Thursday, October 30, 2008

More pictures of the kids!

Joshua snapped this picture of Andrew trying to escape!Joshua in his Buzz Lightyear costume.Andrew serving coffee to Grandma Shari.
(He just calls me Shari now.)Having fun with the camera (taken by me).Reading (sort of)...Andrew needs a haircut.Lunch at Pie in the Sky.Andrew tries to share his paci with me.More love for Mommy.Fun at the mall playground.

After the playground we had Marble Slab Creamery ice cream! Then it was time for naps.

I kept thinking Rebecca looked especially pretty yesterday...kind of glowing, you might say.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Refrigerators and Titan Football

Well, the anticipated expense of our refrigerator problem turned out to be worse than I could have anticipated. I didn't know this could even happen. As I was busy baking a banana cake and making homemade croutons for my Caesar Salad (preparing to tailgate at the Titan game), the technician broke the bad news to me yesterday that my refrigerator cannot be repaired. It will have to be replaced.

Our house is only three years old and we are the first occupants. We will have lived here two years in February. Our refrigerator is a built-in KitchenAid. But if you've been reading prior to today, you know the story about its purchase. It was quite a surprise. But I couldn't help thinking that even if we had to use our laundry room refrigerator for an extended period of time and do without a kitchen refrigerator, we are so blessed. So when John said we might not replace it right away, I was fine with that. Thanksgiving might be a little more challenging without the space, but certainly not impossible. Today, however, John called and asked me to measure the refrigerator and then later he called to ask me if a water and ice dispenser was a necessity. We can save quite a bit of money if we buy a new one without the dispenser.

I told him, sure, no problem. I can do without a dispenser in the door. And then I said, "But I can't remember...How is the ice dispensed without one?" He just cracked up and said, "I guess we'll get it out of the icemaker with a scoop or our hand. You can't remember how you got ice before you had a dispenser in the door? That's funny." It just goes to show how spoiled we can get by our modern conveniences. The thought of putting my hand in the ice bin seemed a bit unsanitary to me after having the dispenser. But before I had a dispenser in the door, I didn't give that a second thought.

I completely emptied the contents of my large refrigerator and turned it off. Then I put everything I could fit into the back up fridge and threw out everything else. I have never been so thankful for my little laundry room refrigerator.

I didn't let the bad news ruin my day. I finished preparing my contribution to the tailgate party and we headed for LP Field and Monday Night Football. Danny got to go with us and we got to spend a little time with Jeff and Lu (John's brother and his wife) before the game. They also have season tickets, but we don't always get to see each other because our seats are on opposite sides of the field. The game was exciting and we had a great time. On the way home we talked about going to the Superbowl if the Titans get there.

I just noticed the time...better go. I am meeting friends for dinner.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Small Problems

Well, my refrigerator saga continues. Yesterday afternoon I noticed the temperature beginning to rise again in the freezer. This morning the freezer temp is 36 and the refrigerator is at 45 degrees. So I just finished emptying all I could into the laundry room fridge again. And I have another appt. with the technician Monday morning. I don't know how expensive it will be. It could be pretty bad news. But I just finished reading a book yesterday that reminded me of how comfortable, convenient and easy my life is.

The book is "Appointment in Jerusalem" by Derek and Lydia Prince. It is Lydia's story as told to her husband. Lydia Christensen Prince left a powerful testimony. Previously, all I knew of her was that she was married to Derek Prince and they had a ministry in Jerusalem. My pastor's family had a close personal relationship of many years with Derek Prince. One of Derek and Lydia's daughters remains a part of our church family to this day. Our pastor's parents spend six months of the year in Jerusalem working with Derek Prince Ministries. My pastor speaks every year at The Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. And our church has a love for Israel that I have not previously been exposed to in Christianity. Friends have urged me to read this book for a while now. And I finally read it this week. It's a quick read and a book you won't want to put down.

Lydia Christensen was born into a wealthy family in Denmark. She was an accomplished woman, a school teacher, a pioneer in the field of Domestic Science, well respected in her home town. She lived on her own and enjoyed a life of "physical comfort and professional fulfillment," in the words of her husband in the book's preface. At the age of 36, God began to stir her heart to seek Him. In response to a prayer she prayed, Jesus appeared to her in her home. She knew in that moment that He was alive. And she began to seek His will for her life.

This encounter changed the course of Lydia's life and led her to leave the comforts she knew and "to travel alone and penniless to a primitive and violent place. The place was Jerusalem; the time, the opening battle of the long war between Jew and Arab that is still going on."

Derek writes, "To me the fascinating thing in all this is that for the first thirty-five years of her life, Lydia, in her own opinion and everybody else's, was the last person on earth to whom this sort of thing could happen. An intellectual, a bit of a snob, a well-to-do young woman who delighted in new clothes and dancing and all the pleasures of the cultured world into which she was born, she had read the Bible only when it was required reading for a course in teachers college.

The route by which this twentieth-century agnostic discovered the reality of God is so full of guidelines for us all, so full of practical help for every person embarked on this quest today, that from the start I urged Lydia to get her experiences on paper."

The story is a deeply stirring testimony of faith and trust in God. Every time Lydia was in need, she prayed and God answered. She had to trust Him for food, water, shelter, protection, and her next dollar. She had no natural children, but became a mother to many. I'm amazed that anyone could find the courage to do the things she did. She began to take in orphaned and abandoned Jewish and Arab children, not knowing how she would even feed them. But God provided.

These words are from the epilogue:

Because Lydia trusted God to provide for all her needs, it was in a sense very easy for her to take in new children. The children's home soon grew, requiring Lydia to move from place to place to accommodate all of them. She said, "If one room wasn't enough, I took two. If two rooms weren't enough, I had to take three rooms. And that was how the whole thing, in a way, grew little by little, according to my faith." By the time she left Jerusalem, she was living in a house with twenty-one rooms.

