Wednesday, February 29, 2012

This flower just appeared today out of nowhere - or did it?

Sometimes when we get caught up in the pressures of life, it takes something simple like a beautiful flower to remind us that God has been at work all along -- even though we may not have even noticed.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ask the Pastor: How do the Ten Commandments Apply Today? Part 4

 The Fourth Commandment
The Sabbath- how quaint. 

In our 100 miles per hour world, in which we have more “time saving” gadgets than ever before -but seem to still be busier than ever before- the idea of a Sabbath sounds so 1950s. I mean, who has time to rest, sit down, sleep, etc? As we continue our series on the importance of the Ten Commandments for the believer today, I think we’re going to find that the Sabbath is just as much a part of the moral law of God as not murdering or taking the Lord’s name in vain. Exodus 20:8-11 reads. 

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,
but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.
On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant,
or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.
For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea,
and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.
Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (ESV).

                  Oftentimes, reading this passage evokes thoughts of scenes from The Fiddler on the Roof, a Hollywood-ized version of the Jewish Sabbath, shown with all of its seriousness and reverence. But in the real world, and in the real church, what do we do with a command to in essence “stop and smell the roses” for one day a week?

                  First, we need to understand that God commands us to rest. We need to understand that there is a very practical side to God’s command that Israel keep a Sabbath. He set a precedent for it in Genesis, when He created the world. For six days, God created, and on the seventh He rested. This became the model for us (God really didn’t need a break). See, the human body breaks down when it is overworked and overstressed. The tendency today is to go full speed seven days a week. As a result of this, certain occupations are experiencing burnout at a rapid rate. The human body needs a break, and that means stopping, resting, spending time with God and family, and setting aside the normal stresses of daily life. The Sabbath was given as a time of recuperation, recovery, and revitalization for man, and it is commanded, so to not take a Sabbath is to disobey a law that comes from the moral nature of God!

                  Second, we need to be cautious about not getting wrapped up in debating over which day we are to take as our Sabbath. In the Old Testament, Saturday was set aside as the Sabbath, and it was a day of rest and worship dedicated to God. As we move into the New Testament and the church age, we see the Sabbath (now becoming known as “The Lord’s Day”) being moved to the first day of the week (or the eighth day as it was called by some of the early church fathers), or Sunday. This transition took place because of the significance given to Sunday as the day that Jesus rose from the dead, among various other things. Scripture refers to the church holding Sunday as their significant day at various points (Acts 20:7, I Cor. 16, Rev. 1:10). The early church recognized this as a day to gather with other believers, worship, and rest from the labors of the week. It truly was a day dedicated to God.

                  Third, we need to renew our commitment to keeping a Sabbath in obedience to God’s command. Unfortunately, Christians often get so wrapped up in the whens and wherefores of the Sabbath that they forget to think about why God gave us the Sabbath and why it is so urgently needed today. At the end of the day, we can come up all kinds of excuses as to why we cannot set aside Sunday as a day to worship, honor God, and rest for the week to come: 
  •       Some say, "It's the only time we get to spend as a family". There are two major reasons why this is not valid. First, there is no better place than church to spend time with the family. Second, if Sunday morning and evening are the only times you have to set aside for your family, you need to reorder your priorities. Your family should be more important to you than that. 

