A Typical or Atypical Pastor's Wife-whichever one you come to believe



Welcome to the barnyard. Watch your step! The things written here are raw and unedited. Just my thoughts thrown on a page as they flow from my heart.



Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year

Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with Him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. "Consider your ways!" (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.


Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

In addition to these ten questions, here are twenty-one more to help you "Consider your ways." Think on the entire list at one sitting, or answer one question each day for a month.

11. What’s the most important decision you need to make this year?
12. What area of your life most needs simplifying, and what’s one way you could simplify in that area?
13. What’s the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?
14. What habit would you most like to establish this year?
15. Who do you most want to encourage this year?
16. What is your most important financial goal this year, and what is the most important step you can take toward achieving it?

17. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your work life this year?
18. What’s one new way you could be a blessing to your pastor (or to another who ministers to you) this year?
19. What’s one thing you could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave to your children and grandchildren?
20. What book, in addition to the Bible, do you most want to read this year?
21. What one thing do you most regret about last year, and what will you do about it this year?
22. What single blessing from God do you want to seek most earnestly this year?
23. In what area of your life do you most need growth, and what will you do about it this year?
24. What’s the most important trip you want to take this year?
25. What skill do you most want to learn or improve this year?
26. To what need or ministry will you try to give an unprecedented amount this year?
27. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your commute this year?
28. What one biblical doctrine do you most want to understand better this year, and what will you do about it?
29. If those who know you best gave you one piece of advice, what would they say? Would they be right? What will you do about it?
30. What’s the most important new item you want to buy this year?
31. In what area of your life do you most need change, and what will you do about it this year?

The value of many of these questions is not in their profundity, but in the simple fact that they bring an issue or commitment into focus. For example, just by articulating which person you most want to encourage this year is more likely to help you remember to encourage that person than if you hadn’t considered the question.

If you’ve found these questions helpful, you might want to put them someplace—in a day planner, PDA, calendar, bulletin board, etc.—where you can review them more frequently than once a year.

So let’s evaluate our lives, make plans and goals, and live this new year with biblical diligence, remembering that, "The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage" (Proverbs 21:5).

But in all things let’s also remember our dependence on our King who said, "Apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

Copyright © 2003 Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved.
For more short, reproducible pieces like this, see www.BiblicalSpirituality.org

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

101%

I got this from a mommy off of CMU today.

Thank you marmie for permission to repost! God Bless

From a strictly Mathematical Viewpoint:

What Equals 100%? What does it mean to give MORE than 100%? Ever wonder about those people who say they are giving more than 100%? We have all been in situations where someone wants you to give over 100%. How about achieving 101%? What equals 100% in life?

Here's a little mathematical formula that might help you answer these questions:
If: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y ZIs represented as: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 1 9 20 21 22 23 24 25 26.

Then:
H-A-R-D-W-O-R- K
8+1+18+4+23+15+18+11 = 98%

and K-N-O-W-L-E-D-G-E
11+14+15+23+12+5+4+7+5 = 96%

But, A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E
1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%

AND, look how far the love of God will take you
L- O- V- E-O-F-G-O-D
12+15+22+5+15+6+7+15+4 = 101%

Therefore, one can conclude with mathematical certainty that
While Hard work and Knowledge will get you close, and Attitude will get you there, it's the Love of God that will put you over the top!

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Riddle for You

What is Endlessly Tired and Tirelessly Unending?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Dash Between the Years


I found this poem, but have no reference as to who wrote it. But the message is a good one, especially as a new year approaches. This is the time of year where each of us should stop and take stock of the year just passed, to examine how we lived and loved. And it's a good time to pray and plan the coming year, always striving to move higher in God and closer to His heart. I do this every year, setting goals, and changing things about my life that need adjustments.

As Pastors, we recommend to our congregation that they do this every year as well. I know in our ladies prayer group, we switch goals with each other and pray for one another through the year concerning our goals, especially when we are struggling with one of them.

This poem is a good reminder of what really matters, and what will be remembered of us after we're gone. Sobering yes, but hopefully not morbid.

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone

From the beginning to the end

He noted that first came her date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all

Was the dash between those years

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what's true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we've never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life's actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

Friday, December 26, 2008

What God is Like-According to 5th Graders

A fifth grade teacher in a Christian school asked her class to look at TV commercials and see if they could use them in some way to communicate ideas about God.

Here are some of the results:
God is like.
BAYER ASPIRIN
He works miracles.

God is like.
a FORD
He's got a better idea.

God is like. COKE
He's the real thing.

God is like.
HALLMARK CARDS
He cares enough to send His very best.

God is like.
TIDE
He gets the stains out that others leave behind.

God is like.
GENERAL ELECTRIC
He brings good things to life.

God is like.
SEARS
He has everything.

God is like.
ALKA-SELTZER
Try Him, you'll like Him

God is like.
SCOTCH TAPE
You can't see Him, but you know He's there.

God is like.
DELTA
He's ready when you are.

God is like.
ALLSTATE
You're in good hands with Him.

God is like.
VO-5 Hair Spray
He holds through all kinds of weather.

God is like.
DIAL SOAP
Aren't you glad you have Him? Don't you wish everybody did?

God is like .
the U.S. POST OFFICE
Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet nor ice will keep Him from His appointed destination.

God is like.
Chevrolet. . . .
the heart beat of America

God is like
Maxwell house. . .
Good to the very last drop

God is like.
B o u n t y . . . .
He is the quicker picker upper. . can handle the tough jobs. . .and He won't fall apart on you

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ahhh....The Sounds of Christmas

"It's beginning to sound a lot like Christmas, every where I go.."

Woman at WalMart: "alright then, I'll just pay up front!" She just couldn't understand why the men in automotive couldn't weigh her broccoli! HA! Get a life lady! You could have had to drive several different places to purchase clothes, food and get your car worked on! Sheeeeesh!

Man at Sams to the poor cashier that doesn't have a clue: How can you take my ID and scan it? That's invasion of privacy! There's personal information in that magnetic strip!!! You shouldn't be asking me for that!!!!!! How can you do that? You can't do that!!! Why did you do that????

Man at Michaels buying a hedgehog Christmas ornament carved from a log: (Yes, that should conjure up many pictures in your brain!) "I think I'll start a new tradition with this". (personally, I was dying to ask him what in the world it would be but refrained. At least he was making an effort!)
The Sounds of Christmas at my House:
"whisper, whisper, whisper, whisper"
"Stay out of my room!"
"Close the door!"
"Don't come in here!"
"You're working on getting coal for Christmas, aren't you?"
"I took "your" sons shopping today, and they made me so mad I just wanted to crack their heads together!"
"Move! I need to get those cookies out of the oven, NOW!"
"Don't spoil your dinner! Save some cookies for Christmas, please!"
"Who ate all the peanut brittle......AGAIN!"
"I like that you baked all those cookies Mom. That way we always have something to eat!"
"Boys, come put the lid on the cookie container the RIGHT way!"
"Were you born in a barn like Jesus? Shut the door!"
"Sorry, I'm all done shopping for you. Save it for your birthday wish list."
"Do I look like I'm made of money?"
"It's a good thing we don't believe in Santa because if we did, you two would get absolutely nothing for Christmas! But since Jesus came to give us a gift we didn't deserve, I guess you'll still find something under the tree this year!"
"Don't look at what the UPS driver brought! I'll get it!"
"You've got to be kidding me!" (said to the postmaster when she told me that it would cost me three times more than what I spent purchasing my sister's gift to mail it to her in Oregon! Next year she's getting a recipe in the mail instead of the finished product and no, it wasn't fruit cake!)
"I AM NOT shoveling snow on Christmas day! That is where I draw the line!"
"Did anyone water the tree?"
"WHO watered the tree? You got water all over the floor!"
"Don't run the train..........too fast! Oh no, get a fire extinguisher!"
"Mom, can I have a new Bible for Christmas? Mine is broke!"
"How come the neighbor sent us a card? They don't like us the rest of the year."






Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Recipe For Joy

A Recipe for Joy by Adrian Rogers

These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." John 15:11

Joy is the birthright of the child of God. Every child of God ought to have a conscious, conspicuous, continuous, and contagious joy. If you are not living a life of joy, you are living beneath your privileges as a Christian.

The Source of Joy
What is the source of your joy? John 15:11 says the joy that you are to have as a Christian is the joy of Jesus. He says "My joy." Jesus literally wants to take the joy that He has and place it in you. We think of Jesus as a Man of Sorrows, but there was a genuine joy in Jesus; and if you do not have that joy, you are not like Him. Jesus is the source of joy.

The Stability of Joy
Jesus not only wants you to find His joy; He wants you to keep it. This is not a joy that comes and goes. Philippians 4:4 says, "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice." First Thessalonians 5:16 is even more clear: "Rejoice evermore." It is important to note, however, that there is a difference between joy and smiling. Even when the tears are coursing down your cheeks, there can still be joy in your heart. If you get your joy from amusement; when you can no longer be amused, your joy is gone. But Jesus never changes. He is always there, and that is why your joy can remain:

Steadfast in Sorrow - Being a joyful Christian does not mean you will not have sorrow. In fact, John 16:20 states, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice ..." But you can have joy in spite of sorrow.

Triumphant in Tribulation - Not only are you going to have sorrow, you are going to have tribulation. In John 16:33 we read, "... In the world, ye shall have tribulation ..." But Paul sang praises to God at midnight in the Philippian jail. The same joy is available to you.

Abundant in Affliction - Afflictions may come and go, but Jesus is still there. Jesus knows your afflictions and offers joy in their midst. First Thessalonians 1:6 says, "And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost"

The Sufficiency of Joy
Not only is His joy here to stay, but the joy of the Lord is enough. Other things can give you joy in an area of your life; but unless you have joy in Jesus, your joy is not full. The fullness of joy is only in Christ. Psalm 16:11 says, "Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore."

The Secret of Joy
Even though this joy is available to us, not every Christian has joy. You can be a Christian and still be miserable. As a matter of fact, the most miserable man on Earth is not an unsaved man but is a saved man out of fellowship with God. David, after he had committed sin, prayed in Psalm 51:12a, "Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation." He hadn't lost his salvation, but he had lost the joy of it. We also read where Peter wept bitterly even though he was saved (Matthew 26:75).

Many Christians are joyless. They need to know the secret of joy found in John 15:5: "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing." There are three significant things about the life of a branch:
~A branch is absolutely dependent upon a vine.
~The vine sustains the branch and provides everything needed.
~The branch never has to worry about its provisions. The branch is not called on to do anything for God, just abide in the vine. What we do on our own has no eternal value. The branch surrenders to the vine in order to be useful. It is the vine that produces the grapes - the fruit of the Spirit - which includes joy. In order for there to be this dependence and restfulness, there must be total surrender.

Have you brought all of the issues of your life into one burning focus and said. "I have no greater ambition, desire, or responsibility than just to abide in the Lord Jesus Christ?" Dear friend, that is the recipe for joy in your life.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Showering With Neighbors as Ferrots Fly Overhead

No, I didn't eat pizza for dinner. No I'm not having weird dreams or visions! I'm still reeling from the crazy Scattegories game we played last night! It was one of my oldest daughter's birthday gifts, which was the reason for our gathering. She turned 23.
It's very hard for my husband and I to know where the time went.
It seems that it was only yesterday that she was a snugly little bundle. My husband would come in from the barn tearing off his coveralls as he came. As soon as he hit the door, his arms were out and he would say "give her to me, give her to me." Then they would go somewhere to snuggle, sometimes the rocking chair, sometimes the couch and sometimes under the multicolored Afghan that used to fascinate her so.
Even as I sit here typing, I hear the tick tock, tick tock of the clock on the wall above my computer. I put it there to be a constant reminder that I have much better things to do than play on the computer. And no matter what I do, there is nothing that can stop the tick tock of time, even though I would like to be able to make it stand still, especially in moments like last night as my heart took a snapshot of the whole family laying over laughing at my rather eccentric 12 year old who is definitely a "free" thinker! He was the author of the flying ferret's and yes, we did catch him and neighbor girl in the shower naked and scrubbing each other--when they were three!!

I've been thinking about time a lot lately. It means so much to us. But to God, it doesn't exist. I wonder if He is puzzled when we ask for more of it and then turn around and wonder how we will keep from getting bored when time is eternal.
I've also been thinking about and noticing what I do with my time. Am I using it wisely. Do I consume my time in a way that shows God that I am grateful for what He has given me? Is the way I'm using my time now going to affect the future tick tocks of life in a positive way? There's nothing I can do to retrieve time, but I can affect the time that is coming in the future. It's sobering, and sometimes just plain scary.
Time changes things. My daughter has gone from that cute little bundle to a lovely young lady. Instead of picking up after her, I wish she were here to pick up after. Instead of cooking for her, I now talk to her about cooking. Instead of taking time to play with her, I wish she would take more time to play with me.
I think there is just something special about the oldest child. She was my guinea pig, of sorts. I think we grew up together instead of me raising her. I still remember the excitement of all the "firsts" of her life--her first step, first word, first "owie", first friend, the first time she kissed my cheek, and the list goes on and on. She was my whole world.
No matter how much time passes though, it just seems that some things never change. One of those things is the fact that she is still "Daddy's girl".
(Don't freak over the light above my hubby's head! I can frame a photo a little better than that! We did that on purpose! We figured that if you can make millions by selling the Virgin Mary on toast, we could make a fortune when people realized that he is angelically perfect! Maybe Barack ought to re-consider the vice president nominee).
Where does all the time go? Into the record keeping books of God. He records every minute of every life. And some day, He will review them all with each of us. We may forget, but He does not. May we live each one as the gift and responsibility that it truly is! May each moment have Christ in the very center of it, no matter where it leads us or what it finds us doing. And may each moment find us loving--loving our children, loving our spouse, loving the household of God, loving what God has given us in His Son, loving the tasks-no matter how mundane--that He has given us to do because we know that each one is His very best for us.













Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's YOUR Turn to Write my Blog Today!

Because I'm my hubby's "helpmate", I subscribe to several on-line newsletters that would be of interest and a help to his ministry. He's neither has the time nor the computer savvy to do this himself, so I do it for him as he is interested in keeping up with cultural issues that affect those to whom he ministers to. Recently I found this article about "holiness", often a dirty word even in the evangelical circles, and thought it would be a good discussion generator.

So if you choose to read this article, please take a minute and share what holiness means to you. What do you do think holiness means positionally and practically? How has your view and practice of holiness changed as you have matured in Christ? Do you think holiness is more of inward or outward thing? What are some do's and don'ts that you have adopted as a result of holiness within, or do you feel that holiness has freed you from do's and don'ts?

Enjoy!


Living a Holy Life
by John Chasteen

Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord."--Hebrews 12:14, NLT
What comes to mind when you hear the word "holiness"? For most of us, it conjures up all kinds of negative associations related to legalistic rules and behavior.
In this day of public scandal, many are asking important questions such as, "What is biblical holiness?" "Is it important anymore?" In light of these and other pressing concerns it might do us good to revisit the concept.