Over twenty years, Lydia cared for about seventy children -- mostly girls. The majority were Jewish, but there were also Arabs, Armenians, and Europeans. "They were brought in from the street," Lydia remembered, "and I hardly knew who brought them. I remember one case when a man brought a child in, and before I even said that I would take it, he disappeared. That was how the work grew."

...With one or more infants always in the home, she scarcely ever enjoyed an uninterrupted night's sleep. At times, when fighting was going on outside and the babies were due their bottles, she had to crawl on her knees from bed to bed so she wouldn't be hit by any bullets that might come through the windows.

She considered this work to be appointed for her by God. And she gave up everything to follow His call on her life. You can't read this book and not be touched by its message. It sure makes my problems (if you could even call them problems) seem small.

I know we are all affected by this global financial crisis. I don't know anyone who hasn't been affected in some way. This economy is hitting the auto industry especially hard (my husband's livelihood). I see the stress on his face when he leaves in the morning as well as when he comes home at night. I often feel helpless. But then I am reminded that I am not helpless because I can pray for him.

As Americans, we have enjoyed freedoms and comforts that much of the rest of the world does not enjoy. My life has been so free from physical discomfort that I can get frustrated by the inconvenience of a refrigerator failure. And then I remember that I'm not walking on a stone floor, I don't have bed bugs, I'm not dodging bullets while trying to keep sick infants alive. Has my faith even been tested?

I've been waking up every morning with prayers of thankfulness in my heart for God's mercy, His provision, His blessings on my life. The future is uncertain in so many ways for all of us. We put our trust in so many things, only to have God remind us that He is our only security. We don't know what tomorrow holds for us. Who would have thought just one year ago that we would find ourselves today in a financial crisis that extends throughout the entire world?

However, we have the assurance that if we love God and are called according to His purpose, He is working all things for our good (Romans 8:28). We are told over and over in Scripture not to be fearful. Our God is in control. He is in control of nations and leaders and financial crises. He is faithful. He loves us. And we can trust Him. Nothing can separate us from His love. No matter what happens to the stock market, real estate prices, the auto industry, we have nothing to fear if our trust in God. He will guide us safely home through whatever circumstances He allows to be a part of our journey.

"Appointment in Jerusalem" helped to strengthen my faith this week. As I anticipate seeing the physical city of Jerusalem for the first time, I am feeling the anticipation of the heavenly Jerusalem that awaits us. And I am really looking forward to meeting Lydia Prince. I know one thing. I won't be telling her about my refrigerator problems or how hard the car business was in 2008. I will be listening.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A little holiday humor!

I received this cartoon in an email and thought it was funny. I'm not making a judgment call about anyone's desire to "trick or treat" for themselves. My blessings are not a reflection of my own hard work. God has been better to me than I deserve. So I almost feel like a hypocrite to post this...but it did make me laugh. : )

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The recipe I promised...

Pumpkin Upside Down Cake
9X13 pan
350 degree oven

One Large Can Solid Pack Pumpkin
One Cup Evaporated Milk
Three Eggs
One Cup Sugar
One Teaspoon Cinnamon
One Teaspoon Nutmeg

One Box Yellow Cake Mix
One Cup Finely Chopped Nuts
Two Sticks Melted Butter (1 cup)

Line the oblong pan with wax paper or parchment paper. Spray inside pan and lightly on paper. In a mixing bowl, add first six ingredients and blend with mixer on low speed until all ingredients are combined. Pour the batter into lined pan. Sprinkle yellow cake mix over the top of batter. Sprinkle nuts on top of cake mix. Drizzle melted butter over the top of nuts. Bake for 50-60 minutes @ 350 degrees. Remove from oven and let cake cool. After cake has cooled, turn the pan over and place cake (upside down) on platter. Top with Cool Whip or the following frosting:

One 8 ounce Cream Cheese (softened)
One Cup Powdered Sugar
One 8 ounce Container of Cool Whip

Whip cream cheese and powdered sugar together until smooth. Add Cool Whip by hand until blended well. Frost the cake and refrigerate.

This does not taste like a cake. It tastes like a pie with a thicker and richer crust. I increased the powdered sugar from 1/2 cup to a full cup (from the original recipe) because it just didn't taste sweet enough to me.

Refrigerator woes and the need for a house sitter!

Well, after two appliance technician visits and many phone calls to KitchenAid, I have learned more than I ever thought I would know about my refrigerator's operation. I have also gotten a hard knock eduction on "back door" purchases of major appliances. At the moment, my refrigerator is operating properly. But we are in "wait and see" mode. The work done may not ultimately solve the problem.

In a way, there is a bright side to this happening. We were here and I didn't lose much because of the back up fridge. I also only had one package of chicken in the kitchen freezer. So I lost mostly ice cream products and some homemade chicken broth I was keeping for Thanksgiving. Not big losses. But if we had been gone when something like this happened, we would have come home to quite a mess; like melted ice all over the hardwood floor. I had a package of frozen raspberries that I didn't even realize was there. I guess the bag had a small puncture in it. That was the messiest problem I had to clean up. But it would have been a bigger mess if I hadn't caught it immediately. And as a result of emptying the contents, I was presented with the perfect opportunity to thoroughly clean the inside of my refrigerator -- something I have been successfully avoiding for months. I just finished that little task!

I have never been concerned about having a house sitter any time we are away because we have wonderful, observant neighbors who keep an eye on any unusual activity in the neighborhood and we also have an alarm. But this experience has made me realize that we need to ask someone to stay here whenever we're gone for more than a day or two. I mentioned this to John last night and he agreed. We're going to ask a friend to stay here and keep an eye on things while we're in Israel.