  •       The fact is, we could list dozens of excuses for not resting and worshiping on the Lord’s Day, but at the end of the day they all fall flat. It is past time for Christians to take back the Sabbath, find rest, and honor God with that day!
  •        At the end of the day, we are only given a limited amount of time. We get 24 hours in a day, and 7 days in a week. What we do with that time, contrary to popular opinion, WILL affect all eternity! Rather than the rat race that we so often find ourselves in, it is time for Christians to treat the Lord’s Day as a chance to STOP, LOOK AWAY from all of the things of this earth, GAIN spiritual perspective from focusing on God, and REALIZE that His purposes are more important than the lesser things with which we fill our days. When this happens, believers will start to bring sanity and godliness back into the management of their lives. J.C. Penney once said, “If a man’s business requires so much of his time that he cannot attend the Sunday morning and evening services, and Wednesday night prayer meeting, then that man has more business than God intended him to have.” This from a man who still had time to build one of the world’s largest department store chains while maintaining a faithful respect for the Lord’s Day and the Lord’s House.[1] One has to wonder if more Christians would experience the blessing of God in their lives if they made a commitment to giving God first place in their lives regardless of what they thought it might cost them!
                  Fourth, keeping the Sabbath shows the world our faith. When believers make the hard commitment to keep a Sabbath by spending time in the Lord’s house and taking time to rest as a family, it shows their friends and neighbors the great emphasis that they place on honoring their Lord. It shows that they are serious about their faith and the Master that they serve. Think about it. When our neighbors see us Sunday after Sunday getting up early, getting ready, and going to church as a family, it says something to them that sleeping in every Sunday or jumping at the chance to work on that day does not. While there are some jobs that must be done every day, even Sunday (police, nursing, firefighters, etc), we should make taking a Sabbath a priority as much as is humanly possible.

                  Finally, keeping the Sabbath brings the joy of obedience and fellowship to the home of the believer. This is the best reason of all! When believers set aside Sunday as a special day to worship and rest, they are spending time in the Scriptures, prayer, and in fellowship with God’s people. They are also spending time obeying our Lord’s moral Law. This is an avenue of great blessing in the lives of God’s people, and one that we should be taking advantage of! In reality, those who refuse to take the Sabbath seriously are not “getting ahead,” but are living in disobedience to their God, and are pushing their bodies and families in ways they were not designed to endure! May God give us strength and grace to obey His command and take back the Sabbath as a day truly dedicated to Him and the pattern that He created us to follow!

[1] Material from this previous paragraph taken from D. James Kennedy’s book, Why the Ten Commandments Matter, p. 79-80.

I’d love to interact on this subject or any others through this blog (by leaving a comment below) or my email: God Bless!!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Spring is in the Air. . .

Do you see what I see in this picture?

Look very closely and you will see the beginnings of some daffodils.  I had almost forgotten about those bulbs I had planted in the fall, until I was looking out our front window the other day.

I can't wait to see those beautiful yellow blooms.  I love the way they signal the beginning of the season.  I remember a horse farm on the road we lived on while growing up had huge clumps of daffodils growing all along the embankment that bordered the road. 

I have always loved spring because it feels like we are coming out of hibernation and our long winter's nap is over.  We have endured.  Now it is time to enjoy the sunshine, flowers, daylight that lasts longer into the evening -- I could go on and on. Can you tell I'm not a huge fan of cold weather?

So even if you have heard that there is snow looming around the corner, do me a favor and don't burst my bubble.  I am going to enjoy this warmer weather and hope this means it will only keep getting warmer.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Easy Chocolate Yum-yum dessert

The name says it all - chocolate, graham crackers, and whipped cream - mmmmmmm. This little dessert is so easy that even our toddler could help out. Just follow these 3 easy steps.

Here's what you need.

1 package of chocolate pudding (the smaller 4 serving size box)
1 3/4 Cup milk
graham crackers (or pre-made graham cracker crust)
softened whipped cream (I used half of an 8oz container, but by all means, use as much as you like!)

  1. For ours, we started out by lining the bottom of a square dish with graham crackers.  You could also use a store-bought graham cracker crust if you have one handy.  Please note that putting the graham crackers in first will make them soft, so you could try putting them on top of the pudding once it sets and right before you eat the dessert if you would prefer them crunchy.

          Our little guy loved making this dessert. 
           Notice the bite taken out of the graham cracker in his hand. . . need I say more?

2.  Whisk the pudding mix with 1 3/4 Cup of cold milk

and carefully pour over the graham crackers
            --if  you do it too fast, the crackers will move all around - just so you have been warned :)
Cover and stick in the fridge to set the pudding.