Let's start by saying that God has called every believer to holiness (see 1 Thess. 4:7). The commonly used Greek word for holiness is hagios, and it literally means "to be set apart or separated unto God." Similarly, the Hebrew word for holiness is kodesh, and it carries the idea of setting something apart as different or uncommon, not for everyday use.
The word "holy" or one of its derivatives is used more than 425 times in the Old Testament and at least 165 times in the New Testament. It seems God is trying to make a point!
A lifestyle of holiness is a life that is lived as separated unto God, one that is not common or like everyone else's. It is one that's different from the lives of worldly people.
It is important to remember that though the word "holiness" is defined as being uncommon and set apart from the world, it does not have the connotation of being weird or irrelevant. Being holy simply means that one does not march to the same beat the world does.
Holiness always begins on the inside of the believer. It is not merely a list of dos and don'ts that Christians must comply with; rather, it is a byproduct of our relationship with Christ and stems from our position in Him (see Col. 1:22).
Provisional holiness-what Jesus won for us on the cross-is a wonderful reality, but it must be accompanied by a life of practical holiness lived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Practical holiness means we regularly crucify the flesh, deny ourselves and understand the meaning of sacrifice. This makes us different and in the biblical sense, holy.
Our text says we should work at living a holy life, that we should pursue it. A lifestyle of holiness can elude us if we are not careful. So work hard in your pursuit of it-great dividends await you.

Monday, December 8, 2008

"The Consistent Christian" Part 4

DIRECTIONS to those who wish to do more than others:

1. Would they do more than others? Then they must deny themselves more than others.
2. Would they deny themselves more than others? Then they should pray more than others.
3. Would they pray more than others? Then they should resolve more than others.
4. Would they resolve more than others? Then they should love more than others.
6. Would they love more than others? Then they should believe more than others.
6. Would they believe more than others? Then they should know more than others.
7. Would they know more than others? Then God must reveal himself more to them than he does to others.

If you have enjoyed these, you may read more! Each of the last few days points are expounded on by the author in the book, "The Consistent Christian" which can be found at http://www.gracegems.org/29/secker.htm. Enjoy, grow, and may God make us all CONSISTENT in every way as we walk this gospel road!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

"The Consistent Christian" Part 3

PRINCIPLES which a believer should walk by:

1. That whatever is transacted by men on earth—is eyed by the Lord in heaven.
2. That after all his present receivings—he will be brought to his future reckonings.
3. That God bears a greater respect to his heart—than to his works.
4. That there is more final bitterness in reflecting on sin—than there can be present sweetness in the commission of sin.
5. That there is the greatest vanity—in all created excellency.
6. That duties can never have too much attention paid to them—nor too little confidence placed in them.
7. That those precious promises, which are given to insure his happiness—do not supersede those directions which are laid down for him to seek after happiness.
8. That it is dangerous to dress himself for another world—at the looking-glass of this world.
9. That where sin proves hateful—it shall not prove hurtful.
10. That inward purity is the ready road—to outward plenty.
11. That all the time which God allows him—is but enough for the work which he allots him.
12. That there can never he too great an estrangement from defilement.
13. That whatever is temporarily enjoyed—should he spiritually improved.
14. That he should speak well of God—whatever trials he receives from God.
15. That the longer God forbears with the unrelenting sinner in life—the sorer he strikes him in the judgment-day.
16. That there is no judging of the inward conditions of men—by the outward dispensations of God.
17. That it is safest to cleave to that good which is the choicest.
18. That no present worldly business—should interrupt his pursuit of future blessedness.
19. That gospel integrity towards God—is the best security against wicked men.
20. That the richness of the crown which shall be received—shall more than compensate for the bitterness of the cross which may here be endured.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"The Consistent Christian" Part 2

WHAT the Christian does more than others—

1. He does much good—and makes but little noise. (Ah, sweet humility)
2. He brings up the bottom of his life—to the top of his light.
3. He prefers the duty he owes to God—to the danger he fears from man.
4. He seeks the public good of others—above the private good of himself.
5. He has the most beautiful conversation—among the vilest people.
6. He chooses the worst of sorrows—rather than commit the least sin.
7. He becomes a father to all in charity—and a servant to all in humility.
8. He mourns most before God—for those lusts which appear least before men.
9. He keeps his heart lowest—when God raises his estate highest.
10. He seeks to be better inwardly in his substance—than outwardly in appearance.
11. He is grieved more at the distresses of the church—than affected at his own happiness.
12. He renders the greatest good—for the greatest evil.
13. He takes those reproofs best—-which he needs most.
14. He takes up duty in point of performance—and lays it down in point of dependence.
15. He takes up his contentment—in God's appointment.
16. He is more in love with the employment of holiness—than with the enjoyment of happiness.
17. He is more employed in searching his own heart—than in censuring other men's states.
18. He sets out for God at his beginning—and holds out with him to the end.
19. He takes all the shame of his sins to himself—and gives all the glory of his services to Christ.
20. He values he values his heavenly inheritance—above all earthly possessions.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Black Friday was truly BLACK!!!

For years I have decried the practice of the early morning sales hysteria on the day typically called Black Friday. Although black Friday has been called such for as long as I can remember, there was a day when black Friday was more like rosey Friday. As a child, I remember when black Friday was a wonderful day. People were happy, cheerful, and polite as they shopped. They weren't in a hurry. They stopped and enjoyed every decoration in every window. They chatted gleefully as they walked down the sidewalk(this was before there were malls) and gladly held the door so that others could enter before them.


Our family tradition was that we would all sleep over at Grandma's house on Thanksgiving night and rise early in the morning for a big breakfast. Then we would walk in the chilly morning air to the square of the small village where she lived and catch the bus to the nearest town. I remember how exciting it was to sit sideways on the bus and to chat with the people who obviously did not find riding public transportation as exciting as we did. For us, it surely beat being strapped into the back of a station wagon, parking 6 blocks away, and having to walk to the main street in the freezing cold. The bus dropped us right in the heart of the shopping district and we barely noticed the cold because there was so much else to observe.


The first highlight of the day was pulling into the public square of the town where we would be shopping. It was always heavily decorated with lights, greens, shimmering snowflakes, and giant Christmas balls that swayed in the wind. As we walked the streets along the lines of department stores, each window was decorated with elaborate decorations that beckoned you with waving hands, animated animals, blinking lights and the promise of a closer look if you would just come inside.


At lunchtime, we would all climb up to the counter of McCrory's Department Store and have soup, sandwiches, and soda pop. After lunch, we would shop for Grandmas' Christmas dress, the dress she would wear to the Christmas Eve service at the church we attended and the dress that was almost always a victim of the candlelight service. No, we never managed to set Grandma on fire, but we always trashed her dress with candle wax.


Of course, Grandma always bought each of us a special "something" that we would pick out along the course of our travels. By 3:00, we were completely worn out, so we would sit at the corner drug store and sip milkshakes as we waited on the bus that would carry us home again.


These memories are a far cry from camping out in parking lots in the freezing cold to buy the biggest and best gift, from stampeding into stores like a herd of crazed cattle, sending 8 month pregnant women to the hospital, from trampling children in an effort to buy the latest doll, and from callously trampling employees of the store to death, which was one person's poor misfortune this year.


Even if black Friday brought the retailers out of the red and into the black, this day will forever be stained with the blood of this man's life and the numerous bloody noses, bruises, harsh words, and unChristlike actions. What a travesty that the first day of the celebration of the King of Peace's coming is so filled with greed, lust, hate, violence and yes, even murder. How saddened His heart must be to watch as the incarnation is lost in a sea of carnal commercialism.

How far from the simple, holy manger we have come.
How far from the simplistic worship of the greatest gift ever given we have wandered, even to the point that we now try to remove His very name from the celebration and deny that He has anything to do what we are celebrating.

I'm not against a good deal or even an extravogant gift. I love giving gifts and would do much more than I currently do if I had the means. But if the gift cannot be given with a clear conscience, what good is it? If the gift cannot be bought with the greatest gift ever given in mind, to me, it violates the whole reason for the season.