When I was first advised that I might have a "sealed system failure," I was told (by the first tech) that a unit like mine would more than likely have a five year warranty on the sealed system (which includes the compressor). I called KitchenAid with my model and serial numbers and was informed that I was indeed covered under warranty, but they had to send someone out who was authorized to do warranty work. So I waited another day. Yesterday morning, that tech called to confirm our appointment and shared the bad news that, according to the serial number, this unit had no warranty. I was sure he was wrong or had written down the wrong serial number. So I just calmly called KitchenAid again and reconfirmed the warranty. Again, KitchenAid confirmed that I was covered. They even took his name and number and called him for me so there would be no further confusion. But the technician knew what he was talking about. The person on the phone was simply not looking deeply enough into the file (for the fine print). They were assuming, from my model number, that it was a normal purchase.

Turns out, any serial number with a 99 in it was sold in 'as is' condition and with no warranty whatsoever. The tech knew as soon as he heard the 99 that I had this type of refrigerator and he would be the bearer of bad news. I have to admit, as I did to the technician over the phone, I was struggling not to resent the messenger. After two confirmations of my warranty from the company itself, I couldn't figure out why this guy was so determined to take my warranty away. And I gently told him so. But he knew what he was talking about. He knew he wouldn't be paid if he did the work without charging me. And I can hardly blame him for being concerned about that little detail. I'm glad I didn't act ugly on the phone because he turned out to be so nice in person.

Apparently, there are what is called "back door" purchases (usually made by employees who are fully aware of the conditions of sale) in which a unit is sold at a greatly reduced price but without any warranty. And my builder must have come in contact with someone who could offer him such a deal. He did not, however, disclose this to us when we bought our new home. And we can't even determine from whom this refrigerator was originally purchased! (A friend of mine said, "He put all his money into trim work and ran out of cash for a refrigerator!" haha -- probably true.)

The tech turned out to be a very nice guy who lives close by in an adjacent subdivision. He was so kind and helpful. He felt terrible about my predicament. He said that I was the first customer he'd ever dealt with who had one of these units but didn't know it. He took one look at the "guts" and told me this refrigerator had been worked on before -- possibly in the factory. But there were valves that were not original. Since the refrigerator was running, but not cooling adequately, he said it was possible I had a very slow Freon leak rather than a bad component. Sometimes it is so small that you can't even find it. He suggested recharging the system, adding Freon and waiting to see how long that lasted. If it only lasts a week or two, we'll have to investigate other (more expensive) possibilities. He said if it was his refrigerator, he would try the least expensive option first and that sounded good to me.

As of this morning, the temps have returned to their rightful settings and all appears to be well. This could take care of the problem for a year or two (if it's a very slow leak) or less than two weeks (if it's a component). So the last thing I want to do right now is restock my freezer. I hope we get another year or two from this band-aid.

Enough about my refrigerator woes. Changing to a completely different topic, I have a great Thanksgiving dessert recipe I plan to share in the next few days. It's called "Pumpkin Upside-down Cake," but it's more like a rich pumpkin pie.

Lexi and I tried the recipe when she stayed with me and she has requested it for Thanksgiving. You line the oblong pan with waxed paper and spray it first. You put the pumpkin mixture on the bottom, then sprinkle yellow cake mix and nuts over that. And lastly, you drizzle melted butter on top. After baking and cooling the "cake" you turn it upside-down onto a platter and top it with a mixture of Cool Whip, Cream Cheese and powdered sugar. The cake mix, nuts and butter are now on the bottom and make a rich crust. You could even top it with Cool Whip alone and it would still be great, in my opinion. It was a big hit here.

I just wish Lexi had remembered to take the rest of it home with her so there was none left to tempt me! I have stuck pretty close to my diet this week, but I have had to take at least one bite of this dessert every day since I made it. It's just too good. I promise I will post the recipe.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More thoughts on grace...

I want to share today's email from my daily thought subscription. I think it so beautifully portrays how grace and our freedom of choice work together. For those of us who are less eloquent, it is sometimes a challenge to show how these two aspects of faith work in harmony with one another. It reminded me of a Keller sermon I once listened to on this subject. Keller explained it something like this (extremely condensed and paraphrased by me):

If you had a choice put before you daily between two meals, a steak and baked potato or monkey brains, you would choose the steak and potato plate every single day. Does that mean you did not have the freedom to CHOOSE the monkey brains? No. You could have chosen that every day of your life. The problem is, you could not WANT the monkey brains. Therefore, you would not choose them.

The point of the story is that we cannot WANT God unless He first intervenes, initiates the work of salvation and draws us to Himself by the Holy Spirit and through His sovereign grace. We are born in sin. We are born in rebellion to God. Until He first touches us, we cannot want Him.

We should never feel morally superior to someone who has not chosen to serve God. We should be humbled that God enabled us to choose Him by drawing us and giving us a desire for Him. We did not do this for ourselves. God both intiated our salvation and made it possible through the blood of Christ shed for us. There is nothing in that process that should cause us to feel exalted or superior or smarter than anyone else. We are recipients of God's grace and mercy. We were dead in trespasses and sin. I remember hearing a friend (Todd E.) describe it this way:

A dead person can do NOTHING to help himself.

Enough of my intro. Here's the daily thought I wanted to share...

