous.
Nancy is teaching on something the Lord has been driving home to me in recent months: the Lord sees the heart. We stand bare before Him. Romans 13:14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires". Don't feed the flesh! Nancy recommends setting up "guardrails" to keep away from sin, but I appreciate that she doesn't make a list of rules of how it should be done. The Lord sees the heart.

I highly recommend the broadcast. Read or listen to it here.

October 27, 2007

Longing for Egypt?

Last month a speaker asked if I was dissatisfied with the way of the Lord. Was I growing weary of God's way and (alluding a powerful Old Testament event:) wanting to have a foot in the Promised Land and a foot in Egypt? These questions continue to burn themselves into my mind. It is like God is shaking me, and saying E03, what do you really think you're going to miss out on if you finally choose to serve me with abandon? Why won't you just let me be your all, for always? Let's move forward in this relationship!

Perhaps we should review the general storyline of Israel's escape from Egypt to the Promised Land. Life was not good in Egypt. The Israelites had a great land promised to them, but they were stuck in slavery. "[The Egyptians] made [the Israelites'] lives bitter...the Egyptians used them ruthlessly" (Ex. 1:14)

The God of the universe heard, and acted. The Creator was relational, and compassionate! "The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry...went up to God...God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them." (Ex. 2:23, 25)

The Lord brought them out of Egypt in a miraculous way, a way that should have been unforgettable. That act of God should have been so incredible that the Israelites would choose to serve the Lord from that day forward. ("Didn't He bring us out of Egypt?!") But so quickly, so quickly, the Israelites were looking back at their Egypt affair as if those were the glory days. "Didn't we say to you...'Leave us alove; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians...." (Ex. 14:12) "If only we had died...in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death." (Ex. 16:3) Another passage says that they had fond memories of the garlic in Egypt. They wanted to go back.

Is there something wrong with this picture?
1) Israel in big trouble
2) Lord saves Israel
3) Israel wants to go back to its trouble

But am I not the same way?
1) E03 owes a sin-debt she cannot pay. E03 is in life of destruction and headed for eternal destruction.
2) Lord pays her sin debt with his own blood. E03 saved.
3) E03 wants to go back to the destructive lifestyle.

What makes me long for Egypt, when it seems to ridiculous to do so? Is it the guilt of "the list" of things that I know I shouldn't do, but sometimes wish I could do? To give a few examples, do I wish that I could:
- work less hard at my job?
- call in sick when i'm not really?
- pirate all the software and music i want?
- waste more time on fun but non-helpful activities?
- sleep in on Sundays?
- spend all my excess income however I want?
- skip Bible reading and prayer?
- fit in with the cool crowd, whatever they're doing?
- ignore the tough stuff in relationships, lie a little?
- spend time with only the people that make me comfortable?
- date around, have some "fun"?


Looks like I get bogged down in longing for Egyptian ways. When I think that way, I'm forgetting that the Lord looked on me and was concerned about me. I am pitting my limited knowledge against His omniscience when I determine that my way is the better way. My don'ts list starts to ring of a legalistic relationship (checklist/if-I-must -style) rather than a loving relationship. It sounds too much like I'm doing what I do to maintain appearances, not out of love and gratitude to the Lord.

The speaker I heard asked these questions:
Am I dissatisfied with the ways of God?
Do I think that the wicked have all the fun?
Have I ever gotten past the "sour" bits and entered into the goodness of God?
Do I enjoy the relationship? God isn't a subject, he's a person.
How well do I know the Lord? Do I just know about Him?

I think that those last sentences help hold the key for the solution to my longing for Egypt. If I long for Egypt, I must not know the God of the Promised Land very well. When the Lord saved me from the penalty for my sin, I entered into a renewed relationship with Him. But how well do I really know Him? Relationships are dynamic, growing, changing, maturing...
and as I learn about this, my relationship with the Lord is definitely a work in progress.
Taste and see that the Lord is good,
blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.
Psalm 3:8

October 20, 2007

They prayed for the backslidden at prayer meeting.
And my soul said:
but oh am i at Bible study and still have my back turned?
am i a church-attending backslider?
Anathema - may it never be!

am i responding in faith and obedience
to what i know the Lord has spoken?

October 11, 2007

"are you content to offer to Jesus
that which cost you nothing?"


