Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to all

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Is 9:6).

(me, my husband, and our oldest daughter who is now 23 years old)

Christmas 1989

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Raspberry Shortbread

This last recipe is my all-time favorite Christmas cookie recipe. These cookies will melt in your mouth.

1 c butter (no substitutes), softened
2/3 c sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 c flour
raspberry jam or preserves


1 c confectioner's sugar
2-3 tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in extract; gradually add flour until dough forms a ball. Roll into 1 inch balls and place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet. Use your thumb to make an indentation in the center. Fill with raspberry jam. Bake 350 degrees for 14-18 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool. Combine glaze ingredients; drizzle over cookies. Makes about 3 dozen.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bon bons

This next recipe is probably my youngest daughter's favorite. Last week she invited several girlfriends over for a Christmas cookie bake-off, and this recipe was considered the favorite by all the girls. Even one of her friend's father begs for them every year, promising to pay my daughter big bucks if she'll make up a batch for him. They taste similar to Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. So if you like those, I'm sure you'll love these!

1 1/2 c peanut butter, creamy or crunchy
1/2 c butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
16 oz confectionery sugar
12 oz bag chocolate chips, melted

Mix first 4 ingredients together well and refrigerate 1-2 hours. Melt the chocolate chips. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll into 1 inch balls. Using a toothpick as a handle, dip balls into melted chocolate. Put on wax-papered cookie sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Since this is the season to be baking all kinds of sweets, I thought I'd contribute to the vast Christmas cookie recipe exchanges going on right now by blogging about a few of my own favorites.

This first recipe only recently became a favorite. A good friend from church gave it to me just last week, and because it's so wonderful, it quickly jumped to the top of my list. It's incredibly easy, too.

1 c sugar
2 sticks butter (no substitutes)
3 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla
1 pkg Hershey bars (6 bars)
chopped pecans, almonds, or walnuts

Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan, cooking on medium high until candy thermometer reaches 300 degrees; about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour onto wax paper-lined cookie sheet and spread evenly with spatula. Lay chocolate bars on top, allow to melt, then spread to edges of candy mixture. Sprinkle with nuts. Put in freezer for 1-2 hours until hard. Break into pieces while still frozen and store in container. Can store at room temperature.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Hymn

Yesterday was a melancholy day. I always feel a little sad the day after our final church choir and orchestra Christmas concert. I suppose that's understandable. The concerts aren't ahead anymore; I'm no longer looking forward to them.

Every September we begin practicing the songs we will sing for these concerts. Week after week we pour over notes, words, timing, expression, etc... We even put in extra Saturday morning practices once a month. Yet somehow the concerts (there's four of them) still sneak up on me. And once we begin to sing/play the first song of the first concert, all four concerts are over in a flash. Rather reminds me of Thanksgiving dinner; we bake and prepare for days in advance, but once everyone sits down to eat, it's all gone in a moment.

So the Christmas concerts are over once more. They're done. I'm not quite as melancholy today. Today I'm reflecting on the music we sang. There was one song in particular, our closing song, that was my uncontested favorite. The words so well express what Christ has done for us and who we are in Him. Because of Christ, we ARE the sons of God on earth, His righteousness our worth. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift (2 Cor 9:15)!

Here it is:

Praise to God whose love was shown
Who sent his Son to earth
Jesus left his rightful throne
Became a man by birth

The virgin's baby son
All creation praised Him
God incarnate come
Come to Bethlehem

Still a higher call had He
Deliverance from our sins
Come to set all people free
From Satan's hold within

For by the sin of man we fell
By the Son of God
He crushed the power of Hell
Death we fear no more

Now we stand with strength, with power
The sons of God on earth
Faithful to the final hour
Christ's righteousness our worth

And now all praise is given
For the babe, the Son
The Savior King is risen
Christ is Lord indeed

For the babe, the Son
The Savior King is risen
Christ is Lord indeed

By Amy Grant/Michael W Smith

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Divine Communication - dreams

Clearly God used dreams to communicate with man all through the OT. He communicated information through dreams (Gen. 20:3; 31:10-13, 24; Num 12:5-6), sent Jacob the dream of the ascending and descending angels on the ladder (Gen. 28:10-15), and also gave King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon important dreams about the coming empires of human history. Daniel interpreted those dreams and the rest is—well, history (Dan 1:17; 2; 7).