Langham Partnership Daily Thought
Chosen and Called (cont.)
Sovereign grace

If we ask what caused Saul's conversion, only one answer is possible. What stands out from the narrative is the sovereign grace of God through Jesus Christ. Saul did not 'decide for Christ', as we might say. On the contrary, he was persecuting Christ. It was rather Christ who decided for him and intervened in his life. The evidence for this is indisputable ... But sovereign grace is gradual grace and gentle grace. Gradually, and without violence, Jesus pricked Saul's mind and conscience with his goads. Then he revealed himself to him by the light and the voice, not in order to overwhelm him, but in such a way as to enable him to make a free response. Divine grace does not trample on human personality. Rather the reverse, for it enables human beings to be truly human. It is sin which imprisons; it is grace which liberates. The grace of God so frees us from the bondage of our pride, prejudice and self-centredness, as to enable us to repent and believe. One can but magnify the grace of God that he should have mercy on such a rabid bigot as Saul of Tarsus, and indeed on such proud, rebellious and wayward creatures as ourselves.
--From "The Message of Acts" (The Bible Speaks Today series: Leicester: IVP, 1990), pp. 168, 173.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Counting the days...

I can't believe that we will soon be going to Israel. I'm so excited. I have just about everything I need now and I have made my packing list. The few items I still need to pick up are little things (like packages of tissue, which I've been advised to carry with me daily). If this trip is emotional for people who don't cry easily, imagine what it will be like for me.
: D

I am going to carry a notebook and I hope to make some journal entries on a daily basis. I would love to blog something every night we're there. But I know I won't. We decided against taking the laptop because it would be just one additional thing to carry around. And we are determined to travel light. We will each have one checked bag and one carry on. I know that I will have Internet access in the hotels, but I don't know how expensive it will be to make use of. So I don't know if I'll be checking in from Israel or if I will just wait until we're home to blog about the experience. I'm going to play that by ear. John and I have talked about a complete fast from the computer while we're there. I just don't know if either of us can actually do it.

At the moment, I am waiting patiently for the appliance repair guys to show up. My refrigerator went on the blink this weekend. I first noticed it making an unusual humming sound Saturday. We didn't notice that the temps were slowly rising until yesterday. The frozen items are thawing. Only the meat and bulkier items are still frozen. I had to throw out all the ice cream. And a package of frozen raspberries leaked raspberry juice overnight. I didn't even realize I had a package of frozen raspberries.

Last week was packed with activity, visitors and food. We had the kids for two days and one night. Karlie spent two nights with us. When I took her home, Lexi came home with me for two nights. I cooked Tuesday night for my small group (chili), then cooked again Wednesday night when Danny and Rebecca came for the boys (tacos and guacamole). And we had friends over for dinner Friday night (roast, potatoes and gravy, green beans, corn, glazed carrots, yeast rolls and pumpkin upside down cake). Saturday night we went to J. Alexander's and last night we went to Olive Garden. So my weight has shot up three pounds again after keeping those three pounds off for two whole weeks. The battle never ends!

I have decided to get serious. I'm going to do a week of South Beach Phase One with the possible addition of Uncle Sam Cereal and blueberries. Last time I did this with the intention of losing five pounds, I lost nine. But all I care about is being comfortable in the clothes I want to take to Israel. And that means five pounds have got to go. Since I work out almost every day, that is entirely possible for me to accomplish in one week if I am very strict with my food intake. That is the area I fail in. If I could develop the same discipline with my eating that I have developed in my dedication to exercise, I would be as thin as Rachel and Lynda. (I wish!) But that is not likely to happen.

Next week we'll be tailgating before the Monday night Titans/Colts game. I will eat. I know I will. But our host is grilling steaks (with baked potatoes) and I'm going to freshly toss a Caesar Salad and bake a banana cake. If I have a whole week of staying on my diet under my belt, I could probably skip the baked potato and dessert. The willpower gets stronger after you've started to see results. At least it does for me. But I am just as likely to not care in that environment. I am very much a social eater.

My mom used to tell me, "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels." I've tried telling myself that many times. And sometimes I even agree with that statement. But other times food tastes so good that I momentarily do not care about feeling thin. And I have been having a lot of those days lately.

I hope the repair guys arrive soon so I can show up to volunteer at least part of the day. Hopefully we won't need a part that has to be ordered. But I sure am glad this happened now instead of two weeks from now or the week of Thanksgiving. There is always a bright side to everything, you know!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Camp Howerton Pics

I kept Andrew and Joshua Tuesday night and all day yesterday. As I was leaving Murfreesboro, I called to check on Cheryl and discovered the kids were on fall break this week. So I very spontaneously asked Karlie if she wanted to come spend a couple of nights with me. I so miss the days when I was around the corner and the kids could come over and hang out any time. Being an hour away is not like living in another state, but it makes spur of the moment visits rare. However, the plan came together this time. When she said she wanted to come, I headed first for WH to pick her up and then to Franklin to eat lunch with Rebecca and take the boys home with Karlie and me. We had so much fun. The boys went down for their naps just as soon as we got to the house. The above picture is Joshua taking a nap on his Thomas the Tank Engine blow up bed in our room.The above picture shows the peace and contentment Andrew was enjoying as Karlie carried him around for over an hour once he woke up from his nap. He was all smiles and cuddles. He was even giving big brother hugs.
It's funny to watch the interaction of siblings so close in age. Whichever one is "receiving" the hug seems to resist and the one "giving" the hug has control. Later in their visit, Joshua kept following Andrew around and giving him bear hugs that Andrew intensely resisted. I had to explain to Joshua that overpowering Andrew is not the same as hugging him. But he knew what he was doing. : )

There were more hugs for Karlie.

Joshua does not smile on command. But he is saying "cheese."

Andrew enjoying his French Toast.

Karlie is still here and I have really enjoyed her company. I'm sure by this time she's looking forward to getting home. But I'm sure glad she came to see me.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Commentary on Romans 10:1-21

This is from my daily email subscription to the Bible commentary of John Stott. I sometimes let these pile up in my email box and then skim through them in a hurry. But it seems like when I click on one of them within a day of it's arrival, it is always relevant to what God has been impressing on me in other ways. So was the case this morning...