  3.  After the pudding is set, smooth on that whipped cream.  And, viola!  That is it!

The best part is that you can just spoon it out into bowls and mix it just a little bit so that it is swirls of chocolate, whipped cream, and graham crackers.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ask the Pastor: How do the Ten Commandments Apply Today? Part 3

 The Third Commandment
      “What’s in a name?”
That question, asked years ago in a Shakespearean drama, has evoked different answers at different points in history. Today, very few people put much stock in what their name means, or where it originated (at least, not in the United States). During the times of Scripture, names were very important, and carried great meaning for the individual. While the importance of names has ebbed and flowed depending on culture and geographic location, there is one name that has carried the same amount of innate significance throughout history. 

The third commandment reads, 

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, 
for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” 
(Ex. 20:7 ESV)

This command, given to Israel thousands of years ago, carries at it’s root a moral principle that we would do well to take seriously today. 

The current climate. The names of God and Jesus are two of the most commonly used swear words in our society today. People invoke the name of God to curse something without a second thought as to the ramifications of their actions. TV shows and movies have become filled with blasphemy, which has both set the standard for our culture and reflected the attitudes already present within our culture. 

See, when taking God’s name in vain became acceptable practice in Hollywood, there was almost no protest from the American people. The practice was in that sense simply a reflection of the hearts of our nation’s citizens. On the other hand, the use of God’s name as a curse word propelled our country farther into the hole it had dug for itself. Now, people, including Christians, were becoming desensitized to this. Families who would never allow a plumber or electrician to swear while working in their home began to allow characters on TV to commit blasphemy in their living rooms and bedrooms. Christians who would never even think about using God’s name in vain started putting limits on how often they would allow it to be done in their home, as if somehow once or twice wasn’t “really” blasphemy. As a nation, including many Christians, we have lost sight of the significance of this command.

                Why is this such a big deal? That’s a great question! There are several reasons that we need to break open our shell of insensitivity in this area.  

  •  First, God said don’t do it! That should be reason enough! When the God of the universe tells us not to do something, it should in and of itself move us to obey! 
  • Second, it is a violation of man’s purpose for existence. You say, “huh??” Why do we exist? Why did Creator God give us a will, emotions, ears, eyes, brains, and our very lives? The Westminster catechism sums it up pretty well. “The chief end of man is to glorify God…” That is the core of man’s reason for existing, to have a relationship with God and bring glory to His name. The problem is, when we profane God’s name, or allow others to do it in our presence, we are behaving contrary to our intended purpose!!! What do you do with something that doesn’t do what it was designed to do?? You throw it away! Why do we feel that we can violate our very reason for existence in such a flippant manner and not suffer any consequences?     
  • Third, the name of God is a holy name. When God gave the third commandment, it carried great significance. Remember the “Lord’s Prayer”? Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. The very name of God is holy. The Jews knew this, and at various points in their history took many different types of drastic actions to ensure that they would never use the name of the Lord improperly.  
However, there is more to this than simply not swearing while using God’s name. When God says that His name is not to be taken in “vain,” He uses a word that means “empty or for no purpose.” Whoa!! Now the stakes have been raised significantly! This goes WAY beyond swearing. Anytime we use the Lord’s name in an empty fashion or without purpose, we commit blasphemy! When we throw up fickle little prayers that are devoid of thought or purpose, we blaspheme, when we use God’s name for our own purposes and agendas, we are toeing the line of taking His name and making it devoid of true meaning. 
                A command with consequences. Note that the second half of Exodus 20:7 gives a pretty stark consequence for those who take God’s name in vain. You see, God is serious about His name. He has in essence filed a massive slander suit against our nation in which He is the prosecution, judge, and jury. Unlike some civil court in which the only cost is financial, I believe the consequences of our actions against the Almighty have been much more severe. How can a man or woman who profanes the name of God then try to lay blame at His feet when their lives are ruined? What gives the blasphemer the right to charge God with blame for anything that goes wrong in his life, regardless of how severe it may seem? He has chosen to declare war on the Creator of the universe! 