But were all dreams communication from God? Ecclesiastes would indicate not - "For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words" (Eccl 5:3) and "For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness" (Eccl 5:7).

It is interesting to note that in the ancient near east, dreams were seen as very important to both Jew and Gentile alike. For example, in Egypt there was a class of professional dream interpreters whose job it was to explain people's dreams. A rather lengthy dream interpretation textbook from ancient Egypt has even been unearthed that lists various things dreamt and their appropriate meanings. The part of the Jewish Talmud written during the Babylonian captivity is also full of dream interpretations and ways of dealing with them. Is all this what Eccl 5:3, 7 is referring to?

We also see God communicating to man through dreams in the early part of the NT (Matt 1:20; 2:12-13, 19, 22). The last dream recorded in the Bible is found at the end of Matthew where Pilot’s wife warns him to leave Jesus alone:

While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, "Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him” (Matt 27:19).

Whether this was of God or her uneasy conscience is unclear.

Dreams are mentioned two more times in the NT (though not about specific dreams experienced); one is regarding a prophesy that included dreams (Acts 2:17), and the other speaks of false dreams (Jude 1:8). In all, dreams are spoken of about 121 times in the Bible.

I wasn't really sure what I'd find when I started researching this topic. But I must say I was quite surprised to find so many books and on-line sites devoted to the subject of dreams. I was equally surprised at how passionate people are about whether or not dreams can be communication from God today. I will discuss three of the main beliefs I came across, though there are many variations of these three beliefs as well.

First of all, some question whether dreams were ever communication from God. A couple of the authors I've read recently on the subject of dreams in ancient Babylon have concluded that since Babylonian tablets older than Biblical texts have been found, it is obvious that the Hebrews merely copied from the cultures around them, and that God didn’t really communicate through dreams at all — it was only in the Israelites’ heads. Interestingly, these authorities do see that the Israelites never needed interpreters to explain their dreams; the meaning was always obvious to them. And they (like Joseph and Daniel) even interpreted dreams for foreigners. But none of this is attributed to God either. Instead they credit the “undeniable religious genius of the Hebrews” that obviously included “a greater and more popular exercise of psychic qualities than characterized the other people of the Bible World." These same authorities also claim that since the Babylonians had creation and flood epic myths that preceded the writing of Genesis by about two to three thousand years, it is certain these were taken by the early Israelites while in Babylon as well. Why can’t these so-called intellectuals see that every society is descended from Noah and his three sons, and that all these “stories” came from them?! It goes without saying that those who hold this view do not believe God is communicating to any of us through dreams today.

A second opinion I came across is, that since God communicated through dreams in the past, there is no reason to think He is not still doing so today; especially since Peter’s quote of Joel 2:28 in Acts 2:17 indicates that the time when the Spirit is poured out has arrived. They are careful to say we need to be discerning in how we apply this truth today; that we must remember that the Bible is finished, having revealed everything we need to know from now until eternity. However, they still hold that any dream could be a communication from God, as long as the person having the dream is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and as long as the dream does not conflict with Scripture.

And finally, the third view is, that although God communicated through dreams in the Bible, He no longer does so today because the canon of Scripture is now complete, meaning God does not have further things to reveal to nations or individuals that are not in the Bible. They further believe that the Bible is all sufficient in directing us in finding and carrying out the will of God for our lives without the need of a dream, that it is our new nature which enables us to understand the things of God, and that the Holy Spirit is our guide.

So what do you think?