Romans 10:1-21. Israel’s fault: God’s dismay over her disobedience.

To other commentators the assertion that the Jews *did not know the righteousness that comes from God* means that they had not yet learned the way of salvation, how the righteous God puts the unrighteous right with himself by bestowing upon them a righteous status. This is ‘the righteousness of God’ which is revealed in the gospel, and is received by faith altogether apart from the law, as Paul has written earlier (1:17; 3:21). The tragic consequence of the Jews’ ignorance was that, recognizing their need of righteousness if they were ever to stand in God’s righteous presence, they *sought to establish their own*, and *they did not submit to God’s righteousness* (3).

This ignorance of the true way, and this tragic adoption of the false way, are by no means limited to Jewish people. They are widespread among religious people of all faiths, including professing Christians. All human beings, who know that God is righteous and they are not (since ‘there is no-one righteous, not even one’, 3:10), naturally look around for a righteousness which might fit them to stand in God’s presence. There are only two possible options before us. The first is to attempt to build or establish our own righteousness, by our good works and religious observances. But this is doomed to failure, since in God’s sight even ‘all our righteous acts are as filthy rags’ (Is.64:6). The other way is to submit to God’s righteousness by receiving it from him as a free gift through faith in Jesus Christ (Phil.3:9). In verses 5-6 Paul calls the first *the righteousness that is by the law* and the second *the righteousness that is by faith*.

The fundamental error of those who are seeking to establish their own righteousness is that they have not understood Paul’s next affirmation: *Christ is the end (telos) of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes* (4). *Telos* could mean ‘end’ in the sense of ‘goal’ or ‘completion’, indicating that the law pointed to Christ and that he has fulfilled it. Or it could mean ‘end’ in the sense of ‘termination’ or ‘conclusion’, indicating that Christ has abrogated the law. Paul must surely mean the latter. But the abrogation of the law gives no legitimacy either to antinomians, who claim that they can sin as they please because they are ‘not under law but under grace’ (6:1, 15), or to those who maintain that the very category of ‘law’ has been abolished by Christ and that the only absolute left is the command to love. When Paul wrote that we have ‘died’ to the law and been ‘released’ from it (7:4, 6), so that we are no longer ‘under’ it (6:15), he was referring to the law as the way of getting right with God. Hence the second part of verse 4. The reason Christ has terminated the law is *so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes*. In respect of salvation, Christ and the law are incompatible alternatives. If righteousness is by the law it is not by Christ, and if it is by Christ through faith it is not by the law. Christ and the law are both objective realities, both revelations and gifts of God. But now that Christ has accomplished our salvation by his death and resurrection, he has terminated the law in that role. ‘Once we grasp the decisive nature of Christ’s saving work’, writes Dr. Leom Morris, ‘we see the irrelevance of all legalism’.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Long time no post...part 2

I have debated whether or not to share this, but I think I will. I watched a little bit of a few recent services on the website of my old church this week. I clicked on a service that was mostly testimonies of people I used to know pretty well and one person I didn't. Most of the testimonies sounded very similar to the same testimonies I remember hearing throughout my life. Someone I didn't recognize got up and talked about salvation. He talked about the one "central thing" or "core message," "the roots of who we are," "the essentials of what we believe," "this one thing," "this one thought is core to our salvation and to who we are as a people," "and it would be this's the thought of living an overcoming life...the thought could call it reaching perfection..."

When the testimony began with what was central or most important, I was hoping I would hear that the central message was the cross. But I didn't. I'm not sure I even heard the cross mentioned. It was the same message I had always heard. The most important part being our contribution to salvation. The speaker talked about those who would believe they had salvation because they had repented of their sins being in deception or having a false hope. He emphasized what I heard all my life, that Jesus died to forgive "the sins that are past" or our "old sins."

I have nothing against the speaker personally. I'm not sure I even know who he is. It just made me sad to listen to his understanding of what the central message of the Bible is. It made me sad to hear him profess that the essential doctrine, the essential element of our salvation is our victorious life. No. It's not. The essential element of salvation is the life Jesus lived and his perfect sacrifice on our behalf. It is our faith in his blood to cover our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness, yesterday, today and tomorrow. I agree that we are to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. I agree that we should live lives of obedience once we receive God's grace and forgiveness through Christ. I agree that we should not live sloppy lives or choose to willfully continue sinning once we know the Lord. We should grow up in Him. But this is not the core of our salvation or the central doctrine of the gospel. The central message of the Bible and the gospel is Jesus and what HE did for us. It is the cross. It's not US or OUR righteousness.

These are Paul's words to the Corinthians:
"For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."
1 Cor. 2:2

Surely this statement from the apostle Paul reveals to us with clarity what is the foundational belief, the core message, the roots of who we are as a people, the central thing, and the essential doctrine of salvation. He did not die simply to wipe our slate clean of past sins. He IS our righteousnenss!

And then a little further into the service, I heard a testimony that brought tears to my eyes and caused me to rejoice. Someone I dearly love got up and gave a completely different message. He shared what God had shown him about salvation, forgiveness and the love of God. He quoted the same scriptures that God showed me after I left my old church. Listening to him speak, I felt such an excitement in my heart. (The service is 9/26 and the testimony is at the 1:13:38 mark in the service.)

I can't express the thankfulness I feel for having heard this testimony. I could just about count on one hand the times I have gone to that website and listened to services. It normally would take someone calling something to my attention and suggesting I see it for myself because I'm not drawn to do it on my own. Today, I know that God wanted me to hear this testimony and that was why I felt to click on that service. I pray for my family regularly and for others in that church to know the truth of the gospel. This one testimony confirmed that God is hearing and answering those prayers. Perhaps He will do it one person at a time. But I believe He will do it.