'a single woman today needs the boldness to challenge and break the cycle of the "American way" that
exalts a relationship with a man as the answer to life. this "American way" blurs the reality of the ultimate answer to life found in a deep relationship with Jesus Christ..."in Him you have been made complete" (Col. 2:9).

-quotes from my lunchtime read, Lady in Waiting

October 07, 2007

From the journals

Pharisees are characterized by
  • stinging like vipers
  • misusing words
  • unrighteousness
  • falsely accusing others
  • being more concerned with what others are doing than with their own actions
  • wrong deeds
  • dissatisfaction with what God gives them
  • being consumed with outward appearances when uncleanness comes from within
  • putting themselves in positions of authority, as God's voice-boxes, but then speaking for themselves instead of speaking for the Lord
  • focusing on the tiny details at the loss of the big picture
Am I a Pharisee, Lord? Help me to see my sin as you see it.
_______________________

Lord, please redefine for me the following words that I've allowed the world to define. Or maybe I've kept the basic structure of what your Word says on these words, but I've allowed the world and the flesh to fill in the blanks in my understanding.
love joy success happiness
Redefine these words for my heart, because although my mind could probably give a fairly Biblical definition, this heart is wanting of Biblical definitions, stories and pictures for those words. I fall short even when I think I need to trust you to "fill in what I don't know/have". In reality, I need to let you be my all in all -- not just the extra pieces, but the entire puzzle. You are my life, Oh precious Christ.
_______________________

Lord, the ache in me when I let the idols around me fall down is the emptiness of knowing that I have focused on things below rather than things above, and that when I do so I am living fruitlessly, critically and uncontentedly.... If my focus is not on Christ then I will never be deeply joyful, others-centred and content.
_______________________
With such a blessed hope in view,
we would more holy be,
more like our rich and glorious Lord,
whose face we soon shall see.
(#5)

September 28, 2007

What would our churches be like if instead of coming to church on Sunday and just small-talking and telling each other how nice we look and how nice we are, if we would get honest with each other—accountable, vulnerable, transparent, and willing to speak the truth about what's in your life anytime God prompts you to share it with another person? Otherwise, we're just playing church. We're not being the church.
-N. L. DeMoss

September 27, 2007

Seeking one thing: today
One evening my brother and I got on our bikes and headed onto the avenue just north of our house. We were headed east, but for a moment my brother looked west. The sun was so direct and so bright, coming down the tunnel of the tree-lined avenue, that he could hardly look in that direction. For a moment I was reminded of Jesus. How good he is to build reminders of Himself into the universe. I'm told there will be no sun in Heaven.
"The Son is all the glory in Immanuel's land". How bright will he be? Will we be able to look on Him? How? Oh my sin, as that light rushes, pours in my direction. Oh my sin. When others ask how I am, I can say that I am "good" in a positional sense, for I know the Light took my darkness away; but here's ripping off the "Christian/church" mask, and saying that in my practice, it is not "all good".

From the Word:
Ps 15:1-2 he that speaks the truth from his heart
Ps 24:3 clean hands and a pure heart
Ps 32:5 did not cover up my iniquity, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord
Heb 4 naked and bare before Him to whom we must give account
Ps 51 You desire truth in the inward parts
Ps 90 Our secret sins are before You, in the light of Your presence
1 Jn lie and do not practice the truth, deceive yourself
Phil 1:10 sincere and without offense until the day of Christ
(sincere = from heile, the sun's ray. Tested as genuine, judged by sunlight)

