Friday, January 31, 2014

Tied With A Big Red Bow

At this point, I really ought to know that 12:33am is just not the best time to plot out digital art projects. Nevertheless, I insistently exercised my mind until finally falling asleep sometime after 3:30, planning ways to draw a ribbon in CorelDRAW. Awaking at 6:30 (an hour before our alarm goes off), I continued thinking through my plan.

Though I'm exhausted, I eagerly set about creating my proposed project after spending time in God's Word and subsequently sorting through email this morning. My results show my immaturity in regard to CorelDRAW, but I remind myself that I've only begun learning the program. From that perspective, perhaps the crudeness of my drawing can be forgiven.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why I Shouldn't Impress Local News Anchors

Last night's State Of The Union address bugged me so much that I determined to blog about one of my greatest objections to it today. When the anchors of our local morning news show commented on how few Tweets he'd received about the address, my determination doubled. I'd compose an impassioned essay denouncing the President's wrong assumptions, providing links to web articles that refute his statements. Upon completing my post, I'd Tweet it to the news anchor, demonstrating that not all Greater Boston Area viewers are indifferent to Obama's speech.

During my time with the Lord this morning, my plans to refute the President changed. Oh, I still sharply disagree with the remark I'd intended to argue against (as well as by the majority of his views and policies). But this morning, the overdue task of making my 2014 Prayer List focused me away from the temporal concerns of American politics in favor of eternal matters.

As I listed people, including Mr. Obama, in need of the Holy Spirit to transform them with salvation, I realized that cleverly shredding his speech probably wouldn't be the most godly use of my afternoon. Furthermore, I'd typed out prayers asking the Lord to honor Himself, and help me honor Him, through this blog. Having typed out so many prayer requests that directed my attention to the matters of God's Kingdom, I lost my eagerness to quibble over Obama's misguided assertion.

Jesus said that the world would spiral downward before His return. Obama isn't the only world leader who is implementing unbiblical policies, nor will he be the last president to disengage America from the Christian principles that guided even the Founding Fathers who weren't Christians. Yet the Bible never tells us to rebuke secular leaders who promote ungodly ideologies. Rather, it commands us to humbly pray for them.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. ~~1 Timothy 2:1-4 (ESV)

So, do I want to write a blog post to assure the local news anchor that I actively listened to last night's State Of The Union address, or do I want to please my Savior by praying that He might turn this president's heart toward Him? I think everyone knows my answer.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hope They Don't Want

In some respects, atheism appears liberating. No God imposing outdated moral values and rules. No confession of sin. No thinking about a distant after-life to affect one's decisions here and now. As long as nobody gets hurt, life can pretty much be tailored to the pursuit of self-interest, with no fear of being judged by an all-powerful Being.

Yet I can't imagine anything as lonely as deliberately living a life separated from the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly, He makes me uncomfortable when His Holy Spirit exposes sin in my life, and I'm not always thrilled when obeying Him requires me to resist temptation. But I gladly trade my fleshly desires for the joy of knowing Him in this life and (even better) the promise of being face-to-Face with Him for all eternity!

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Mask Of New Friendship

This January didn't conform to my expectations. After the busyness of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I had assumed the long winter days would give me more time to play with Paintshop Pro, Painter Lite and CorelDRAW. When will I learn the futility of making assumptions?

I have spent some time trying to make friends with CorelDRAW, but that relationship intimidates me. For a while, as a result of watching too many video tutorials for CorelDRAW, I permitted my glazed-over eyes to convince me that I'd wasted money on the software. And so many other activities (writing letters, Missions Committee reports, etc.) competed for my time and attention, causing me to place lower priority on my artwork. To further complicate matters, two snowstorms required my PCAs to put me to bed early a few nights, and twice I had migraines...such things necessarily truncate my time for digital art.

Despite such hindrances, CorelDRAW has finally begun to accept my overtures by allowing me to create shapes, which I can then export into Paintshop Pro. Today, I created this Squished Square:

Once I'd pulled it into Paintshop Pro, I could play with different effects filters to manipulate the shape and add texture. I had such a splendid time that I hated to quit! Below is my favorite result, which I saved to use as a mask:

Now I see potential in my relationship with CorelDRAW. Of course, all good relationships require time and attention. Do I dare imagine that these long winter days, that prevent me and John from going anywhere (sometimes even to church) will afford me more opportunities to invest in my artwork?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Gary's Song Of Victory

When I hear the song, "Victory In Jesus," I often think of Gary. Back in my freshman and sophomore years in college, he and his wife faithfully and cheerfully drove me to church each Sunday, where he would hold my hymnal for me. That church introduced me to the hymn, leaving me with a vivid memory of him singing

He loved me ere I knew Him,
And all my love is due Him.