A man was trapped under a glass door that was pushed off it's hinges by a mad crowd. And while he lay under the weight of the door and people rushing to buy the latest piece of technology, he was crushed and suffocated to death. Then, when the store announced that it would be closing because a man had died from the stampede of mindless, heartless people, they were mad that they had to leave the store without what they had just killed to obtain. Maybe I'm not so crazy for avoiding it afterall.

Where were the thoughts of the man's family who now have to deal with his death and funeral at Christmas time? Where was the concern that children were just left fatherless because of their greed? Where was the pity and remorse for the widow now left to make a living and raise her children alone because they wanted the newest piece of technology? What a waste!

Sadly, that technology will be obsolete before it is even opened on Christmas day.

Yes, Black Friday was truly BLACK indeed! May God forgive us and wake us up before it's too late.





Monday, December 1, 2008

"The Consistent Christian" Part 1

For the next couple of days I will be sharing some things written by William Secker, a writer from the 1600's, on practical Christianity. One of my greatest pet peeves is what I call "plastic Christians". They look real good on the outside, but on the inside they are hollow and empty. They posses the name "Christian", but they are but a poor replica, without life, a statue of what they profess, cold, unmoving, and hard. Like plastic army men, they stand as if in the army of God, but in actuality, are nothing more than a decoy, a luring into certain death. These writings are based on the basic belief that "a singular Christian will perform singular actions".

WHY a Christian should do more than others—
1. Because more is done FOR him than for others.
2. Because he is more nearly RELATED to God than others.
3. Because he PROFESSES more than others.
4. Because he is inwardly CONFORMED to the Redeemer more than others.
5. Because he is WATCHED more than others.
6. Because if he DOES no more than others--it will appear that he IS no more than others.
7. Because he is appointed to be a JUDGE of others.
8. Because he EXPECTS more than others.

Friday, November 28, 2008

What Can You Do With Four Sets of Hands?

After a week full of school conferences, snow removal, and asking myself and God "why do I have to be a Pastor's wife?", Wednesday arrived. Wednesday was D-day (fix as much thanksgiving Dinner day as possible so you won't be completely wasted by Thursday evening). Foolishly, in a gray moment, I had invited my father, brother, mother in law, father in law, brother in law, and two aunts for Thanksgiving dinner and all but two accepted. That doesn't count my six plus one (the boyfriend who is much more like a son to us).

So, I had 12 people coming to eat in my little kitchen that will barely hold 8. A dilemma! Thankfully, it's family, who I want to please and love and make feel special and not someone that I feel I need to impress.

Wednesday morning-- four sets of hands:
-one humongous bowl of bread dough
-two chef's knives cutting onion and celery (well, one was cutting, the other was tomahawking, in the Indian/pilgrim tradition)
-one learning to use the can opener and making fruit salad
-one who is now the master at potato peeling, "eye poking" (we have to get them all out! Why? "because they can't swim and we don't want them to see the water coming?"), and chopping (22 for his first try, not bad)
-one cutting two loaves of bread cubes who discovered quickly that you can't tomahawk bread.
-one boiling and peeling two dozen eggs
-one peeling and cutting the yams

-Lunch break and a promised trip to a friend's house for a cup of tea and some play time

-two pumpkin pies, one cherry pie, one apple pie
-and of course, the ceremonial cinnamon rolls made with leftover pie dough. Yum!!!

Thanksgiving Day finally arrives! Up at 7 to put in the turkey. Then the back up arrives. The boyfriend, who is as comfortable in the kitchen as Betty Crocker. I pick his brain the whole time we cook partly because I figure he went through four years of school to learn this stuff, and partly because if there is a food disaster, I don't have to carry the blame all by myself! But with him there, that rarely happens. And the whole time I'm asking him for advice, he is telling me about other people that he cooks with who will never take his advice and then they wonder why it doesn't turn out! Meanwhile two sets of hands in the living room vacuuming and dusting and one set of hands cleaning the bathroom.

Dinner is served, but not before a huge shelf filled with baskets and glass cow figures crashes to the floor, just on a whim, showering the table, floor, and punch bowl with dirt from a potted plant and shards of glass. Oh well, that was small compared to last year's potato disaster, so I'm pleased. After a quick sweep, and some clean punch, we're ready to eat. We squeeze and scoot until everyone is around the tables that extend almost out the sliding glass doors to the deck on one end and almost into the living room on the other, but we made it. My father in law, the patriarch, offers a heartfelt, humble prayer to the One who made this all possible and the chaos begins. Soon everyone has a full plate and as they eat and talk (or yell, you see the one aunt is deaf and you have to yell at her in order for her to hear), I just sat and took a heart snapshot of the whole family, happily eating and laughing and stuffing their faces. I have a lot to thank God for, but nothing so precious as family.

Other heart snapshots from the day:
-the sound of my oldest daughter's giggle in the next room
-my two sons stuffing as many deviled eggs as they could in their mouths
-my youngest daughter asking her deaf aunt "what was your mother's name?" and the aunt replying "I don't know", because she didn't hear what she said and the whole family laying over at the table with laughter
-the look on my youngest daughter's face after beating her aunt at checkers
-the look of complete satisfaction and joy on my husband's face who just for a day did not look totally exhausted.
-my husband's aunt sitting straight up in a chair, sound asleep.
-my two teenage sons curled up on the floor under a blanket on the floor with their now grown sister, just the way they did when they were small.

Yep! I have so much to be thankful for.

Monday, November 24, 2008

21 Holy Club Reflection Questions

A friend of mine sent me this list of questions used over 200 years ago by the members of John Wesley's Holy Club as part of their regular meetings. What a list to reflect on! How do you think a small discipleship group would grow if you just based your meetings on openly answering:

1. Am I creating the impression that I am better than I am?
2. Am I honest in all my acts and words?
3. Do I break confidence -- tell others' secrets?
4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, habits?
5. Can I be trusted?
6. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
7. Did God's Word live in me today?
8. Am I enjoying my prayer time?
9. When was the last time I shared my faith?
10. Do I pray about the money I spend?
11. Do I go to bed on time and get up on time?
12. Do I disobey God in anything?
13. Do I have an uneasy conscience?
14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, touchy, irritible, or distrustful?
16. Am I proud?
17. How do I spend my spare time?
18. Do I thank God that I am not like others?
19. Is there anyone I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, disregard or resent?
20. Do I grumble and complain?
21. Is Christ real to me?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tales from the Toilet

If you're wondering what happened to the steady stream of verbiage on my blog, well, truth is, I wrote a bunch of stuff in a period of two days and scheduled it all to appear on certain dates.
Unfortunately, while blog posts were appearing every two days, I was not using that time to write more and as you can see, my pre-programmed posts ran out!

So what is occupying my time? I am busy in the bathroom--my sons's bathroom! The toilet was not filling up very fast at all and things were getting rather disgusting because they would still use it and forget to fill up the tank and flush it. So I finally bit the bullet and went in there and flushed everything and then took the guts out of the toilet and replaced them. I was rather proud of myself because I've never done that before.

The last time the toilet needed the guts repaired, I had my brother do it. It was his Christmas present to me. He walked in Christmas morning, we opened gifts, I fed him and then I informed him that he had bought me another gift that he wasn't aware of and I handed him new toilet guts to put in the toilet. Being the kind natured thing that he is, he laughed and did it. Of course everything was wonderful and perfect when he finished----not so with my repair job.

Since my repairs, I have two leaks under the toilet, one that is my fault, sort of and one that isn't. I don't think this toilet has been repaired because it took vice grips to get it apart! I think I must have damaged the plastic washers that you connect under the tank, so now I have to head to Lowe's to replace them. There is also a water leak coming from the water turn off valve that comes through the wall, probably from me banging on the line trying to get the vice grips on at the right angle to turn the washer.