On the great importance of having a renewed, spiritual mind

What has to happen, and what will never happen if we don't study the Word of God
...all the time (meditating on His Word, coming to Him in prayer, asking how we ought to think about this and how we ought to think about that and trying to learn how to apply Bible doctrine)
is it will not change what is in your heart, what is in the deepest, most intellectual seat of your person. The Word of God has to get in there...
If you come [to church] once a week it is not going to help. If you sit down and think that by attending church for [insert here the length of your morning church service] you are going to change what is in your deepest person, you can forget it! We have 168 hours in a week and if you think [a service a week] can change what is in your heart, you're crazy! Because the other 167 hours are geared totally against that, everything is against that. The music, the media, the world, the TV, your co-workers, everything! It is bombarding you from every side. It is a world system that the Bible says is run by the god of this world who is Satan. And if you don't think he has penetrated every area of life you are greatly deceived. That is why it is so vital to have a daily study of the Word of God. You have got to train yourself to concentrate and focus on divine viewpoint wisdom, what is the Word of God telling me? You cannot put a Band-Aid on cancer and think that you're going to have any success. It may cover it up, you may not see it...but underneath it is a mass that is destroying you. It is pagan, it is deeply infective, it is ubiquitous, it is trying to destroy you every way it can, from every side...that is why Paul keeps telling us...be transformed... you have to have a renewal of the mind,
every day, every day, every day,
the Word of God, the Word of God, the Word of God, Word of God... because everything else is oriented against that....We think that the human viewpoint gimicks of the world are going to work. They are not going to work. They are going to create disorder...evil around us...but the Word of God will bring life, it will bring light, it will bring stability of categories and clear thinking.
- Jeremy Thomas speaking on James 3:13-16, Human Viewpoint Wisdom

September 19, 2007

Grappling with the disciplines

Seeking One Thing: Entry 4
Toast bits on my bed. A banana peel on my nightstand. Evidence of breakfast/devotions in bed. Does anyone else feel like it is an uphill battle to try to spend time with the Lord in the mornings? They say it can be a great time, but for years I've flip-flopped between late evening (or sometimes I've tried early evening) and morning devotions...though it seems ideal that I would start consistently doing the bulk of my praying and studying in the morning.

Not only do I have trouble with what time to do devotions, sometimes I just am not diligent and organized enough in my study. My focus on "what time" is less important than the quality of my study and prayer time, but one is likely influenced by the other.

What about the rest of my day, what else can I do to keep my mind in the Word and prayer? Over the years I've tried some different tactics. I've written verses on my walls, painted them on my door, stuck them on my monitor and illustrated them in my journal. In transit or while I work in the kitchen sometimes I listen to Bible teachers. I've carried a prayer list or a Bible passage on an index card. Too many verses and prayer requests seem to flee my memory, but a few things stick.

During lunch break today I pulled a verse out of my purse and took it for a walk. It went like this, "The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self controlled so that you can pray." (1 Pe 4:7) That verse was sweeter than the Caramilk I found on my walk...it was direction for my day.

I'm truly thankful for God's grace; the Christian life is not a set exchange of duties for God's favour. If it were, I would have next to no divine favour shown to me. But this is me, grappling with the disciple-like disciplines. I'd like to know how you keep prayer and Bible study as essentials in your days.

September 12, 2007

Seeking One Thing, Day 3: Nancy Leigh DeMoss launched a 12-week radio series called "Seeking Him" that you can read online or listen to. She reminded me that God wants us to seek Him...not just blessings from Him (like happy relationships or comfortable lifestyle) but Himself...whether that means we have those "blessings" or not!

September 10, 2007

Seeking One Thing: Day 1
I am like Martha, distracted, disjointed, my mind is in 100 places at once; if I am not "doing" outwardly my mind is churning, running, planning, wishing, remembering, worrying. Teach me to peacefully sit at your feet, in the quiet. Quiet ... is such a blessing! Teach me to listen to you, instead of talking so much. To fix my eyes on You. And then to rest. To lie down and sleep, and sleep in peace. "...in righteousness, I see Thy face; I am satisfied, in awaking, with Thy form!" (Psalm 17:15)

September 05, 2007

“For many of the doubters in our generation, the accepted religious vocabulary no longer conveys what the words were intended to mean. The general evangelical is often articulating slogans rather than communicating ideas…” - Francis Schaeffer

August 03, 2007

Comparisons of reactions to seeing YHWH

Isaiah - Woe is me for I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips and dwell amongst people with unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King...
Job - I hate myself! I repent in dust and ashes. Never before did I really know or understand or see You...I just knew of You.
Daniel - Over and over the text says that Daniel became weak. Face to the ground. Trembling. Speechless. Overwhelming sorrow. No breath.
Saul/Paul - Fell to the ground. His companions were speechless. He was blind for three days.
John - Fell at Son of Man's feet as if dead. Was told not to be afraid.

How Biblical is our view of God? Do we spend so long in the New Testament passages of healings and children on Jesus' lap that we forget the Old Testament passages about the same God? What sort of God do we think we serve, based on the way we interact with Him? Do we toy with Him, or fear Him? Are the songs we sing to Him appropriate, or sung with an appropriate attitude, in light of the Scriptures above? Do we really know God, or just know of Him?