Why that became such a vivid memory escapes me.

At the end of sophomore year, the Lord worked circumstances in such a way that I joined a different church. In so doing, I naturally lost touch with Gary and his wife. School and church kept me busy, while they were building a family and serving in their church. But every now and again, especially when I'd hear that song,  I'd think of Gary singing, and  of their kindness to me.

A few days ago, a mutual friend told me that Gary, after suffering a heart attack, had gone to sing his song of victory in heaven. I thought it fitting, therefore, to share "Victory In Jesus" as this week's song of praise.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

So Far Away From Musty Theologians

God's holiness, despite our assumption that it's a dry and pedantic doctrine best left in the musty libraries of equally musty theologians, gives Christians the starting point for understanding our relationship to Him. Of course He has many other attributes, all of which should draw us into worship and adoration. Indeed, each attribute deserves careful consideration. But His holiness, rightly understood from prayerfully examining Scripture, establishes the most fundamental reason that we need salvation.

Far from a mere academic discussion, the eternal destiny of every human being hinges on our response to  His holiness. Do we believe we can match it with our own good deeds, spiritual practices or obedience to self-selected Scriptures? I'll admit that, for far too many years, I fell into that trap. But such self-righteousness actually eclipses the true holiness of the Lord with an imaginary "holiness" of our own.

In our imaginary holiness, we can't recognize our desperate need for Jesus. In fact, one of His parables illustrates this very point:
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” ~~Luke 18:9-14 (ESV)

The Pharisee saw God in light of himself. Regarding himself as holy, based on works that he performed, he believed God was indebted to him. He did not approach the Lord with a sense of reverence. Rather than bowing before God, he demanded that God shower him with admiration. In so doing, he denigrated God's holiness.

Conversely, the tax collector saw himself in light of God's holiness. And the realization of how unholy he was left him no option but to cry out for mercy.

Musty theology doesn't cry out from the depth of the soul when it comes face-to-face with the Holy God of creation. But applied doctrine does. And the soul that glimpses God's holiness in a way that produces humility will find a compassionate Savior Who paid the penalty for sin with His own shed blood. What a life-transforming experience!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Beyond Sunday School Definitiions

When most of us try to think about God's holiness, we fumble our words. In some respects, we intellectually understand that He is thoroughly pure, untouched by any  sort of corruption or evil, with no desire to sin. But we don't really understand, do we?

We use our memorized Sunday School definitions of holiness, all the while mentally struggling to imagine a being that perfect. Such purity boggles our minds, especially if we realize that it's not the cloying purity of virginal heroines in badly written  melodramas. God's holiness, far from being so insipid, drives Christians to worship Him in awe and wonder! When we fail to so regard Him (as we do most of the time), our memorized Sunday School definitions satisfy us while buffering us from the most troubling aspect of His holiness.

If He is holy, we are not.

And yet, Jesus confers His holiness on those who belong to Him, outrageously declaring us to be holy even as He's in the beginning stages of working His holiness into us. He certainly sees our tendencies to revive our old sin natures--He's neither blind nor ignorant! Yet His Holy Spirit graciously disturbs us when we turn towards sin, reminding us that a) He lives within us and b) He will not co-exist with such contamination. If we genuinely belong to Christ, our dalliances with sin will bother us tremendously with the gruesome  horror of having offended and dishonored Him. His holiness transferred to us blesses us with an increasing animosity toward sin.

As the Lord allows us to participate in His holiness, He gives us glimpses of that holiness. In these fleeting glimpses, we see no room for self-congratulation, but rather we feel greater awe of Him. Accordingly, we bow before Him in worship.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Filling Empty White Boxes

About this time each day, my cursor blinks impatiently in this empty white rectangle. It demands that I fill the rectangle with words and graphics that inform, inspire or entertain those who (for whatever reason) open my blog on any given day. Often, I begin typing with a plan, knowing what I want to communicate and why.