FLASHBACK!!!
I once tried to change the turn off valves at our old house. My husband was away on a business trip. My four children all had the flu, and I had them lined up on sleeping bags in the living room, each with his or her own pillow and puke bucket. This particular bathroom was right off the foyer in the front of the house, so if it were working, it would be very handy for them and me--bucket emptier extraordinaire-- to get to. So I went to Lowes and they gave me what I needed and told me how easy it was to do this repair.

The first thing I discovered was that I did not know where the main water shut off valve was in the house. (Hey, I had three kids in diapers plus another one, the only water shut offs I was interested in were Pampers!) What was troubling was I discovered that I didn't know about this as I was removing the valve handle, which shot off the wall like a bullet in front of a dam break of cold water. The valve handle barely missed my head, but the water caught me full force in the chest. I frantically tried to put the handle back on and keep breathing, but the force and temperature of the water was too much for me to handle, so I sat there getting the coldest shower of my life, watching the water run into the foyer and literally out the front door like a waterfall. Down the steps it went and meandered down the sidewalk into the grass. Some of the water was shooting so high that it was escaping through the window in the front of the house like a rain storm in reverse. Instead of rain coming in, it was going out!

Just at that moment, wouldn't you know it, the postman came to the door. There I was, dripping wet from head to toe, face flushed and red from the cold water. I smiled, opened the door, took the mail from him and said, "as you can see, we're having a little bit of a problem here today". He grinned, turned and left. I guess mailmen have seen about everything in their day.

I eventually managed to find the main water valve and turned it off which presented a whole new problem. I was home alone, with four sick kids, and no water, and no money. Well, I grabbed the emergency credit card (I figured this qualified as an emergency. I also figured that I had a choice between the emergency credit card or the local emergency room where I would have been transferred to the psychiatric unit. At least my kids would have had medical attention-with water!). I packed the kids in the van with their buckets and went off to Lowe's. I got there at 9:05 pm. They close at 9pm. As I stood in front of the locked doors, the gravity of the situation hit me, propelled even further by the fact that I was home alone with four kids, my husband was halfway acrossed the country and unreachable (this was before cell phones),and I had not slept in two days, and I burst into tears. I leaned against those locked doors and I cried, long quaffing sobs as I slowly fell to my knees with my head and hands against the doors.

Well some young guy happened to walk past and saw me. Instead of doing what any sane person would have done and call the police, he opened the doors and let me in. After calming me down, I explained to him what was going on and he took me back to the plumbing section and got me what I needed and sent me on my way. Crisis over!

Okay, back to present day.

What's most frightening is that my toilet has now come to life!! Every two minutes, it exhales a long deep sigh. That will really freak my boys in the middle of the night! And there is a constant trickle, trickle sound which stops if you put pressure on the top of the flap, and a rhythmical drip, drip in the bucket under the water turn off valve near the floor. (I'm timing it to see how often we will have to empty the bucket before we have another river running through the basement.) At least I won't have to make explantions to the postman!

So when my toilet is fixed, I will return. At the rate it's going, it could be a while. Thank God for photo cell phones! I took a photo of everything I think I need to replace and I'm off to Lowe's to get the parts.

And no, I'm not going to try to fix the water shut off valve myself, although I do know where the main water shut off valve is in my new house! (I'm making progress!).

For Pastor's appreciation day, the church is remodeling our bathroom, so on Saturday, Mr. Fix-it, from our church, is coming to install a fan. What he doesn't know is that the church bought me a present that he doesn't know about yet!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Here is an interesting blog article I read about the current financial crisis. It encouraged me that there is hope for the true church of Jesus Christ and that we won't be plastic forever! I'm so tired of plastic Christians!!!! And I'm tired of being made to feel that I need to be plastic myself or there's something wrong with me if I don't act like the plastic Christians do! Thank God for the real-ness of know HIM!

I don't normally like to think about gloom and doom. And to all my "faith camp" friends, well, it's something that bears consideration.
But if this is coming, I pray that the hope and promise of the Gospel will come forth shining like the noonday sun and will burn all the plastic right out of and off of the church of Jesus Christ!! Deliver us from plasticity!!!


*************************************************************************
"Many economic and financial experts have been forecasting this financial meltdown and have often been unheeded or branded as irrational or doomsayers. Even preachers and prophets have declared the same. Here is something I received from a friend, some excerpts from an article by David Wilkerson from a decade back: “America’s Golden Calf is Going Down!”:

“. . .Beloved, America is facing God’s judgment–and we will never be the same! In the days to come, literally hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose their homes. Why? They’ve leveraged them with equity loans, so they could play the stock market and try to strike it rich!

I tell you, the stock market has become America’s golden calf! People see it as a financial savior, and they worship it daily–trusting in it, depending on it, giving it all their energy and attention. But it’s going to fall suddenly–and none of the small, individual investors will be spared. They’ll suffer the most, losing their homes, their cars–everything!

I must ask you: “Are you prepared for what is coming? If not, are you acting now to get ready? When I speak of being ready, where do your thoughts take you? Do you think immediately of investments, bank accounts, survival plans, safety for your family?”

Yet, I believe it is much more important today for American Christians to focus on spiritual preparation–before the coming storm hits. Let me tell you why.

I believe that when the coming storm hits with full fury, and the nation is reeling with panic and fear, people will flee all false gospels and feel-good churches. Christians will forget about gospel entertainment and Christian TV, and they’ll start demanding hard truth. They’ll flock to hear godly pastors, demanding the true Word of God. Their cry will be, “Who will preach to us a prophetic, life-changing word?”

Sadly, many charismatic Christians today talk much about being Spirit-filled–but they are totally bankrupt of truth. They’re not intimate with Christ–and so they don’t know how to draw on His strength in truth. They don’t tremble at the truth of His Word. They don’t know how to walk in His resurrection power or live wholly dependent on Him. Instead, they twist, manipulate, and misinterpret His Word to accommodate their flesh.

Many pastors and evangelists today have no interest in seeking the Spirit of truth. They think they can call on the Holy Ghost at any time to come down and sweep away all the powers of hell. But these people won’t be prepared for the dark times that are coming?

The only manifestations we’ll see when the storm hits will be men and women falling to their knees in awe and fear of God. They’ll be slain by the piercing, convicting, soul-cleansing preaching that comes from the Spirit of truth.

Indeed, today–while most of America focuses on its prosperity–God is waking a holy remnant in the church. These saints are on their faces, seeking Him with all their strength and crying out for a true Word from the Spirit of truth.

In recent months, our ministry has received hundreds of letters from pastors and believers who are repulsed by most of what they see in the church: hype, foolishness, entertainment, shallow preaching. They’re crying out, “Enough! We’re tired of seeing our pastors go to conventions and return only to introduce come new gimmick. We’re sick of seeing the flesh accommodated. We’re hungry for truth! We want to hear preaching that convicts us and challenges us to holiness and prayer.”

Believer, you can rest assured–in the coming days of calamity, the true revival won’t come through showboating, big-time preachers or TV evangelists. It won’t come through prosperity teachings or other doctrines of false security. No–God’s revival will come through a hidden company of pastors and lay people who have been in the school of Christ, learning His ways and trusting in Him. These will lead a revival of truth!

Yet not everyone is going to want truth. Many will turn to unbridled lust. Indeed, our society could see Sodom replayed a hundred times over. But, as our nation poises on the brink of chaos, many Americans will begin to seek truth, answers, life.

As for me, I want to face the coming times as ” . . . a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” II Timothy 2:15
I urge you: Ask the Lord to prepare you–His way–for the day “America’s golden calf” comes down. Seek His Spirit of truth in your secret closet. Learn to recognize His voice above all the worldly clamor going on in His church. Then you’ll truly be prepared to face the coming storm."

———————————————————————
David Wilkerson is founder of Teen Challenge, Inc., the worldwide Christian drug and alcohol rehabilitation ministry. He is the author of The Cross and the Switchblade, and many other books. David and his wife, Gwen, live in New York City, where he serves as senior pastor of Times Square Church.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

FIREPROOF

I recently saw the movie "Fireproof". It was a great movie about the power of the conversion experience when the love of God invades a life and gets shed abroad in a heart to the point of overflowing into the world.