For those who claim that their use of God’s name is just a habit, I have simple advice. Matthew 12:34 states that what comes out of a person’s mouth is a direct reflection of what is in his heart. The person who takes the name of the Lord in vain is not a person who is indwelt with the Spirit of God. The offense is not against the pastor who was standing in earshot, or the parent who may have overheard. It is an offense against the very God of the universe, and until it is made right with Him, guilt will hang over the head of the offender. The solution? A personal relationship with God and the indwelling of His Spirit, along with the forgiveness that this relationship brings. 

Christians, it’s time for us to break the shell of desensitization that has formed around us concerning the name of our Lord! His name is holy and worthy of praise and honor! May God grant us grace and strength to take a firm stand in our lives and homes for the sacredness of His Holy Name!  

 I’d love to interact on this subject or any others through this blog (by leaving a comment below) or my email: God Bless!!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

"Maggots" in the fridge?


Just the thought of maggots is gross, but that is what our little toddler said was in the fridge.

  Any thoughts as to what the "maggots" really are?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ask the Pastor: How do the Ten Commandments Apply Today?

Part 2: The Second Commandment

            As we continue our series on how the Ten Commandments apply to Christians (and to a degree all mankind) today, we come to the second commandment, which reads:

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, 
or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, 
or that is in the earth beneath, 
or that is in the water under the earth. 
You shall not bow down to them or serve them, 
for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, 
visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children 
to the third and the fourth generations of those who hate me…”
(Ex. 20:4-5, ESV).

            This is one of those commands that we often ignore or skim over because as Christians and Westerners, we generally don’t bow down to our lawn gnomes! However, the question needs to be asked, “what is this command prohibiting, and how does it apply to me?” Because this command is one of the most repeated commands in Scripture, including in the New Testament (I John 5:21), it is one of the most important commands in Scripture, as well as one that reveals something about the heart of man.

            See, when God includes this command as the second in His list, He knew something: the sin of idolatry runs deep within the human heart and provides a constant movement of the individual to worship things other than God. Look at the original context in Exodus. In Exodus 32, when the people bow down to worship the golden calf, Aaron tries to sync the peoples’ idolatry with the worship of Jehovah (32:4-6). This does not work, and brings up a very important point that marks the difference between the first two commandments.

  The First Commandment concerned the exclusivity of God. Christians cannot by definition be pluralistic in their approach to God. When Israel demanded another god in addition to Jehovah, they were actually demanding a god in place of Jehovah. 
  The Second Commandment calls believers to worship spiritually. This is the only command in which those who break it are said to hate God! How important must this be to Him? 

So, what is idolatry? 

Are we allowed to have pictures, posters, and statues in our churches? The word “idolatry” in essence carries the idea of “worship or service to an idol.” It also carries the implication of worshiping the true God through an idol. It is NOT however, a ban on sacred artistry. For instance, the Old Testament is full of examples of sacred artistry that were meant to generate worship towards God, not worship of the object itself!!! Think about the tabernacle, the temple, the cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant, and other things that were designed by God Himself to aid in worship, but not be worshiped.

            There are three uses for art: decorative, use as a teaching tool, and devotional. Decorative art is just that- jewelry, pictures, flowers, etc, that enhance appearance but to not generate worship. Art that is used as a teaching tool is pictures used in teaching Bible stories and act as aids in learning. Devotional art is the art that is forbidden in scripture. It is anything that causes people to fall down before it and worship.

            Okay, so I need to watch what I worship in front of….is that it? NO!!!  Another aspect of this commandment is the idea of what you worship. Here are a few examples of idolatry that we see today:
  • Pride in a home- taking care of a home is important, but what if the vacuuming, dusting, scrubbing, and cleaning became a major point of pride and sucks up more time than Bible study, prayer, and church involvement.
  • Vanity- some folks elevate their bodies to the place of God. They spend hours working out, dieting, and taking supplements. We need to care for our bodies, but when they take the place of God in our lives, we are turning them into an idol.
  • Children- many parents have made their children their god. Everything in their lives revolves around the kids. Everything they do is for their kids, and their allegiance to God is lessened by it.
  •  Peace- some folks want peace or (fill in the blank) at all costs. Because they want peace more than they want to serve God, they are willing to compromise biblical teaching concerning conflict and resolution in order to achieve peace. In that case peace had become an idol to them.
In short, fame, success, financial security, or anything that becomes more important to us than God is an idol!
            Let me encourage you to do a self-check up. What do you worship? What consumes your time, money, thoughts, and desires? Is it our Lord and Savior, or are there other things trying to contend for your attention? God demands out exclusive worship, and He demands our best worship…are you giving it to Him?  