Today isn't one of those days. I  haven't got the foggiest idea of what I want to write about, despite having spent the last hour reading other blogs with the singular objective of finding an idea that would ignite my brain. I did learn a lot during my time reading Scripture this morning, but I'm still processing the ways God wants me to apply the lessons He taught me. Do I really want to pass those lessons along before I've implemented them in my own life, thereby demonstrating the same hypocrisy that the Pharisees of Jesus' day demonstrated? Um, no.

I do, however, know why I choose to fill this little white rectangle today. You, dear reader, give me reason. Although today I have little to say, tomorrow I may have something  to say that you very much need to read. If not tomorrow,  perhaps Saturday. Or next  Thursday. Or Thursday, February 13. But I post almost daily to keep you reading, so that when I finally write the post that you need to read, I won't be out of practice...and you won't be out of the habit of coming to my blog.

Certainly, I may not blog every day. This winter, after all will eventually ease up, allowing me and John to resume our Boston Adventures (at least to see his various doctors). And even before then, various visitors and circumstances  may crowd my schedule. And yes, there will  be those rare days that, after staring at the blinking cursor for a while, I'll close Blogger with a whimper of defeat, unable to concoct anything worth reading.

But for the most part,  God willing, you'll find me blogging almost daily, as I  have for several years. In that consistency (on both our parts), you'll occasionally come across something that the Lord will use to instruct, inspire or entertain you.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Lost American Lives

41 years ago, nine men in black robes sentenced countless Americans to die before those Americans were even born. Over those 41 years, science has increasingly affirmed that a fetus is, in fact, a rapidly developing human  being, even from the point of conception.

Roe v. Wade, in emphasizing the so-called "rights" of woman, snatched away the right to life that the writers of the Declaration of Independence deemed to be inalienable. Having two friends who survived attempted abortions (one of whom having been conceived as a result of rape), I know that children of unplanned pregnancies can live happy, meaningful lives. In fact, both of my friends strongly oppose abortion. They'll eagerly tell you of their gratitude that they made it to birth.

The Supreme Court, on January 22, 1973. made sure that multitudes of people wouldn't enjoy life as my two friends do. And despite mounting scientific evidence that fetuses are actual human beings, I'm losing hope for a reversal of this ghoulish decision. Please, let my despair be wrong!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Praise Jesus For Brutal Words

In May of 2012, a gastrointestinal surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital told us that, unless he performed surgery to remove cancer from John's colon, my husband would die in a matter of weeks. Two months earlier, the same doctor told him he had the cancer.

I obviously didn't like his diagnosis, and feared that (because of John's Post-Polio) the operation would actually hasten John's death. But thankfully, John trusted the many people who assured us that he had one of the best surgeons in the country, and based on their testimonials he trusted the surgeon.

John is alive today because he believed the bad news that he would die without surgery. The bad news caused anguish that I can't begin to describe, and I wanted more than anything to deny its truth and behave as if nothing had happened. Yet, accepting the bad news eventually led to the inexpressibly wonderful news that I'd have more time with my marvelous husband. Looking back, I'm very grateful for the surgeon's brutal words.

I'm even more grateful that Jesus spoke brutal words about human depravity, declaring that I could only escape eternal damnation by repenting of my sin and trusting that He alone would secure my entrance into His Father's holy presence. I didn't enjoy opening the Bible only to have it expose my selfish heart. But I needed to be confronted with the truth of my spiritual cancer.

On January 20, 1971, the Holy Spirit used a high school classmate to tell me that Jesus died to pay for my sins. I'd wanted, mind you, her to add that He therefore provided salvation for all people, whether or not they followed Him...but she insisted on telling me the truth that salvation comes exclusively to those who believe in Jesus.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ~~John 3:16 (ESV))

The "bad news" of such a narrow way of salvation came as gloriously good news to me! It offered me the eternal life that my inherent sin nature would have denied me. The Gospel came as good news precisely because the Holy Spirit had first graciously spoken the bad news of my spiritual cancer and my need for the Great Physician to take radical measures. I'm eternally grateful for the Savior's grace to speak brutal words.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

His Mighty, Loving Power

In the book of Job, God ultimately confronts Job with a lengthy discourse on His sovereignty as the Creator of the universe. Because of His power, He reminds Job that He owes no one an explanation for whatever decrees He makes.

It's right and proper to be humbled, as Job was, by God's power. But those who belong to the Lord may also draw comfort from His power, being assured that He tenderly couples His power with a commitment to lovingly care for us. This majestic hymn by Isaac Watts leads me to worship the Lord for both His magnificent power and His trustworthy love.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

It's How I Made It Seem

Who doesn't like to feel special? Those instances in which I believed God spoke to me personally certainly made me feel that I'd achieved some level  of spiritual status, and sharing accounts of those experiences allowed me to enjoy the admiration of  friends who interpreted my narratives as indications of my "Christian maturity."