July 16, 2007

Edifying Links

Those of us of the English-speaking world who have access to the internet have such a wealth of resources at our fingertips for growing in God's Word and combating heresy. Here are a few good resources I've come across lately.*

  • Commentary on Isaiah by F. C. Jennings - chapter-by-chapter commentary on the entire book, free to read online
  • Blog by C. McCulley, Solo Feminity - A blog intended for single Christian ladies. Of note: a solid Biblically-stated testimony from a new wife on what she's learned in marriage and how to be prepared for marriage. Some of her comments apply to family life as well, and I was very blessed by her insight.
  • Here's the Difference by William MacDonald - an entire book clearly differentiating between such things as law and grace, judicial and parental forgiveness, and the three tenses of salvation. Worth studying through and then keeping on file as a resource.
  • Article on The Dangers of Extreme Calvinism
  • Critical Issues Commentary Archive - A new commentary every 2 months on various issues in evangelicalism. Downloadable PDF. Of note: "The Dangers of Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Disciplines" (#91) and Biblical Counseling (#8-10)
  • Lighthouse Trails Research Project website - "Exposing the Dangers of Contemplative Spirituality". This extensive site is willing to name names of which well-known leaders in North American evangelicalism are casting their lot with the movement being labeled as Spiritual Formation, Emergent Church, Contemplative Prayer, etc.
*Disclaimer: I can't speak for all of the contents of each site or writer, but have found some of the information offered to be very helpful.

July 12, 2007

feeling a little silly

Andree Seu, an essayist for World magazine, was part of a gathering of "Christian writers engaging culture". In her May 12, 2007 essay called Betrayal she declares that she denied her Lord in that gathering, by classifying her writing as "just devotional", as if that wasn't much. Somehow it didn't seem important in that group of aspiring poets, novelists and non-fiction writers who spoke little of the Lord and spoke much more of themselves. Her answer to the question "Is there such thing as a Christian writer?" was as simple as "Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" but as she said
"I soon knew that my small comments were not going to fit in. I felt a little silly, like you would if you had prepared an simple algebraic equation for show-and-tell only to find out all the other kids were doing calculus."
Have you ever felt this way? When you want to tell someone that the answer is in God's Word, yet you fear that even other Christians will mock you, for being too pedantic? Perhaps they want an answer that shows you've been studying the latest psychological theories, or an answer that shares a lot of feeling, but not an answer that simply shows that you know your Bible. Some Bible answers are fairly short and sturdy, unbendable, black or white. Back to Seu:
"These days I am nudging the fulcrum further to the right of where I thought that unbelief begins, It resides in the flat-out rejection of the miracles and Resurrection in the liberal churches, but is also inchoate in parlor gatherings of orthodox believers where exuberant exclamation of "I love Jesus!" would feel embarrassing."

If we say we believe the Bible is God's inerrant Word, then may we live like it. May the counsel we give to others be ultimately based on the Word. May our own actions show that we believe that Christ is "the wisdom of God" and that Scripture equips us for "every good work".

2 Cor. 11:3
"
But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness,
your minds will be
led astray from
the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

1 Cor 1:22-24
"
For indeed...Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified...
to Gentiles foolishness,
but to those who are the called...Christ...the wisdom of God.

2 Tim 3:16-17
"All Scripture is inspired by God and
profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."

July 06, 2007

Circumstances can be the Lord's tools to show us something that can be labeled many ways but can be summarized in one word: sin.

it's

it's the dying of a dream
the killing of a heart
the stealing of a hope and
i only understand in part.

it's the test of my sincerity
an exam on what i've learned
a measure of my sanctity
will my heart be truly turned?

it's up-showing my own wisdom
replacing my own strength
pushing out my human love for
one that knows no length

it's taking me much deeper
it's pulling me far in
it's ridding me of yesterdays
it's purging me of sin.

2007

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil...
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!
Isaiah 5:20-21

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Jeremiah 17:9a

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

July 03, 2007

Dear friend,

I talked to you about anything except the obvious topic, and I'm sorry. It was selfish of me.
Your suffering seems worse than death. Your world went over the guardrail. Crashed. Lots of debris. But as you stand before me, you look put together. Like last time I saw you. The mess of scattered bits of your heart is invisible to me, and it is too easy for me to skirt the topic. Do you think it slipped my mind? Because it didn't.