1 John 1:5-10 says:
5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

John says that the blood of Jesus purifies us from "all sin" not only our sins before we come to know Him. His blood purifies us from our past sins and every sin we will ever commit. That is not an excuse for continuing to live a sinful lifestyle. A true believer will not want to continue in sin. But it is a promise to those who believe. And it is a reminder that we are to confess our sins in order to be forgiven and purified from all unrighteousness.

I was reading today about the fear of the Lord. Edward Welch explains it this way:
Do you ever think that your sins are too bad, and that forgiveness for those sins requires you to get your act together first? If so, you don't fear God. You are minimizing his forgiveness. You are acting as though his forgiveness is ordinary, just like that of any person or make-believe god. If you think like that, you don't believe he is holy. In contrast, the fear of the Lord leads us to believe that when God makes promises too good to be true, they are indeed true.

He goes on to say:
God's holiness should startle us. When (to our minds) forgiveness for our sins seems impossible, we are not startled by the self-sacrificial love of Jesus Christ. We minimize it to conform to our assumption that such forgiveness is impossible. Similarly, when forgiveness of sins seems ordinary to us, we are not startled by the holy righteousness of God that leads to his holy hatred of sin. Instead, we minimize both his righteousness and the seriousness of our own sin.

We need to listen again. All disobedience is personal. Our sin is not just against God's law; it is against God. Any time we stray away from the kingdom of God, whether by following our own desires, following other gods, or imitating the Father of Lies, we provoke the jealous God to anger. His anger will accept only death as the appropriate penalty for treason (Deut. 6:14-15).

When we complain, we hold him in contempt. The white lies we tell are against the God of truth. The anger we display is murderous toward others and stands in judgment of God himself. And it is not just what we do that is so serious; it is also what we don't do. We don't love God and neighbor with our whole heart. In our spiritual indifference we can go for days thinking that our personal interests are paramount; that is, we forget God. When there is persistent sin, there is no fear of God (Rom. 3:18).

For all this, the wrath of God is poured out. It will fall on us, if we insist on living in the anti-God kingdom and trust in ourselves, or it falls on Jesus. Either way, the wages of sin is death.

...The holiness of God, expressed in both his love and justice, finds its zenith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel announces the liberation found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In that death we find the seriousness of sin: the Son of Man was crushed instead of us; Jesus himself drank the cup of God's wrath in our place. God's anger and righteousness are truly holy. Yet in the gospel we also find unprecedented mercy, love, and forgiveness. The penalty our sins deserve is redirected so that all we receive is grace.

...He both hates sin and delights in forgiving sinners...His holiness leaves me amazed at both the magnitude of his forgiveness and the seriousness of my own sins. Because he is holy I want to obey him wholeheartedly.

In the next section of the book, Welch writes about judgment. Hebrews 9:27 tells us that "Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment." 2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."

This has been hard for me to reconcile with grace in the past (because of the teaching I received most of my life about the requirement of perfection). But Welch explains it in a way that is very similar to the way my present pastor has taught me. They both use the analogy of a marriage. Welch writes:

If a man says he loves his wife and is committed to her, you look for the evidence in his actions. If he is truly committed, he will not be a perfect husband, but he will be circumspect in his relationships with other women, he will guard his heart so lust isn't given free rein, he will show kindness and affection to his wife, and he will ask forgiveness when he doesn't. Genuine commitment is verifiable. It can be witnessed by God and others.

Did you hear "not perfect?" Keep the marriage analogy in mind. No spouse is perfect, but there are many spouses who are faithful and make good faith efforts to love.

...The problem is that every Christian with an intact conscience can acknowledge that he or she has broken and continues to break every command. Selfish ambition, language that tears down rather than builds up, and an imperfect love for God and other people reside in the heart of every believer. At issue for us, however, is not perfection (1 John 1:8). That can only be given to us by Christ alone, and it awaits eternity. The issue can be put this way: which direction do you face? Is your face turned toward Christ or away from him? To use the marriage analogy, my wife is not expecting sinlessness but faithfulness. She will not divorce me because of my many sins and weaknesses. Divorce, the sign of broken commitments, would only come after my face has clearly turned away from her and toward someone else.

...As followers of Christ, we live for him rather than ourselves. When we see sin, we turn from it.

Welch addresses the sources of condemnation and conviction. Romans tells us there is no condemnation for those of us who are in Christ. But the Holy Spirit will convict us of sin and expose the hidden motives of our hearts. He explains it this way:

When you belong to the King, how can you discern the difference between the Devil's condemnation and the Spirit's conviction? How can you determine if you are in the bogus courtroom or the real one? In the real courtroom:

  • you know your good deeds are not enough
  • your hope is in Christ alone for your deliverance
  • when convicted of sins, you are pointed past your sins and on to Christ
  • the last word is always hope.

In the Devil's counterfeit:

  • the attention is all on your sins
  • you stand and fall on your own behavior
  • you are alone without an advocate
  • questions are raised about the extent of God's forgiveness

Christ alone, Christ alone -- that is your defense. When you are feeling weak, ask for the Spirit to teach you more about how righteousness is not inherent to you but has been given you by the righteous acts of Jesus (Rom. 5:15-21). We are given this when we put our faith in Jesus rather than ourselves. How can you know when you are trusting in yourself? When you think that your good deeds will outweigh your bad.

...The very fact that you are convicted of sin is a work of the Spirit (John 16:8), so you can accept conviction with a smile on your face, knowing that it is just one more evidence that you belong to Christ...When God tests you and reveals your mixed allegiances, simply turn to him.

The only surprises in heaven will be for those who think they are particularly righteous or good, which certainly does not include those with scrupulous consciences (e.g., Matt. 7:21-23).