If anything, those experiences demonstrated an immaturity, as I very subtly crafted my  language to appear to glorify the  Lord while pointing to myself. Rarely did my "revelations" focus on the Person and work of  Jesus Christ. They almost always were about what I could do for Him, or how He had blessed me.

The last "word" I "got" had nothing at all to do with  Jesus; it was merely a realization that someone I considered irritating had more profound physical disabilities than mine, therefore invalidating my self-pity. Although the Lord, I'm sure, brought me to that realization, He did so by giving me the ability to reason that a quadriplegic man who was also blind and non-verbal couldn't enjoy a sunset, sing in church or know the pleasures of relationships.

Before I'd become a Christian, I'd had a similar realization that a classmate who had become disabled as a teen held more bitterness than those of us who had never walked because she, unlike us, had memories of life without disability. Yet, I've never couched my retelling of that realization in terms of the Lord directly speaking to me. Since this revelation occurred five or six years before I became a Christian, I never considered it to be any message from God. Insightful for a pre-teen, definitely. But hardly a story I've ever recounted as evidence of the Lord speaking personally to me, as I did whenever I spoke about the blind, non-verbal quadriplegic man.

When I understood the contrast between me and the quadriplegic, I had much to gain by spinning it in terms of hearing from God. At the time, I worked in Christian ministry, yet had a  sexual relationship with a man who wasn't a genuine Christian. I needed clear evidence that my spirituality had not waned, so convincing myself that God had spoken to me offered my assurance that I still had my high position with Him. I needed a "spiritual experience" to validate me.

But God was speaking to me in Scripture, calling me to repent of immorality. I chose not to hear His voice there. I preferred a more mystical encounter with Him that distracted me from the real issue and bolstered my reputation as a spiritual giant. Who wouldn't want an experience  like that?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Her Hair Is Becoming

My digital watercolor lay neglected for a while, but today I picked it up again. As a result, I got so involved in painting that I used up all my blogging time. But I'm glad to have her base hair color filled in, and now I can start planning hair and face highlights.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why Christians Need To Be Shameful

Shame on Christians who talk about human depravity, saying that God is wrathful and will send people to hell unless they place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Well, yes...the Bible teaches as much, but no one enjoys hearing it. Shouldn't we make the Gospel attractive by living such godly lives that people will see a difference in us and beat a path to our door asking us what they must do to be saved? After all, we attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Actually, Scripture acknowledges that the "silent witness" approach has its place, but it's in the context of a Christian woman submitting to her unbelieving husband.

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. ~~1 Peter 3:1-6 (ESV)

Somehow, I rather doubt the young woman in the following video had such self-sacrificial behavior in mind when she reproved the street evangelist for proclaiming that humanity is fallen and desperately needs a Savior. Sweet, non-confrontational evangelism keeps us comfortable, I'll agree. But who can understand the good news of Jesus atoning for his or her sin until he or she recognizes that every human being desperately needs salvation? In fact, Jesus showed people that they were hopelessly locked in sin, just because they belonged to the human race. His sermons  required people to see the filth in their hearts so they they would understand their need for His  mercy.

And His mercy soothes my heart precisely because He's allowed me to see how thoroughly  wicked I am apart from Him. I see His kindness in accepting God's wrath as He hung on the cross shedding His innocent blood to pay the penalty for my sin. He even declares  me to be righteous on account of His death on the cross!

Without a truthful view of how wretched I am apart from Jesus, how could I begin to appreciate the wonderful grace He gives? And how could anyone else appreciate His mercy toward him or her? Proclaiming the bad news of human depravity hurts both the listener and the person delivering the bad news. But unless people hear it, the Gospel really isn't Good News.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Lessons From a Turkey Reuben

When you've eaten too much at a restaurant, hot flashes can be dastardly. You may be wondering why I brought this up. Then again, if you look at the size of this blog post, you may be able to discern why I brought this up.

Tomorrow I should feel much better, and will resume my usual routine of blogging. But for now, I think I'd better sip my ginger ale and  thank John for typing this post on my behalf.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Boast Of Fraulein Maria

John gave me the two-disk Blu-ray edition of  The Sound of Music for Christmas. It's bubbling over with so many special features that we decided (after a week of watching them) to save the rest for another time. That decision came because an "absurd little bird" had migrated from the von  Trapp nursery to my brain, and kept "popping out to say cuckoo."