Am I afraid to talk about real life? Or afraid whatever phrases I offer sound like platitudes, coming from someone whose life looks whole? How can flimsy human words seek to offer a resting place for a broken world? If I reminded you that the Lord holds the world--that He makes beauty out of brokenness--would you think that was trite too?


Truth is still worth telling.


J

June 23, 2007

"It is Christ" - by Spurgeon

"But remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee -
it is Christ;
it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee -
it is Christ;
it is not even faith in Christ, though that is the instrument -
it is Christ's blood and merits;
therefore look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ
as to Christ;
look not to thy hope,
but to Christ, the source of thy hope;
look not to thy faith,
but to Christ,
the author and finisher of thy faith;
and if thou do that, ten thousand devils can not throw thee down,
but as long as
thou lookest at thyself,
the meanest of those evil spirits may tread
thee beneath his feet."

-from the message, The Comer's Conflict With Satan by C. H. Spurgeon.

June 22, 2007

Island adventure at conference

On the second last afternoon at the hotel, six or so of the children I had been teaching appeared at my chalet door. The reason? They wanted to know if I would go to "the island" with them. Clearly, they knew that they needed adult supervision to venture to the small island off the edge of the river beach in front of the hotel. Noting that they didn't take to my idea of waiting until the sun was a little lower in the sky, I told them that I'd meet them at the hotel gate at 2pm.

Buttered with sunscreen, we headed for the beach. The adventure started just after we crossed the street. The staircase that heads to the beach ends about 2 or 3 metres above the sand. There is a nice staircase inside the nearby restaurant which I had taken a previous day when I'd gone to the beach. But the children saw no reason to take the "long" way around. I've noted that until you get married or hit 60, whichever comes first, you're expected to participate at least once in all sorts of activities, whether you like them or not. I was the last to jump down the gap, rather unexcitedly but like a good single girl should, following a group of children a fraction of my height.Before we even left the cement steps, we noticed that the tide was in, which meant that getting to the island would involve some swimming...if it was even possible to go there with six kids between the ages of seven and ten. When the tide was out, we could walk to the island. As we wandered along the beach, this responsible adult's mind was saying things like I should have asked someone if the tide was coming in or going out, so that we don't get stuck on the island or I really don't know much first aid, in spite of the course I took while her mouth was saying things like Please wait for the rest of us.The Swiss kids forged ahead. Fearless, they caught little crabs and scrambled up large rocks and through gnarly bushes. The Brits and I brought up the rear. The water crossing to the island was complicated slightly when it started raining. Tears sprung from one of our smaller members who almost lost his sandal in the water. Good thing Spiderman sandals float. The water was shallow enough that at least some of us could wade the 15-metre distance, but we had to walk slowly for fear of crashing into hidden rocks. With shouts of joy and a few whimpers of pain we did what I didn't expect: we got to the island. The small tropical island is a good place for dreams of the likes of Robinson Crusoe or Swiss Family Robinson, dreams of makeshift housing and scrounging for edibles. Little paths lead to sandy beached areas, while much of the island is a rain forest with its accompanying insects. At high tide the island is ringed with brown river water. The children busied themselves with killing the crabs they'd found and burying them in a cemetery, collecting snails and smashing a glass bottle (I only knew about the latter after it had already happened). Thankfully, the children were content with a short stay on the island...and the tide was indeed going out, not coming in...so there was no need for us to eat our findings, or seek shelter.

The older children tried to coax me to let them swim a greater distance this time, rather than wading in the now-shallower water and climbing over so many rocks. I told one girl that I didn't think her parents wanted them to put themselves in danger. She said that if she died she'd go to Heaven.
(Was that answer supposed to mollify me, the Bible teacher?) Somehow, I didn't think her parents were wanting her to be promoted quite yet. Finally, I let the three older ones swim a shorter distance than they'd initially requested, and I clamoured over the rocks with the younger three. We passed a group of people who'd been collecting snails and fishing for shrimp from the rocks. It turned out that the older three got across the water much more rapidly than we got across the boulders.