 I’d love to interact on this subject or any others through this blog or my email: God Bless!!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Baking, Browning, & Buddy

After being busy most of the day, we managed to pull together quite the little Valentine's dinner tonight.  After imagining a much more elaborate cake, I settled in on just a simple chocolate layer cake. I took a picture of the cake, but really wanted an excuse to show off my mini roses I got from a special someone :)

While I was finishing up the meal prep, Brian ran to the library to return a video for me.  When he returned, he simply stated "look what I got" and slid a book onto the counter in front of me.  Whoa, get out of my head, I thought.  It was the exact book I had been thinking about for the past week and just hadn't gotten the chance to check the library catalog (though, in my mind, I was pretty certain they wouldn't have it).  I know I hadn't mentioned it to anyone.  It was just one of those nagging thoughts, you know what I mean?

 "I kind of thought you would like it."  he replied, knowing he had just earned some major brownie points.
And that, is why I love this man.  Thoughtful, gentle, sweet.

Love doesn't make the world go round, 
Love is what makes the ride worthwile.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Oh, yeah, the book was Cake Boss by Buddy Valastro, in case you were wondering.  I have already started it and even tried the chocolate fudge icing recipe that we used on the cake we had last night.  Brian and I used to love watching Buddy's show before we moved (and no longer have cable or high speed internet to watch it).

Though our Valentine's day was not anything exciting, our day was spent simply together - just the way I like it.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Quieting a Noisy Soul Study: Week 2

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, 
through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 
2 Peter 1:2-3 ESV

Is the answer to all of life's problems simply to read your Bible and pray every day?  It would almost seem that way from Berg's exposition of 2 Peter 1:2-3.  I too have often claimed that the Bible contains all the answers we need.  But is it really that simple?  I mean, Berg plans on tackling some pretty intense issues (anxiety, depression, and so forth).  Does he really think the Bible has anything to say about those life dominating problems?

I submit that the key is relationship.

I have often heard people say that the books of the Bible may be compared to love letters.  Imagine receiving them every day, drinking up their contents, but never actually relating back with the one who wrote them.  You would know a lot of stuff, but would you be in a relationship?  It kind of reminds me of all the "friends" we have on Facebook.  Do we really have true relationships/friendships with all of those people?

You see, knowing about God and truly knowing Him in a personal relationship are two very different things.

And so meditating on the person and nature of Him should be a regular practice for us.  We better be sure we have an accurate picture of who He is and what He has promised or else we are in big trouble.  That was the focus of this week's study.  What we think about God will influence how we live.

*I am in no way associated with Jim Berg or Journeyforth Press, and am receiving absolutely no compensation for my review of these materials.  The thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are completely my own.


Last night I got some books out of the library on gardening, fully intending to do some planning for our garden.

And this is what I see today.

That does not put me in the gardening mood.  Anyway, it will all be gone before we know it and we will have warm weather soon.  At least that is what I keep telling myself.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ask the Pastor: How do the Ten Commandments Apply Today?

The 1st Commandment
            As we discussed last time while talking about lying, there are aspects of God’s law that are reflections of His very nature, and therefore cannot ever be changed or violated without violating God’s very character and holiness.

Within the Old Testament, we find three different types of laws. 
Laid out for Israel are civil and ceremonial laws that dealt with the government and sacrificial systems for Israel. Outside of Israel, those laws had no bearing. However, there is a third type of law given, which we see the foundation for laid out in the Ten Commandments, and that is God’s moral law. These laws don’t involve sacrifices and civil aspects- they are representatives of God’s moral character, which does not change--- ever. The Ten Commandments are the bedrock of God’s moral law. 

            Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at the Ten Commandments, one by one and asking the question: “How does this apply to me, today, right now?” We’ll start this week with the first of the ten.

            Exodus 20:3 says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” This command is given first for a reason. God is God. There is no other. He doesn’t accept rivals, and He won’t be relegated to any place on the list of our priorities other than first. This command is magnified in Matthew 22:36-38 to the level of loving the Lord with all that we have. He is the Author of life, the Creator of all, and the Father who adopted His followers into a personal relationship with Himself. Not only does He demand the supreme place in our lives, He is worthy of it!

            So, how does this command apply to believers today? Two ways:

1.         There is only One Lord. God does not tolerate competitors. He is not compatible with a lot of the forms of religion that we see around us. Whether it is pantheism, deism, polytheism, or some New Age religion- none can stand up to the scrutiny of the first commandment. There is ONE God who is separate from His creation and authoritative over it, and He lays down only one way to serve and please Him!

2.         Only One person can sit on the throne of your life! Okay, so you’re a Christian. You reject all other gods and religions. You go to church, pray and read your Bible. You’ve got this commandment down pat, right? Wait! Let’s think for a minute. If God demands an exclusive relationship with us, then it would follow that ANYTHING that crowds Him out of His rightful place in our lives is a false god. Let’s think. Is your job more important than God? How about fishing or hunting or playing/watching sports? Do any of these regularly trump gathering to give our Lord His due worship and honor on Sunday mornings? If so, you are violating this command. How about good stuff? Your family, husband, wife, kids? Are they more important to you than God? I challenge you to look at your life. Where do you spend your time and money? That is where your priorities lie! We need Christians who will put God back in His rightful place in their lives and then keep Him there, giving Him the honor that is due His name!

 I’d love to interact on this subject or any others through this blog or my email: God Bless!!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Quieting a Noisy Soul study - Week 1

Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle 
and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

So what is a noisy anyway?

That was what I looked at in my first week in Jim Berg's study Quieting a Noisy Soul.  All of us have "noise" in our souls that keeps getting louder and more cluttered until it is next to impossible to hear the "still small voice" of God speaking in our hearts.  Berg points out that the noise can come in many forms such as anxiety, fear, bitterness, guilt, addictions, entertainment, and even possessions, to name a few.  Anything which takes up our thoughts and meditations of our heart is just noise.  Is anything "disturbing your soul, robbing it of rest/peace?" (Berg, p.1)

When I consider the verse above, amid the backdrop of the noise I observe in myself, I can see how having a "noisy soul" is not God's intention for Christians.
I know I crave more of that "rest" He is talking about.
How about you?

*I am in no way associated with Jim Berg or Journeyforth Press, and am receiving absolutely no compensation for my review of these materials.  The thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are completely my own.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Art of Thankfulness

In my prayer journal, I like to use Thursdays as my day to especially consider what "great things God has done" in my life.  It is more than just listing all the things I am thankful for or "counting your blessings," as it were, but actually making an effort to stop (yeah, that's not always easy with two year old running around like a wild man) and consider how God is at work around us.

As a Christian, I believe the thing I am most thankful for is the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and my personal relationship with Him.  With that in perspective, everything else lines up accordingly - my husband, my son, my family, my church.  It all takes a back seat to the One who died for me. 

I know, probably not what you have been hearing in this month in which we celebrate Valentine's Day.  It is all about L-O-V-E, right?  Hey, I like roses, romance, and the occasional chic flick just as much as the next girl.  But that can become an idol to me if it becomes more important than my Savior.

So I was thinking along those lines, and I thought I could also come up with creative ways to remind myself about the most important things I am grateful for.  I am going to call it the art of thankfulness.  It may be Scripture, encouraging quotes, hymns, stories, or even pictures.  I'll post more about this next Thursday!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...