I love the gazebo scene when Captain von Trapp and Maria confess their mutual love. Obviously, I'm a hopeless romantic!  But lately the lyrics to the song, "I Must've Done Something Good," have been making  me think

Yes, it's a beautiful song, as nearly all Rodgers and Hammerstein songs are. But the basic premise implies that our good deeds merit God's blessing. Despite her wayward past, Maria interprets the Captain's love as evidence that she has done something (although she  can't imagine what) to merit his love.

Granted, Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the piece as a secular song, not as Christian theology, and I appreciate it in its own context. I just find it interesting, and perhaps sad, at how accurately it portrays human eagerness to believe we can  do anything to deserve God's favor.

I like to think I  can, by being obedient to the Lord, obligate Him to answer my prayers according to my specifications. And I can recall at least one instance when I actually said out loud that God had given me a certain item because of   my faithfulness to Him. But such ideas fly in the face of grace, presupposing that He could somehow be indebted to me.

"Nothing comes from nothing," I used to sing with Maria, assured that any good thing God did for me derived from my worthiness. I'd lost sight of how completely unworthy I am. Grace bypasses my unworthiness,  magnifying the Father's inexplicable generosity. Rather than say, with false humility, that I  must have done something to deserve a gift from Him, I've learned to praise Him for His goodness.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. ~~James 1:16-18 (ESV)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Misdirected Beliefs

She said. "I don't need to run around telling people that I love Jesus in order to be a Christian." In one sense, she spoke correctly, since no one earns salvation by performing works. But she meant that she resented my judgment that she needed salvation.

Of course, she later said there was really nothing to be saved from, since hell didn't really exist. For that matter, she believed the concept of heaven served only as a way of comforting people (and primarily small children) when a loved one dies. Even now, although she acknowledges that God exists, she tells me that there's nothing after death. A person simply ceases.

Further, she wishes her daughter would embrace some sort of religion...just because everybody should believe in something. She doesn't care whether her daughter chooses Christianity, Buddhism, Islam or Hinduism, but it would certainly be nice if her daughter had the moral compass that comes with religion.

Not that religion should be taken too seriously, she adds. Many mentally ill people are religious fanatics, so it's important to have faith in moderation rather than allow it to envelop every facet of life. One needs other interests in order to maintain a well-rounded personality.

Additionally, she reminds me that, although the Bible is definitely important for understanding Western Culture (and particularly literature), it really mustn't be considered as God's Word. Many of Jesus' remarks about heaven, hell, demons and Satan accommodated First Century superstitions, but modern people are more enlightened. The King James Version gives us marvelous poetry and wonderful moral teaching,  but mere men wrote it. And there's no one correct interpretation.

This woman is dear to me, and I pray daily for the Holy Spirit to slice through all her deception with His truth. My witness to her over the years has been enormously flawed, but I've told her the truth. Now I wait, praying for the Lord to open  her eyes to His truth.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Boasting In His Death

Understanding that Christ went to the cross to bear the punishment for my sin offered me indescribable relief from the anguish of knowing that I'd fallen short of His standards. I longed to spend eternity with Him, but Matthew 5:8 taught me that only the pure in heart would see Him. And "pure in heart" hardly described my fantasy-life as a 17-year-old girl who had designs on a sailor about to be shipped off to Vietnam!

The news that Christ's blood paid the unpayable price for my lust, greed and selfishness liberated me from the guilt of my secret desires. Immediately, I wanted to express my gratitude to the Lord by living for Him!

A year later, as part of a group that visited nursing homes to minister to the elderly through music, I learned a hymn that captured my sense of thankfulness to the Lord. He had suffered the death that I deserved to die. Whenever I thought about the cross, I realized all over again that, although I could never begin to repay my debt to Jesus, I needed to give Him everything. The hymn, When I Survey The Wondrous Cross, put my testimony to music

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Richer Than A Cannoli

A few days after my 60th birthday (which John and I had been celebrating for two weeks with cheesecake, quesadellas, birthday cake, pizzas and my beloved cannolis), my doctor took a routine blood test. A week later, she sent me a letter saying I tested too high for fat intake, which indicated possible issues with my gallbladder. She asked me to reduce the amount of fatty foods in my diet.