It reminds me of some things our Pastor said in his sermon series on "LOVE".
"Love is the cure for everything"
"Every failure is a love failure"
"The problem with the world's love is that they are trying to love without ever experiencing the only true and perfect love-the love of God."

The movie was a great example of the difference between religion and relationship. The first 20 days blared with religion--going through the motions when your heart is not in it. The second 20 and subsequent days after that were genuinely heart felt because a heart change had taken place. No more was loving a chore or a job, but was an outward expression of what was in the heart.

It was a wonderful picture of what TRUE conversion is. I especially appreciated that there was no "repeat after me prayer". Caleb was left to work out his salvation between him and God alone. Truly if you have to have someone lead you in a prayer of repentance, you are not truly convicted nor are you truly repentant. When you ready to be saved, there is a desperation that you just can't hold in.

I loved the example set by the Caleb's father. He was what any true born again believer should be like and a wonderful reflection of our heavenly Father. He was bold as a lion, wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. He was a man of prayer, humility and much wisdom.

I loved how it was evident in showing the reality of what happens when we surrender to Christ. We receive a new nature and it's no longer that we DO things consciously but that we BECOME something that we weren't before so it is now as natural to do the new things as it was to do the old things that we did before conversion. We get a "new normal", as Caleb so eloquently put it. Our new life of love is as natural to us as our old life of sin was. That's the power of the new birth!!!!

Caleb didn't become better, he became deader. He didn't get a re-model, he got a total renovation. There wasn't any self-improvement, there was just self-replacement.

The "Love Dare" is not a book, it's not the latest, greatest, church program. It is simply the gospel. I lived through and experienced the "Love Dare" many, many years ago, but my instructions weren't found in the pages of neatly written book. It didn't come packaged as a marriage changing program. It came to me one day after another on my knees and in the Word of God. And "my 40 days" were tailor made for my failed marriage. The things God instructed me to do were tailor made to reach MY husband's heart and to build up MY marriage.

I hesitate to call the "Love Dare" or "The Purpose Driven Life" generic because they are based on sound Biblical doctrine, and this doctrine when received by faith will work for any believer....but....why wait until some human writes a book when you can have a tailor made program straight from the hallways of heaven? Why not experience the joy of finding the "Love Dare" on your knees in direct relationship and conversation with Almighty God?

As a minister's wife, I have had to come to ask the question "What is the attraction of these types of books to the born again Christian?" Why did people who claimed to be born again for years "suddenly" find their purpose by reading "The Purpose Driven Life'? Where was it before? Why didn't they find it in God's Word? Why am I hearing about "a" book that "changed my life", that "saved my marriage" and not hearing about "THE" Book? Why do people find these books, written by human hands so intriguing, exciting and life changing and then turn around and say that THE BOOK, written by the finger of God is boring and hard to understand? This is a major concern and problem! If revelation comes only through the Spirit of God, won't He reveal His Word to us as we "study to show ourselves approved"? Didn't He create us to hear and know His voice, to have fellowship and relationship with Him?

So I have to ask, are we receiving revelation from these latest Christian phenomenas, or are we just receiving more knowledge that fuels our works in the flesh in an attempt to accomplish a spiritual work? To me, it's a telling story of how our culture has crept into the church. Our shelves are full of Christian books that we have read while our Bible lays unused and irrelevant to our lives.

To me, this movie is a wonderful evangelistic tool, but why is it also evangelizing the church? Could it be that there is too much world in the church? The "Love Dare" can be found clearly in scripture in just a few short verses. What I don't understand is the mass appeal of evangelistic books and movies to the lives of professing Christians. It makes me question first their concept of what the doctrine of salvation is all about. Are they truly saved or just standing on the edge of the family of God, but not quite in, an "almost" Christian?

It makes me question why we aren't experiencing these things through the simple study of the Word and prayer, when this is how it has always been done since the founding of the church and has proved much more successful than anything we see in Modern Christianity? The Word of God and prayer has not lost it's power, nor it's effectiveness. God has not changed His methods. It is still the preaching of the Word that saves a soul. It is still the power of the Word and prayer that sanctifies. And as a minister's wife, I have to ask myself, "what is being preached in American pulpits, if not this?"

I don't think that the main message of this movie had anything to do with marriage. Marriage was simply the avenue used to present the primary message--the life changing power of the love of God to a sinner who will come to the realization that he is lost, a failure, and in need of a Savior.

Perhaps modern day Christians are half hearted, as Caleb was the first 20 days of the "Love Dare". Perhaps we do not have the heart for the Word because we do not have the love of God in our hearts.

I'm not bashing the book or the movie makers. I think their love for the lost is all too evident in the film. And if it can help lead someone to Christ, I'm all for it. But the fact still remains that if we would just read the Bible and do what it says, we would be a greater testimony to the world. And instead of having to be evangelized ourselves, we could evangelize the world and not waste the resources such as movies or books on "the professing church".

Church, let's be the church!!! Let's find our strength, our victory, our help, our source, in THE BOOK, not books written about THE BOOK! The Bible is a life source! It is living, it is active in our lives when received by faith and obeyed by love! Let's get "back to the Bible", the basics, the BEST!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Singleness

I read this article by John Piper and thought it was good! For those of you that are single, it's a fresh reminder that womanhood is not forever found and sealed in marriage.

The apostle Paul clearly loved his singleness because of the radical freedom for ministry that it gave him (1 Corinthians 7:32-38). One of the reasons he was free to celebrate his singleness and call others to join him in it, is that, even though marriage is meant to display the glory of Christ, there are truths about Christ and his kingdom that shine more clearly through singleness than through marriage. I’ll give you three examples:

1) A life of Christ-exalting singleness bears witness that the family of God grows not by propagation through sexual intercourse, but by regeneration through faith in Christ. If you never marry, and if you embrace a lifetime of chastity and biological childlessness, and if you receive this from the Lord’s hand as a gift with contentment, and if you gather to yourself the needy and the lonely, and spend yourself for the gospel without self-pity, because Christ has met your need, then he will be mightily glorified in your life, and particularly so because you are a woman.

2) A life of Christ-exalting singleness bears witness that relationships in Christ are more permanent, and more precious, than relationships in families. The single woman who turns away from regretting the absence of her own family, and gives herself to creating God’s family in the church, will find the flowering of her womanhood in ways she never dreamed, and Christ will be uniquely honored because of it.

3) A life of Christ-exalting singleness bears witness that marriage is temporary, and finally gives way to the relationship to which it was pointing all along: Christ and the church—the way a picture is no longer needed when you see face to face. Marriage is a beautiful thing. But it is not the main thing. If it were, Jesus would not have said, “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). Single womanhood, content to walk with Christ, is a great witness that he is a better husband than any man, and in the end, will be the only husband in the universe.

In other words, true womanhood can flourish in marriage and singleness.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The God Who Knows The End Of Your Singleness

ddCame across this excellent article. Hope it blesses all my single friends! Found it on the website http://www.truewoman.com/id=423
The God Who Knows the End of Your Singleness
By Carolyn McCulley


The 12-year-old boy strode across the conference stage with complete assurance, oozing the precocious seriousness of youth that can strike adults as charmingly amusing. But any patronizing thoughts present were soon squashed as 3,000 adults heard the evangelistic heartbeat of God in the words of the young speaker.

After giving his testimony of being adopted from a Romanian orphanage by his American parents and his subsequent adoption into the family of God when he trusted Jesus for his salvation, Gabriel Spiro outlined his hopes for his future.