Traipsing down the beach on our way back to the hotel, the boy with the Spiderman sandals found a soft, red clay-like rock. By the time I noticed his discovery, he had already drawn on his chest and was asking me to add some finishing touches to his face, to make him look like a native Indian. I got him to draw on my face as well, but by then the red was fading. In any case, my buddy was now a blue-eyed Indian with a blond bowl haircut. The next discovery was a substantial amount of white clay which ended up on my back and arms as well as theirs. Very knowledgeably, the children informed me that this kind of clay was good for one's skin. I didn't take my camera along, so I have no pictures of our island trip, and whatever clay the showers at the hotel pool didn't rinse from my clothes the washing machine did. But I returned to my chalet with a little more colour, and a few more dear tropical memories...to tide me over during long winters and rooms full of married people and singles who are 60-plus*. :)
*JUST JOKING! :) I have fun friends in both of those categories.

May 04, 2007

Mad at the preacher?

Do you ever get mad at the preacher?
Do you ever (almost, secretly) hope that the conclusions he draws in his message are not true?

If you never get angry at the preacher, I guess that either
a) you just wouldn't describe it as mad. Heavy-hearted? Perturbed? Saddened? Annoyed?
b) your preacher's sermons are more milky than meaty, or
c) you've already submitted to the Lord in all those areas which the preacher mentions.

I see that frustration with what is said from the pulpit can be good in that
a) it shows that you're listening and that there is some fire in you and
b) it should pull you into God's Word to see for yourself if what the preacher said is Biblical.

I am not saying that it is good if your heart is rebelling against God's authority and written Word. Nor am I saying that it is good if a preacher preaches false doctrine. But on those areas where the Scripture doesn't seem to be extremely straightforward, is it not better that our hearts be stirred to study the Word and pray about it, rather than sit idly by and nod in agreement with whatever the pastor spouts?

In 2004 I heard a lady speak who worked on the city streets trying to share the good news of Christ with passer-bys. Her comment was that she preferred the passer-bys who responded to their message in some way, even if it was in anger, than those whose eyes and hearts were stony and unresponsive.

In a similar way, it concerns me when we approve those who attend church meetings--even if their life choices are demonstrating an obvious lack of godly wisdom--while their hearts may be more spiritually barren than those of young people who have quit coming to church.

If I could have changed my Bible school experience, I would have liked to have had five quiet minutes or so at the end of our class periods to consider what the Lord was saying to us through His Word and to have time to apply it. It is altogether too easy to resist the tuggings of the Spirit in the mad dash back to the dorm to grab a sweater, or in the line-up for hot chocolate. I suppose the same could be said for church services and group Bible studies. Often I could use a few minutes for initial personal digestion of the bread of Life before I get up and interact with others.

"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."
(Acts 17:11)


"So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth."
(Revelation 3:16)

May 03, 2007

The count is now at two coworkers who've told me
(when they find out that I believe in a Creator God)
that I don't seem very religious.

I don't want to be religious,
the God of the Bible is relational, not religional,
but oh that they would have that friendship with their Creator restored,
and that my friends who know Him would be restored to the image of their Heavenly Friend.

My unbelieving friends want to know if I go to church every Sunday
and some are are relieved that I am not trying to convert them.

Oh, I could never convert a soul.
To take that blackness of self-love and make it new, pure?
Don't give me that job, Jesus...only You can do that.
People tell me that what they believe is their own personal choice
and that we each decide for ourselves what is true.
But there's only One way to a right relationship with the Lord Yahweh.

They try to tell me about good things they've done.
Yes, one goes to church sometimes and didn't drink before she was legal age. Another is abstaining from pork and feels good if she spends time in prayer to Buddha one day a week. Another has read some of the Bible. "I am a good person." They tell me about their 'righteous' acts.

I cannot stand for that ancient lie
that we can make our own choices and
that if our good works outweigh our bad,
the Creator will allow us a pleasant afterlife.
How they need to know what that Creator is like,
and their goodness will look like dirty rags in comparison
to the loveliness of the Creator.

Maybe this post sounds religious, because the Lord afforded me some opportunities to answer questions about my relationship with Himself.
Cut out my religion, Lord, and leave someone who recognizes her need of constant fellowship with You and openness in our relationship.
Cut out the reliance on self to accomplish things. Cut out all matter of self.
What I need is Divine wisdom. Without You I am nothing.

April 30, 2007

I do not know best.