Grudgingly, I've complied, only allowing myself occasional treats in limited quantities.

This morning, I thought about  my dietary restrictions as I read the first seven verses of Ephesians 1, realizing the incredible richness packed into many of the phrases. Verses 3-7, in particular, brimmed with ideas that begged for slow,  careful digestion.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, (ESV)

Think about, for instance, the Father blessing us with every spiritual blessing. Not a smattering of blessings here and there, but every single spiritual blessing He has to  bestow! And notice, these aren't the temporal blessings that will fade as we tear pages from our calendars, but spiritual blessings that we will enjoy throughout eternity!

Paul continues by naming one astounding blessing: God chose us before He even created the world! He decided who He would bring to Himself! I could get several blog posts out of that point alone,  but reading further captures my attention as Paul writes that the Lord chose us to be 1) blameless and 2) holy...which means separated from the world to belong to Him. And,  as I'm still trying to ruminate on  being separated to the Lord, Paul adds that God adopts us as His children  for His purposes.

So by verse 7, I started chewing on the wonder of being redeemed through His blood, but realized I  needed  to stop and digest everything I'd just read. Even  now, I see things in these four  verses that I missed this morning, adding to this passage's already meaty richness. After going through this short group of verses, I feel well-fed! Who needs a cannoli when she can sink her teeth into Ephesians?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I Should (Not) Be Ashamed

Romans 1:16 presents a  challenge to me when I experience the temptation to water-down the  Gospel message...or worse, tempted to avoid telling people about Jesus at all. The apostle Paul suffered far greater persecution for proclaiming the Gospel I probably ever will (though with the increasing hostility toward Christians even in the United States, one never knows), yet he made no apology for preaching the Good News.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. ~~Romans 1:16 (ESV)

If the Gospel is indeed  "good news" (which is, in fact, the very meaning of the word "gospel"), why on earth would Paul mention the possibility of shame connected with it? And why am I often tempted to downplay it? Why do so  many people work so tirelessly to eradicate Christianity from public discourse? Isn't Good News always a joy to give and to receive?

Well, not this good news. This Gospel that Jesus died for our sin presupposes that humans are sinners in need of saving. Therefore, people cannot accept the good news of salvation until they first accept the bad news that we are inherently sinners with absolutely no potential of commending ourselves to a holy and just God. Who wants to confront their loved ones with the fact that they stand condemned before God, destined for eternity in hell unless they trust the shed blood of Jesus Christ as their sole claim to righteousness?

Telling people the bad news in order to offer them the Gospel places us in a position of being vilified and rejected. Consequently, we do (God help us) feel shame when we make efforts to proclaim the Gospel. Our non-Christian family and friends actively shame us by calling us intolerant, fanatical and brainwashed. I've been told to my face on several occasions that my faith has filled me with hatred, that it makes me a bigot and that I have no sense of fun. Few Christians enjoy receiving such harsh accusations, particularly when we're trying to direct people to the only Person Who has the power to save them.

But His power, demonstrated in the Gospel of His resurrection, keeps me from succumbing to shame. Jesus alone offers freedom from the death sentence that engulfs mankind. He frees us, by the power of His Holy Spirit, from our slavery to sin, graciously enabling us to repent and live lives for the purpose of pleasing Him. So, even though friends and family sometimes try to shame me into being silent about the Gospel, I consider it an honor to tell people that the Savior died for them and rose three days later to give them new life.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Liebster Award: The Things That Come Out Of My Head

Let me begin by thanking Nan at Cityfolk Farmers for nominating my little purple blog for the Liebster Award. If you haven't read her blog before now, please go to to enjoy the adventures of an almost-retirement age couple as they adapt to life on their newly-acquired farm in Northern California.

The rules for the Liebster Award are as follows:

The Liebster award is intended for small blogs with less than 200 followers. Here are the rules:
  1. Link back to the blogger who nominated you
  2. Answer the 11 questions given to you by the blogger who nominated you
  3. Nominate 3-11 other bloggers with less than 200 followers
  4. Go to the blogs you nominated and notify them of your nomination
  5. Give your nominees 11 questions to answer.
My Answers

1. How long have you been publishing on the web?
Since 2005. For a year, I had a small blog on MSN (which few people read). When it crashed, I started this one, originally called "Joyfully Christian Lady's Museum."

 2. What are you most known for?
That probably depends on who you ask. I'd like to think I'm most known as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Or even better, that my writing makes Him known.