“Since becoming a Christian, I’ve had the dream to attend the PDI Pastors College,” he said to spontaneous, thunderous applause. “I feel like God has called me to be trained and equipped so that I can go and help the poor people and the orphans that are still living in Romania. My desire is to start a PDI church there in Romania. I thank God that He has brought me to my family and to Covenant Life Church—my extended family. I pray that by His grace I’ll be able to be trained in character in order to fulfill the calling of God.”

Watching from the back row that steamy May evening, I gave silent thanks to God for the plans He has for singles and families alike. Eight years earlier, a single woman from my church had wrestled with God as He called her to overlook her own desires for marriage and children in order to serve a good friend during an international adoption process by traveling with her to Romania. “What would I gain?!” Charlotte Ennis recalls. “I’d have to spend my own money, put myself at personal risk, and watch someone else return with children. I would return with ... nothing.”

Then 36, Charlotte was not certain that God did have marriage and a family in her future. It certainly had been a long wait and her hope was waning. She had no idea that she was facilitating the adoption of a child whose presence would be a blessing to many more than his own family. She had no idea that this little boy would develop a strong passion for the local church before he even hit his teens, and that he would be a regular and fruitful part of his church’s evangelism ministry. She had no idea that one day this little boy would speak to a gathering of churches about their collective mission and be the highlight of the evening. Nor did Charlotte know that on the same evening Gabriel spoke, she would be married—a gift from God to her at age 39—and the mother of several children.

But the One who “makes known the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10) knew all of this, and it was His perfect plan that had been operating all along.

Moments like these are glimpses of the Lord’s sovereignty in action and treasures to be stored up in the hearts of single women especially. Only occasionally do we have the privilege of seeing so clearly how “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). We should cherish and retell those evidences of God's grace to encourage and strengthen each other. Our Lord is not a random God: His plan includes blessing us but also making us a blessing to others.

I didn’t know Charlotte when she was single, but I do remember reading her testimony in our ministry magazine, one that was written just weeks prior to her wedding. At the time, I was 32, a fairly new Christian, and to be unflatteringly honest, horrified at the prospect of having to wait until 39 to be married. Now I am 37, a little less arrogant (hopefully), and grateful for Charlotte’s example. Last year in my church, a woman got married for the first time at 43. That pushed Charlotte’s benchmark out of the way and gave me six more years to hope, so to speak.

In my extended season of singleness, I’ve had the time to ponder the risks and rewards of singleness from the perspective of both a rank unbeliever in my twenties and as a chaste Christian in my thirties. As I write this, I have been praying over the demise of two Christian marriages I thought were trophies of God’s grace—both of which were shipwrecked over sexual sin committed by the husbands.

Many years ago, one of the men had asked me out. I had declined the relationship, and he went on to marry someone else while I remained single, but now I grieve for his wife and daughters as they wrestle with the nuclear fallout of a perverse and unlawful form of sexual sin. Though I do not mean to imply that God wasn’t good for allowing this woman to marry my friend, I can certainly see where He spared me the “many troubles in this life” (1 Corinthians 7:28b) in marriage by keeping me single and unencumbered.

Three times so far I’ve been privileged to see why He said no to my prayers asking Him for specific men to be my husband. In each case, it wasn’t too many years later that I discovered I had been spared inheriting some serious sexual sin. That is one of the benefits of being an older single— I’ve lived long enough to see what unconfessed and unrepentant sin does to wreck the dream of living “happily ever after.” Those sad moments make me appreciate the pleasant places where my boundary lines have fallen (Psalm 16:6).

Why is knowing God and embracing His sovereignty so important when we’re single? We have to keep in mind that we’ve received this gift of singleness from the pierced hand of the One who bore all of our sins—from unbelief as singles to selfishness as marrieds. We can be like Peter who initially rebuked Jesus for His humiliating, yet glorious, plan of redemption, or we can be like Mary, who came to accept His plan and purposes and demonstrated it in the costly outpouring of perfume in anticipation of His burial. Confident of the Lord’s good plan for our lives, we can emulate Mary and spend our treasures (youth, dreams, desires) to further His purposes on this earth.
More importantly, when we are almost faint under the strain and worry of wondering if singleness is to be forever, we need to be reminded that there is an end to singleness: One day we will be at the wedding feast of the Lamb and we will be His bride. Even if we receive the gift of marriage on this side of heaven, that’s not our ultimate goal. It is a shadow and a type of what is planned for eternity and, like all things on this earth, it will have its conclusion in death.

Our Father knows the time when earthly gifts will be distributed and when they will be no more; He knows, as well, when the heavenly wedding feast will commence. We can blissfully rest in the knowledge that the future is better than anything we think we’ve missed now: Jesus is preparing us for the eternal rewards and eternal joys of a future He’s told us is too inexpressible for us to understand.

For His purposes, and within His covenant to always do us good (Jeremiah 33:40), He has declared for us that being single now and into the foreseeable future is His very best. He desires that we overflow with hope as we trust in Him (Romans 15:13) and His sovereignty in this season—redefining hope from hoping in a particular gift from God to trusting the God of hope unreservedly.

© Revive Our Hearts. Used with permission from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
www.TrueWoman.com

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

All Is Not Lost

For some, the results of this year's presidential election represent what may be the end of life as we know it. If you are a Christian and you are fearful, upset, or just plain mad, remember the following:

"Come Wednesday morning,
1. God will still be on the Throne.
2. Prayer will still work.
3. The Bible will still have all the answers.
4. God will still inhabit the praises of His people.
5. There will still be God-anointed men and women proclaiming the Truth.
6.There will still be singing of praise to God.
7. God will still pour out His Spirit upon His people.
8. There will still be room at the Cross.
9. Jesus will still love you.
10. Jesus will continue to save the lost when they come to Him."
Written by J.P. Miller

So what do we do now? We pray! We pray immediately, consistently, continually, passionately like our very existence depends upon it, because hey, it does! We stop our spiritual spasm praying and pray even when there is no natural disaster, no war that is killing our youth, no liberal candidate that is bewitching our nation, no legislation that is threatening our religious freedom. We pray when there is seemingly no immediate need. We pray ahead of the crisis!

I am one who is guilty of getting so caught up in my own Jerusalem, that I feel little if any burden for my country, the leaders, the plan of God for this nation. I pray, as scripture commands, when authority figures and those in office roll around on my prayer list, but more out of obedience than with a burden. Why am I this way?

Because my heart is self centered.
Because America has always been great and always will be, or so I tell myself.
Because things just have a way of always working out.
Because nothing that concerns me is really threatened, except maybe my standard of living.
Because I take the freedoms that this country and my God afford me for granted.
Because I get into the mind set that just my prayers will not avail much on the grand scheme, which frankly, is a big fat lie from hell!
Because maybe my heart is father from being my Father God's heart than I realize.

And now, here we find ourselves in a crisis that could have been avoided if Spirit led prayer for my country and this world had been more consistent, more persistent, and more ferverent.

Instead of getting caught up in the rhetoric, in the media coverage, in the debates, I must now get caught up in the Spirit to discern and find God's answer to this impending disaster, for the sake of my country, for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of my children and grandchildren! I stand rebuked!

So I will pray. There are things at stake that have never been at stake before. There are fights to be fought that have never been this fierce before. There are victories to be won that have never been so vital before. There are souls to be saved, oh, there are souls to be saved!!!

As I look at the world, I see the arrogant pride, I see the self sufficiency of our nation's leaders, I see the scales that cover their eyes, so thick that it seems almost impossible that even God Himself could pull them off. But then I am reminded of what R.A. Torrey has written concerning prayer and I am once again inspired, compelled, and dedicated to prayer.

"Prayer often avails where everything else fails. By prayer the bitterest enemies of the Gospel have become it's most valiant defenders, the greatest scoundrels, the truest sons of God, and the vilest women, the purest saints. Oh, the power of prayer to reach down, down, down, where hope itself seems vain, and lift men and women up, up, up into fellowship with and likeness to God. It is simply wonderful! How little we appreciate this marvelous weapon!"