...One piece of evidence of kingdom life is that you will see more sin, not less. Outside the kingdom of heaven, there is no concern about sin. That doesn't mean that unbelievers are so bad; it means that they are indifferent to the fact that their sin is against God. They hide the more shameful sins, but they don't do battle with them. When you are brought into the kingdom of light, you both see sin and, for the first time, get in a battle with it. The battle means you are alive.

The rules of engagement are simple. When you see sin, you confess it as ultimately being against God. You respond in gratitude for the forgiveness he already gave you because of Jesus' death, which was the payment for sins. Then, knowing that you have been given the Spirit so you can do battle with sin, you attack. You ask for the power to love. You ask others to pray for you and counsel you. You adopt a zero-tolerance policy with sin. When you fall in defeat, you learn from it and get right back into the battle.

You will see more and more sin, but you will also notice that the Spirit is changing you. There have been times when you responded in humility rather than arrogance, love rather than indifference or even hatred. The change will be gradual but noticeable...When you see it, the apostle John says that you can allow that evidence to assure you that you truly belong to God.

Long time no post...

I can't believe I haven't written anything in a week. It just seems like my life has gotten so busy lately (for someone without a full time job). I volunteer in the church office on Mondays. I host a small women's group on Tuesday evenings. I spend Wednesdays with the kids in Franklin. And I have been busy on Thursdays and Fridays, running around trying to get prepared for our trip to Israel in a few weeks (which is a euphemism for "I've been shopping a little more than usual.")

I try to make it to early morning prayer at least once a week. And that day has most often been Friday. For me to be out of the house no later than 6:15 requires that I commit to going the night before and wash my hair after working out. The last three Fridays, a friend and I have gone to Starbucks after prayer. We've been friends for about four years now and after I left Starbucks yesterday, I was thinking about how much God has done in both of our lives since we first met. We have these deep discussions about our spiritual growth. And this week we explored what it really means to be salt and light. (When we get it all figured out, I'll let you know.)

Today has been one of those laid back Saturdays I love. Other than watering the flowers and doing a couple of loads of laundry, all I have done is work out and read. One of these days I'm going to stop reading so many books at the same time. I'm re-reading "When People are Big and God is Small" with my small group. I'm almost finished reading "Running Scared: Fear, worry, and the God of rest." And I just started reading "Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews" by James Carroll.

This morning I focused on "Running Scared." I'm not reading this book because I feel like I'm running scared. I have had times when I was consumed with fear and worry. But I'm not in one of those times at the moment. I am actually at peace with all of my life's circumstances (even the ones that have brought anxiety in the past). But this book is not just for those who are consumed with fear and worry. It speaks to human nature and how often we wrestle with fear because we are not fully trusting God. It addresses our financial fears, our people fears and our fear of death.

There were several passages from the book that I intended to quote in this post, but I wound up chatting online for a while with a friend. And I must now get ready for church. I will be back with some good quotes as soon as I can.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The new US Dollar Bill

I got this in an email tonight and thought it was pretty funny.
And by the way...
Was that an exciting game, or what???

Saturday, October 4, 2008

"You are the light of the world"

It's confession time. I have not been reading as voraciously as I sometimes do. I have allowed myself to get caught up in the things of this world. Not bad things necessarily, but things that waste my time; such as watching too much campaign coverage, economic news and listening to virtually the same things spoken over and over again. It becomes addictive. And it can even become destructive when our cares and concerns take our focus away from God. I try to remind myself daily that He is in control of all things, great and small.

I started my morning with a cup of coffee and the Today show. I felt happy when I heard that OJ Simpson was found guilty. Adding poetic justice to criminal was the fact that he was convicted thirteen years to the DAY of his acquittal. If you knew me then, you know that I was consumed with watching his trial and the news coverage. I knew every player, every "talking head" and every shred of evidence. And I was horrified when he escaped justice. I can be a bit of a news junkie at times. And when history-making events are occurring, I'm glued to the coverage.

As I sat listening to the verdict this morning, with a smile of smug satisfaction on my face, I immediately felt convicted. I'm glad that OJ is finally going to face consequences. I think he is an arrogant, unremorseful abuser and murderer. And he should not have gone free thirteen years ago. But although those things are true, as a Christian, I should not enjoy another person's downfall -- even if self-inflicted. My desire for OJ Simpson or anyone like him should be that through his calamity he would come to know Jesus, be drawn to repentance and be saved. My heart wants to have that desire, even for a murderer. But it does not come naturally in situations where there has been terrible injustice and an absence of remorse.

I watched a little more news and then decided to turn off the TV and read. I felt the need to focus my thoughts on God and begin my day differently than I have been lately. It was such a good decision.

I read a couple of chapters from two different books. I am reading "When People are Big and God is Small" for the second time. And in the chapters I read this morning, the author was addressing how to grow in the fear of the Lord. In the other book, "Lord, Only You Can Change Me," the author was concluding the last chapter with thoughts on Jesus' statement (Matt. 5) that we are the light of the world.

Edward Welch explains the two very different fears we experience with respect to God. There is terror-fear or fear of punishment, which causes us to withdraw and hide from God. And there is reverential, worshipful, obedience fear that does not fear punishment; rather, it fears displeasing God. He writes about the cross and how fear should always end in the gospel:

For he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12).

This is the Old Testament zenith of the holiness of God. If your jaw doesn't drop when you read it, then read it again. Read and be in awe.

Such awe attracts you to God; it does not repel or leave you feeling shame. It makes you want to come to him and know him. When the fear of the Lord matures in you, Christ becomes irresistible.

Welch writes that after seeing the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, Isaiah did what anybody would do in such a situation.

He forgot about himself and offered himself as a servant to the living God. His fear of the Lord was expressed by reverential obedience. This is one of the great blessings of the fear of the Lord. We think less often about ourselves. When a heart is being filled with the greatness of God, there is less room for the question, "What are people going to think of me?"