 3. A favorite memory.
Visiting Oxford in 1985, and  knowing the Lord had fulfilled an impossible dream of mine.

 4. If you could be anywhere right now, where would it be?
In heaven with the Lord. I look forward to freedom from my sin nature, which hinders me from worshiping Him as wholeheartedly as He deserves to be worshiped. Also, I look forward to seeing His face!

 5.  Biggest influence in your life.
The Lord. His Scriptures shape my worldview, helping me look at life through His perspective.

 6. One lasting change you would make in the world.
Firstly, it's highly presumptuous to think any human being could change the world. Scripture says "All flesh is grass." We  quickly  fade. But God's Word abides forever, and through His Word, the Holy Spirit changes lives. I pray that He'll use me to share His Word.

 7. Favorite food you would eat every day if you could.

 8. Biggest achievement (so far):
I'd love pointing to my "achievements," but I'm beginning to realize that they mean nothing compared to what Jesus has done in dying for my sin and rising again to assure me of eternal life. I'd rather boast in His achievements than my own!

 9. Number of cities you have lived.

 10. Age of your oldest friendship.
Now that Adrienne's deceased, I'm not sure. That friendship was 51 years at the time of her passing. I guess my oldest friendship now is with Barbara--54 years.

 11. Biggest dream.
The Lord's return and eternity with Him!

My Questions

1. Why do you blog?

2. The thing you most hope for.

3. Favorite place.

4. PC or Mac?

5. What legacy do you hope to leave?

6. When are you the happiest?

7. How does a person get to heaven?

8. Describe your favorite teacher.

9. Philosophy on life.

10. Funniest experience in 2013.

11. Best advice you could offer someone.

My Nominees 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Don't Let Me Miss The Point

Just what doctrines constitute Biblical theology, anyway? Instead of "calling out" "false teachings," why don't I lay out what "sound doctrine" really is?

Those questions deserve thoughtful answers, and many of my posts in 2014 will examine the principle doctrines of the Bible. I pray for the grace to write these posts without drifting over the line of legitimate ministry for a woman. Because I write rather than speak, I have no ability to limit my audience to women, and therefore I walk a fine line in addressing spiritual matters.

On the other hand, my concern that 21st Century evangelicals avoid all the errors infecting the visible Church grows stronger each day, and I know Scripture provides the best refutation of these errors.

Pray for me, please, that my attempts to honor the Lord will not ultimately dishonor Him. After all, obedience to God's Word is the very point of understanding its doctrines!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Story I Tell

Let me take a quick break from writing Thank You notes for Christmas gifts (yes, I know I'm late again) to share a hymn that I've always loved. Although I fail in my attempts to share the  Gospel, I still love trying to communicate it though my writing. I love letting people know that Jesus died for their sin, and rose again so that those who place their faith in Him and repent of their sin will live eternally with Him. So, despite its lack of theological content, this wonderful old hymn expresses my heart.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Legend Made From Mere Words

T.H. White's novel, The Once and Future  King offers a version of the King Arthur legend in 20th Century language. Used as the basis for Lerner and Lowe's musical, Camelot (both a Broadway play and a motion picture), it leads the reader back to the pageantry and romance of medieval England, weaving together grand themes of democracy and loyalty with the  comedy of King  Pellinore and Merlin.

The story itself captives me, as Arthur builds his kingdom on the premise that might, instead of determining right, should be used only to defend what is right. His utopia crumbles under the weight of Queen  Guinevere's adulterous relationship with Sir Lancelot. White forces his readers to think beyond the tale, though the story cleverly disguises its intellectual demands behind its rich and satisfying entertainment.

For me, the book's greatest appeal emanates from White's command of the English language, which he uses to paint scenes so astonishingly vivid that I can practically feel their textures. My favorite passage (not just in this book, but in literature as a whole) comes from Wart's flight with the wild geese:

THE place in which he found himself was absolutely flat. In the human world we seldom see flatness, for the trees and houses and hedges give a serrated edge to the landscape. Even the grass sticks up with its myriad blades. But here, in the belly of the night, the illimitable, flat, wet mud was as featureless as a dark junket. If it had been wet sand, even, it would have had those little wave marks, like the palate of your mouth.