I would have to agree with the third view. I certainly cannot countenance the first one, for it puts no stock in the inerrancy or literal interpretation of Scripture. As for the second opinion and its reference to Acts 2:17 as proof text, it seems to me that if there is anything the Book of Acts makes perfectly clear, it is the fact that a revolutionary change has taken place since Pentecost. And rather than showing us an exact pattern to follow, I believe Acts explains the transitional years. Additionally, when reading Joel 2:28, it is clear that this prophecy belongs to the Hebrew people, and that it still awaits its full completion. With this in mind and the fact that the canon of Scripture is complete, I believe that all communication from God is only through the Bible. And while the Spirit may provide comfort during a frightening dream, I don't think He "creates" or "sends" dreams or communicates any information apart from Scripture the dreamer already knows.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Turning 50

Today I turned 50 years old. Quite a milestone, in a sense. I'm now eligible to become a member of AARP for one thing. Can't beat that with a stick. Ha! I think I'll pass. But I've been thinking, taking stock, of my life up to this point. I've now lived 50 years, but what have I done, what have I got to show for it?

I haven't risen to the top of my field. Oh wait, I don't have a field. So that may explain that one. I haven't accumulated millions, probably because I haven't risen to the top of my field. I've never been written up in the newspaper for any great acts of heroism or deeds of charity. I'm not even a prominent member of our church, a member yes (anybody can do that, though), but prominent, no.

Wait now, come the 29th of this month I'll be celebrating 30 years of marriage. But can I count that as any great accomplishment if I've been happily married all those years? What's the big deal if it hasn't been a struggle? I (we) have managed to raise one daughter to adulthood, and our second daughter is very close to adulthood now. That certainly wasn't (isn't) easy. So that's something.

Oh, I have done a few other things too, I guess. I've had the opportunity to do a lot of singing in church and on both the radio and TV. I've always been a trustworthy and hard worker, no matter what job I've held. And, I'm usually a good neighbor.

Probably the best that can be said about my life to date is that by the grace of God I've managed to live it fairly quietly, minding my own business, and working with my hands (1 Thes 4:11-12). That's not too bad, I guess. Actually, I think it's pretty okay.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

God's loving plan

Grace be to you and peace
Though days be dark about us.
God's working out His plan
All enemies regardless.
We know that Bethlehem's Babe
Once crucified, is risen
And seated now above,
At God's right hand in heaven.
And soon He'll come again
His loved ones to deliver.
We'll share His glory then
Forever and Forever.
So while we watch and wait
O, may His love constraining
Help us to live for Him
In all the hours remaining.

-- C.R.S.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Good fruit

When John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ appeared on earth, God's people had been under the law of Moses for fifteen hundred years. No wonder John and our Lord looked for fruit among them.

When the hypocritical religious leaders came to join John's growing audience and asked to be baptized, John called them a "brood of vipers" and told them to "bear fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matt 3:7-8).

The next verse (v 9) regarding "we have Abraham for our father", refers to the common teaching of that day that said Israel participated in the merits of Abraham, which made their prayers acceptable, helped in war, expiated sins, appeased the wrath of God, and assured a share in God's eternal kingdom. So the people were quite startled when John the Baptist (and later Jesus Christ) preached the necessity of personal repentance, with fruit to prove it; "baptizing them with water for repentance" (v 11). (Before John came on the scene, baptism was usual for Gentiles converting to Judaism, but to baptize Hebrews was unknown.) They should have, but didn't, understood that John fulfilled the OT prediction of a type of the coming "Elijah" before the Day of the Lord (Matt 11:13-14; Mal 4:5).

True fruit-producing repentance was the basic requirement of the kingdom. This is evident from John's declaration in verse 10: The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore, every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Christ Jesus also looked for fruit among His people (Matt 7:16-20; 21:33-43). We know, however, that John the Baptist was beheaded and Christ crucified. The fruit produced under the Law was meager indeed.