...When Isaiah was called by God, he was given a message that guaranteed he would be rejected and physically threatened by others (Isaiah 6:9-14). There were going to be daily opportunities for him to fear man rather than God. As a result, it was essential for him to have the fear of the Lord absolutely branded into his heart, because the person who fears God fears nothing else.

What does the fear of the Lord look like? In reverence, we will submit to God's authority and obey Him. Not an obedience based in fear of punishment but an obedience that comes from a heart of reverence, worship, adoration, love and awe.

Welch writes about the mighty acts of God that show both His holy love and justice, kindness and sternness (Romans 11:22).

The psalmist reminds us that those who fear the Lord say, "His love endures forever" (Ps. 118:4), but they also say, "Who can stand before you when you are angry?" (Ps. 76:7). Scripture speaks of unimaginable love alongside holy anger. God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love, but he also does not leave the guilty unpunished; "he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation" (Ex. 34:6,7). Therefore, we cannot rightly say, "My God is not a God of judgment and anger; my God is a God of love." Such thinking makes it almost impossible to grow in the fear of the Lord. It suggests that sin only saddens God rather than offends him. Both justice and love are expressions of his holiness, and we must know both to learn the fear of the Lord. If we look only at God's love, we will not need him, and there will be no urgency in the message of the cross. If we focus narrowly on God's justice, we will want to avoid him, and we will live in terror-fear, always feeling guilty and waiting for punishment.

Earlier in this same chapter, Welch explains that because most sins are ungodly exaggerations of things that are good, "we can supply proof texts to justify our behavior long after it has become idolatrous." He goes on to say,

The world takes these tendencies and rationalizes them. The world reminds us that, whatever our sins or "shortcomings," we are only human. Everyone else is doing it too. Right and wrong are determined by popular vote. And who is to say that God really cares about such things?

There are so many good quotes from these chapters, I could share even more. But this post is becoming quite long and I want to conclude with something from the book, "Lord, Only You Can Change Me." I was impressed with how both books and topics intersected for me this morning. They intersected in their emphasis on glorifying and honoring God (not ourselves). After reading two chapters on growing in the fear of the Lord, I returned to Kay Arthur's book and read the last chapter for a second time. She concluded her book by focusing on Jesus' admonition that we are to be the light of the world. That means that I (we) will be different from the world. I won't embrace the outlook of the world on sin (minimizing it). This does not mean I am beating up on myself. It means I am hating what God hates; my sin. Arthur closes her book with these words:

As we said before, light has one purpose: to dispel darkness. In Matthew 5:16 Jesus' admonition is very clear. We are to let our light shine before men so that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.

Our good works cause the light to shine. But those good works are to be done in such a way that they do not glorify us but our Father. If they do not point men beyond us to the Father, then something is wrong with the way we are letting our lights shine.

I'm not saying that it's wrong for people to love you and appreciate you. This is obviously going to happen if you are used of God in a significant way in somebody's life. That love and appreciation, however, should never stop with you. It should rather bring the focus around the true Light, the Source of all Light, Jesus Christ. The lampstand is not significant, but the light that comes from the lampstand is. The lampstand is merely a vessel to bring light to those who are in its presence. Just as the moon reflects the sun's light, so we are to reflect the Son's light!

...As John was a witness of the Light so that people might believe through Him, so you and I are to be witnesses of the Light. Jesus, the Light of the world, has returned to the Father. Yet He has not left the world in darkness because we, His people, remain here...We are to let those who grope and stumble in the darkness know where the true Light may be found.

At the end of this book, the author reminds her readers to remember that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. She points out that "the world sees the difference" as we...

walk in poverty of spirit,
mourn over sin,
bow in submission before His sovereignty,
walk in true meekness before God and man,
hunger and thirst for righteousness,
and count it all joy when [we] are persecuted for righteousness.

...In His love and by His power, you and I can light up this dark, despairing world!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I love being a grandma!

Andrew is 19 months old. You would never know it by the innocent look on his face in this picture, but he can hold his own in a fight. And he likes to assert himself with a short, but loud, scream.
Joshua will be three years old in November. He no longer poses and smiles for the camera. But I can still get a raised eyebrow if I mention jelly beans.
Yesterday, Joshua was having a hard time settling down for his nap. So Rebecca said I could go up and lay on his bed with him, read him a couple of books or just visit. She was sure he would love the company. So I went up and threw out the offer. Joshua said, "No, I don't want you to, Grandma Shari. I think I just want to lay here by myself." I find that he likes to give the answer you're not expecting. I asked him when he was going to come spend the night again. And he said, "Some time. But not today."
Both of them are a barrel of laughs on any given day. I always knew I would love being a grandma. But if any experience in life exceeds your highest expectations, I think it's being a grandparent. I adore these boys more than they will probably ever know. There's only one place they are sometimes not fun and that is a quiet restaurant (quiet with the exception of the two of them). The last two weeks we've done great going to Pie in the Sky because it's kid friendly (and there are other kids making noise). Yesterday Rebecca made the wise decision to call our order in ahead. When you don't have to wait for the food, everything just goes more smoothly. And most kids will eat pizza (even Joshua).
Sometimes I wish I wasn't an hour away. It would be awfully nice to see them every day or two instead of my usual once a week. But I can't imagine my life away from Murfreesboro, either. I have never lived anywhere that felt more like home. So I will gladly continue to commute.

You may have already seen this, but...

...I love it and wanted to post it here. I can't seem to figure out how to embed the actual video in a post. I need technical support.

This video is great. I've loved the song for a long time. You can also get it as a ring tone. It plays on my cell phone when Danny calls.

YouTube - Derek Webb- A Savior On Capitol Hill Video