In this enormous flatness, there lived one element—the wind. For it was an element. It was a dimension, a power of darkness. In the human world, the wind comes from somewhere, and goes somewhere, and, as it goes, it passes through somewhere—through trees or streets or hedgerows. This wind came from nowhere. It was going through the flatness of nowhere, to no place. Horizontal, soundless except for a peculiar boom, tangible, infinite, the astounding dimensional weight of it streamed across the mud. You could have ruled it with a straight-edge. The titanic grey line of it was unwavering and solid. You could have hooked the crook of your umbrella over it, and it would have hung there.

Normally, I prefer reading dialogue to reading description (particularly the description of such desolate landscape), but White has seduced me into loving his depictions of Arthur's various surroundings. Every time I open this book, I find paragraphs that pull me into the castles, the forests and the villages of England in the Dark Ages, and all five of my senses believe that they actually participate in the experiences.

T.H. White gives me a model for my own writing. Of course I realize that words will never bow before me with the measure of obedience they give to him, but he inspires me to work toward taming them. And I cherish that inspiration.

Friday, January 3, 2014

When Job Confronts My Sin

Those of us who love God's Word know that it has the answers to every question that we genuinely need to ask. And I am not apologetic for trusting Scripture as my authority.

Funny how reading Scripture can actually challenge the way I use it in responding to people who are struggling with emotional pain. During the last couple of weeks, I've been reading the book of Job, and noticing his three friends as they try to "comfort" him. Most of what they say is very Scriptural...very sound in every aspect of doctrine. They comment on God's sovereignty and man's inability to understand His ways. They speak of man's depravity, challenging Job's pride as he shakes his fists defiantly at the Lord and demands justice. As I read their comments, acknowledging their accuracy, I find myself nodding in agreement, and think of the times I've offered similar counsel to friends who honestly express their pain and anguish.

As I read, I notice Job's reaction to this type of counsel. He agrees with their theology, knowing that God is indeed sovereign and just. But he lashes out at his friends. He sees that, amid their sterling theology, they demonstrate gross insensitivity to his agony. They have not lost all their children plus all their property plus their health! Their wives don't nag them to curse God and die! They find it easy to deliver doctrinally sound platitudes since tragedy hasn't touched any of them.

Reading Job humbles me. In Job's words of anguish, I find him speaking to me. Or, more accurately, I find the Holy Spirit convicting me of using Scripture as a billy club. Even though my doctrine may be technically correct, often my attitude is self-righteous and didactic. This reading of the Book of Job teaches me the importance of coupling sound doctrine with compassion and empathy, much as Jesus did in His interactions with sinners. Not that I have to compromise the truth of God. But His truth must be presented lovingly, and with empathy for the pain that others feel. May I learn this lesson well.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Liberal Pharisees

People in more theologically liberal churches often accuse conservative Christians of legalism. Sometimes, their accusations have merit, since a person may adopt outward indications of conservative theology without genuinely depending on the shed blood of Jesus Christ as their only claim to righteousness. In such cases, liberals justifiably use the tern "Pharisee" to describe the hypocrisy that some conservatives exhibit.

Indeed,  Jesus decried the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. He saw how they used their "expertise" in Scripture to gain political standing and ecclesiastical power rather than humbly obeying God's Word out of  love for Him. In fact, many of them actually subjugated the very Scriptures they  so adamantly professed to follow in favor of human practices that, despite their appearance of spirituality, had absolutely nothing to do with the Lord's teachings.

 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” ~~Matthew 15:1-9 (ESV)

Jesus never faulted the Pharisees' devotion to Scripture, but rather He condemned their hypocritical deviation from it. He wanted them to follow Scripture as God had intended, and He opposed their habits of cherry-picking and substitution. If  anything, Jesus pretty much exposed their liberal interpretation of God's commandments, particularly in the area of marriage:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” ~~Matthew 19:3-9 (ESV)

As I observe 21st Century liberal evangelicals, it certainly seems as if they take after the Pharisees much more than their conservative counterparts do. Like cagey lawyers, they scour the Bible in
search of loopholes, wrenching verses out of context, fiddling with Greek and Hebrew definitions and/or playing shell games with semantics. They seek to justify sexual sin, blend Christianity with other forms of spirituality or base salvation on human achievement, twisting Scripture until it accommodates their purposes.

Therefore, theological liberals may well deserve to be called legalistic Pharisees as much (if not more) than their conservative counterparts. Whenever either group adulterates God's Word with human philosophies, especially while professing allegiance to Scripture, they display the same hypocrisy that Jesus confronted among the Pharisees. We must all repent of self-righteousness, bowing before the Lord Who calls us righteous on the basis of what He did on the cross.


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