Last year I read a booklet on divorce by Elizabeth Elliot. It was interesting how much I, as an unmarried person, got out of the booklet as Elliot rightly divided the Word of Truth. Sometimes (often?!) truth is painful...but obedience to the Lord is always possible, and is always the best way. I could use that reminder daily, almost hourly. Here are Elliot quotes (emphasis mine):

How excruciating it is for me to submit to the Word
that never permits the least indulgence of
self-pity, self-vindication, self-agrandizement, self-justification,
or any other form of the self whatsoever.

Love is no pleasing sentiment but a fiery law: thou shalt love.

Refusal to obey when the choice is clear is the end of blessing...
obedience leads to some unimagined solution.
...to rescue us out of [our troubles], Christ relinquished His rights.

There are some simple answers but they are not easy.

It is always possible to do what He tells us.

April 26, 2007

Isaiah: What I'm studying and what I'm learning

BIBLE STUDY
I heard it recommended that to really study a passage of God's Word it is good to photocopy those pages from your Bible and mark them all up as you study. Well, I've modified the method a bit but I get the text of the passage or book from Biblegateway.com, put it in two columns and number the pages and then print it off. I'm excited as I'm starting to study Isaiah in this way. I formatted the first 23 chapters of Isaiah and later I plan to add more sheets to my binder. I also like to use different coloured pencil crayons as well as pens or pencils to mark up the passages.
I consulted a Bible survey book to see what others say are the main themes and divisions of the book. A big thing I try to observe are patterns in the text: reoccurring characters, words and themes.

WHAT I'VE BEEN LEARNING
As I've started to observe the text one huge thing I'm seeing is that the people of Judah remind me of the people in Alberta, Canada. Actually, if I think carefully, maybe they would remind me of my carnal self. I see parallels in the actions of the people of Isaiah's day and the actions of people "in the last days" (2 Tim 3:2).
When people hear that I read my Bible or believe in a Creator, they automatically categorize me as "religious". If I get a chance, I like to tell them that religion isn't what the God of the Bible is after. Sometimes they'll agree with me, but I don't think they quite know yet what I am saying. Maybe I should start telling them that in a way, religion is easy compared to what the true God seeks.
What God wants from us is not empty religious motions, whether the futile, abominable sacrifices of the people of Judah (1:13) or my co-worker's belief that she can sin and continue in sin and be OK as long as she "asks Jesus for forgiveness" for those sins which she isn't trying to quit!
He wants a relationship where we humbly and willingly obey. There is a giant contrast between what God said about Judah at that time "they have rebelled against Me...they have turned away backward" (Is 1:2,4) and that future day where people from all nations will say "Come, and let us go up to the...Lord....He will teach us His ways and we shall walk in His paths" (Is 2:2).
Like Adam and Eve who walked with God in the cool of the day in the Garden, God wants to walk with us, talk with us, and have a friendship with us. Adam and Eve had nothing to hide until they sinned.
It is so much easier for us* (in the flesh) to perform religious motions
than to consistently walk in fellowship with a holy Creator God.
It is easier to make my pastor or parents happy
than to be in true fellowship with the Lord.
It would be far simpler to confess to a priest
than to stand always "naked" (Hebrews 4) in God's sight.
If a person told me how I should act and what I should do, I might even feel like I'd succeeded...
but when my standard is the holy character of my Creator, I know I would never make it on my own.

What does he see in our hearts when we come to Him? Are we "proud and lofty" (2:12), "against the Lord" (3:8), refusing and rebelling (1:20)? Or are we willling and obedient (1:19)?
WHAT I'D LIKE TO KNOW
If anyone knows of a good commentary on the book of Isaiah I'd like to know what a good resource would be.

*I'm talking about believers...talking about fellowship with God (which can be broken), not relationship (we can't lose our adoption into His family).

April 22, 2007

Beauty

At the art show (see previous post) we saw various 3-D exhibits done by college students. Some I didn't really understand very well but one was very effective because right away I understood the artist's premise. From far away you see all these glass slippers, like Cinderella's slippers resting on bright red cushions that are suspended on nearly invisible threads. It looks feminine and pretty. But when you approach the art you see that the 'shine' on the shoes comes from push pins that are stuck in the shoe. The artist was trying to illustrate that what looks like a fairytale lifestyle comes through pain and hurt.