And so, now I pray.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Habit of Happiness

I am a firm believer in 2 Tim. 2:2. I call it "two twoin' it". That is passing on to other believers doctrine received from other believers, the Word, and the direct teaching of the Holy Spirit in my life. Since it seems that I learn everything the hard way or backwards, I have often thought that there must be an easier way for others to learn from my mistakes besides having to repeat them. This is one of those things. It has blessed me beyond description. It has changed my life completely for the better! So of course, I want to share it.

I recently read a chapter entitled "The Habit of Happiness" in a Puritan writing by J.R. Miller. It was so practical. Here it is with a few words changed to update the English and grammar, but without changing the original intent or meaning of the author. I chose to print it out and highlight as I went since it is a little long.


"Our habits make us. Like wheels running on the road, they wear the tracks or ruts in which our life moves. Our character is the result of our habits. We do the same thing over and over a thousand times, and by and by it becomes part of ourselves.


"Sow a thought and reap an act;
Sow an act and reap a habit;
Sow a habit and reap a character."

For example, one is impatient today in some matter. Tomorrow there is another trial and the impatience is repeated. Thus, on and on, from day to day, with the same result. It begins to be easier to give way to the temptation, than to resist it. Again and again the stress is felt and yielded to, and at length we begin to say of the person, that he has grown very impatient. That is, he has given way so often to his feelings, that impatience has become a habit. If he had resisted the first temptation, restraining himself and keeping himself quiet and sweet in the trial; and then the second, the third, the fourth, the tenth time, had done the same, and had continued to be patient thereafter, whatever the pressure of suffering or irritation, we would have said that he was a patient man. That is, he would have had formed in him at last, the fixed habit of patience. As we say again, it would have become "second nature" with him to hold his imperious feelings in check; however he might have been tried. Patience would then have become part of his character.

In like manner, all the qualities which make up the disposition are the result of habit. The habit of truthfulness, never deviating in the smallest way from what is absolutely true, yields at length truth in the character. The habit of honesty, insisted upon in all dealings and transactions, fashions the feature of honesty in the life and fixes it there with rocklike firmness.

It is proper, therefore, and no misuse of words, to speak of the habit of happiness. No doubt there is a difference in the original dispositions of people, in the quality of cheerfulness or gloom which naturally belongs to them. Some people are born with a sunny spirit, others with an inclination to sadness. The difference shows itself even in infancy and early childhood. No doubt, too, there is a difference in the influences which affect disposition in the first months and years of life. Some mothers make an atmosphere of joy for their children to grow up in, while others fill their home with complaining, fretfulness, and discontent. Young lives cannot but take something of the tone of the home atmosphere into the disposition with which they pass out of childhood.

Yet, in spite of all that heredity and early education and influence do—each one is responsible for the making of his own character. The most deep seated tendency to sadness, can be overcome and replaced by happy cheerfulness. The gospel of Christ comes to us and tells us that we must be born again, born anew, born from above, born of God, our very nature recreated. Then divine grace assures us that it is not impossible even for the most unholy life, to be transformed into holiness. The being that is saturated with sin, can be made whiter than snow. The wolf can be changed into lamb-like gentleness. The fiercest disposition can be trained to meekness. There is no nature, therefore, however unhappy it may be because of its original quality or its early training, which cannot, through God's help, learn the lesson of happiness.

The way to do this, is to begin at once to restrain the tendency to gloomy feeling and to master it. We should check the first hint of inclination to discouragement. We should choke back the word of discontent or complaining, which is trembling on our tongue, and speak instead a word of cheer. We should set ourselves to the task of keeping sweet and sunny.

It will make this easier for us if we think of our task as being only for one day at a time. It should not be impossible for us even if we have things disheartening or painful to endure—to keep happy for only one day. Anybody should be able to sing songs of gladness, through the hours of a single short day. At the time of evening prayer, we should confess our failures; and the next morning begin again the keeping of another day, bright and joyous, unstained by gloom, resolved to make our life more victorious than the day before.

At first the effort may seem utterly to fail—but if the lesson is kept clearly before our eyes, and we are persistent in our determination to master it, it will not be long until the result will begin to show itself. It takes courage and perseverance—but the task is not an impossible one. It is like learning to play on the piano, or like training the voice for singing. It takes years and years to become proficient in either of these arts. It may take a lifetime to learn the lesson of joy—but it can be learned. Men with the most pronounced gloominess of disposition have, through the years, become men of abounding cheerfulness. We have but to continue in the practice of the lesson, until repetition has grown into a fixed habit, and habit has carved out happiness as a permanent feature of our character, part of our own life.

The wretched discontent which makes some people so miserable themselves, and such destroyers of happiness in others, is only the natural result of the habit of discontent yielded to and indulged through years. Anyone, who is conscious of such an unlovely, un-Christlike disposition, should be so ashamed of it that he will set about at once conquering it and transforming his gloomy spirit, into one of happiness and joyousness.

Let no one think of happiness as nothing more than a desirable quality, a mere ornamental grace, which is pleasing—but is not an essential element in a Christian life, something which one may have or may not have, as it chances. Happiness is a duty, quite as much a duty as truthfulness, honesty, or good temper. There are many Scripture words which exhort us to rejoice. Jesus was a rejoicing man. Although a "man of sorrows," the deep undertone of His life, never once failing, was gladness. Joy is set down as one of the fruits of the Spirit, a fruit which should be found on every branch of the great Vine. Paul exhorted his friends to rejoice in the Lord. There are almost countless incitements to Christian joy. We are to live a songful life. There are in the Scriptures many more calls to praise, than to prayer.

But how are we to get this habit of happiness into our life? The answer is very simple—just as we get any other habit wrought into our life. There are some people to whom the lesson does not seem hard, for they are naturally cheerful. There are others who seem to be predisposed to unhappiness, and who find it difficult to train themselves into joyful mood. But there is no Christian who cannot learn the lesson. The very purpose of divine grace, is to make us over again, to give us a new heart.
A man who has formed the habit of untruthfulness and then becomes a Christian, may not say that he never can learn now to be truthful—that untruthfulness is fixed too obdurately in his being. No evil can be so stained into the soul's texture—that grace cannot wash it white. The love of Christ in a person makes him a new man, and whatever the old is, it must give way. So, though we have allowed ourselves to drift into a habit of gloom and sadness, there is no reason why we should not get our heart attuned to a different key, and learn to sing new songs. This is our duty, and whatever is our duty—we can do by the help of Christ.

The secret of Christian joy—is the peace of Christ in the heart. Then one is not dependent on circumstances or conditions. Paul said he had learned in whatever state he was, therein to be content. That is, he had formed the habit of happiness and had mastered the lesson so well, that in no state or condition, whatever its discomforts were, was he discontented. We well know, that his circumstances were not always congenial or easy. But he sang songs in his prison with just as cheerful a heart and voice as when he was enjoying the hospitality of some loving friend. His mood was always one of cheer, not only when things went well—but when things went adversely. He was just as songful on his hard days—as on his comfortable days.

Then Paul gives us the secret of his abiding gladness, in the word he uses—"content." It means self-sufficed. He was self sufficed—that is, he carried in his own heart the springs of his own happiness. When he found himself in any place, he was not dependent on the resources of the place for his comfort. The circumstance might be most unfriendly. There might be hardship, suffering, poverty; but in himself he had the peace of Christ, and this sustained him so that he was content.

There is no other unfailing secret of happiness. Too many people are dependent upon external conditions—the house they live in, the people they are with, their food, their companions, the weather, their state of health, the comforts or discomforts of their circumstances. But if we carry with us such resources that things outside us cannot make us unhappy, however unfriendly they may be—then we have learned Paul's secret of contentment, which is the Christian's true secret of a happy life.