This is partly my interpretation, but many girls who look beautiful on the outside are broken and hurting inside. They thought that fitting into that smaller skirt or having the money for the nice clothes would get a nice boy at their side and fix their problems, but really they are still hurting...a deep ache that no human can fix.

Christ, knowing You has been transforming for me.
Thank you for defining beauty for me rather than leaving me to depend on my culture's ideas.
True beauty doesn't depend on my genetics or money. Your life and death make real beauty attainable for any woman who puts her trust in You as Saviour and Lord Yahweh.

April 14, 2007

Last night I told the children I was teaching that Jesus never sinned. One boy who often interrupts and tries to be difficult yelled out "Jesus did sin! I saw in the movie, when he knocked over the tables [in the temple]". We briefly explained to him that that was not a sin, and that when we hate something that God hates that is not a sin. But if my student had been right, though, that Jesus did sin, then our faith in Jesus would be meaningless because he would have his own sin to die for and would not be able to die for our sin. How important it is that we study the Word and be certain & clearly communicate that truly Christ was a Lamb without blemish.

examine my Messiah
find you in Him any blot?
for to be my substitution
on Him can there be no spot

take home that living Lamb
let him live a while within
see if on that herd-found male
you find the mark of sin

has no spot been found?
therein lies our own joy
for in the death of one last Lamb
we're saved from sin's dark ploy


9-24-2006

"...on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household...The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect...Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight." (Ex. 12:3, 5-6)

April 04, 2007

My Feet Fitted

During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.
Deuteronomy 29:5

This evening, studying about the Israelites in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan, I was remembering that the Bible mentions that in those 40 years of wandering the shoes on the feet of the people of Israel did not wear out. That is an amazing feat (no pun intended) for any footwear. The Lord brought to mind a little blessing I experienced lately. Over a year ago I found a nice pair of shoes at a second-hand store and purchased them. But the first day I wore them, they hurt the backs of my feet so badly that I was almost limping in them by the end of the day. They were nice looking shoes, and I wished I could wear them, but I rarely tried because it was not worth the discomfort.
In recent weeks I noticed that my everyday shoes were getting a bit worn, and thought that I might be needing to find replacements soon. But I decided to try wearing my 'uncomfortable' shoes again one day. They were OK--leaving me only little sore. I tried them again, and they were OK again. Now I've been wearing them daily and somehow they don't hurt my feet anymore at all. God let me wear the shoes I didn't like as much for a while, and now has given to me the shoes I liked even better.
It gives me joy to see that the Lord cares for even the tiniest details of my life, seeing that my feet are properly fitted... now may they be fitted "with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace." (Eph. 6:15)

February 21, 2007

Captial Punishment

  • "We have to have courage, we can lead the way - I believe other states will think the death penalty is more trouble than it's worth and will repeal" -stated by Sen Gladden, proponent of the outlawing of capital punishment in Maryland, USA
  • The murders of dozens of Canadian women seems like more trouble to me than the putting down of people like Robert Pickton, the British Columbia man charged with the murders of 26 women (the Crowns states that he confessed to 49 murders to an uncover police officer).
  • One of the main reasons for human government is to take care of murders. "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed" (Gen. 9:6) "...But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he (governing authority) does not bear the sword for nothing." (Rom. 13:4)

February 17, 2007

Psalm 115 meets 2 Kings 19

I've been slowing working through Psalm 115 and finding Scriptures related to each of the things that the idols cannot do but the living God can do (speak, see, hear, smell, touch and walk) and last night I came across 2 Kings 19 as a record of God 'hearing'.

If Psalm 115 is the poetic version of "the living God is better than idols"
then 2 Kings 19 is a narrative version.

Psalm 115:4
"Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands."

2 Kings 19:18
"...they were not gods but the work of men's hands, wood and stone."

I almost caught my breath as I read at the end of the chapter that 185,000 Assyrians died and the king himself died as he was worshiping his idols, after the king reproached the living God. But I should not be surprised. He is the Creator, the living One.

January 14, 2007

The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon

Today I watched an excellent online video called The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon. I think it is a valuable watch for anyone who knows a Mormon. It shows that the book of Mormon is not a historically valid document and is not a book "comparable to the Bible" as it claims.
I don't know much of anything about Living Hope, the believers who made the film, but this film is good stuff. Find that video and others at http://www.lhvm.org/streaming.htm.