But what the Law requires, grace provides. The apostle Paul's "preaching of the cross" (1 Cor 1:18) tells us that Christ had not died an untimely death, but in infinite love had come into the world to die for us so that we might be saved by grace, through faith (Eph 2:8-9).

God's grace in Christ, when accepted in true faith, always produces good fruit. This is why Paul wrote to the Colossians that "the word of truth, the gospel" was going forth into all the world, adding: "it is bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in your also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth" (Col. 1:5-6 cf. Rom. 6: 21-22).

If we accept God's message of grace, trust in Christ as our Savior, and allow the Holy Spirit (1 Thes 5:19) to work within us, we will produce good fruit.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Musicians are a temperamental bunch and...ummmm...just a bit eccentric. Everybody says so. Just google "temperamental musicians" and you'll find plenty of talk on the subject. Even my close friend — whose father was a professional musician and whose daughter is currently auditioning for various orchestras across the country — when telling me of some musician's recent antic, will often finish with, "But that's musicians for you." There doesn't seem to be any doubt about it; they're an emotional lot. And Berlioz was no exception.

Hector Berlioz (pronounced "BARE-lee-O's") (1803-1869), born near Grenoble France to a well-educated family, was actually slated to be a physician. His father, a physician, wanted Hector to follow in his footsteps. However, once Berlioz got to Paris to study medicine, he decided to dump the medical world for music. What changed his mind? The lure of music itself? Perhaps. Or maybe it was having to dissect a corpse. He is quoted as saying the following:

"When I walked into that horrifying house of human remains, littered with pieces of limbs (quite the alliteration...) , and saw the terrible faces and heads cut off at the neck, the bloody cesspool where we were standing, with its horrible stench, the flock of sparrows fighting each other for scraps, and the rats in the corners gnawing on bleeding vertebrae, such a feeling of terror seized me that I jumped out of the window and sprinted home as if Death and all his evil entourage were behind me."

Anyway, he didn't seem to take to it. So off he went to the Paris Conservatory to study with Luigi Cherubini, a very strict Italian composer. But he hated everything Cherubini stood for. Berlioz wanted to create a new kind of music and couldn't stand the narrow views of those who didn't understand him, and that included Cherubini.

During Berlioz' career, every aspect of music went under his microscope — the rules of melody and harmony, the structure of a symphony, the number of players in an orchestra, etc... If Berlioz thought it helped him express himself, he kept it. If not, he threw it out.

At 27 years of age, Berlioz won the Prix de Rome, a composers' scholarship that gives the recipient four years, all expenses paid, in Rome. He didn't get much musical composition done there, though. He was too wrapped up in exploring the city itself.

Another reason may have been his infatuation with a young woman back in Paris named Camille. When, after four months in Rome, Berlioz heard she had a new boyfriend, he went into a jealous rage, and decided to murder the new boyfriend. So, he bought a gun, dressed up as a woman (Huh???), and took a train back to Paris. By the time the train reached Nice, Italy, I guess he decided that killing the guy was a bit too melodramatic, so he threw himself into the Mediterranean instead.

His suicide attempt was unsuccessful, however. He got fished out. But this was only one example of his emotions spiraling out of the control.

Another time, while watching a performance of Romeo and Juliet in English, he fell madly in love with the actress playing Juliet. (Not terribly subtle, this guy.) The problem is Harriet Smithson didn't speak a word of French. But the language barrier didn't seem to bother Berlioz. He sent flowers, gifts and love notes; he traveled to where she was, hoping to bump into her, but all he succeeded in doing was scaring her to death.

His obsession with Harriet did help him to write a strange, five-movement symphony called the Symphonie fantastique, though. It's based on a story he made up about a young artist who's madly in love with an unresponsive woman. (Surprise! Surprise!) Berlioz wrote a musical theme to represent this obsession and called it an idee fixe ("fixed idea"). This melody appears in various guises throughout the symphony, providing a bit of unity to the work. The Symphonie fantastique was so different from anything that had come before it, however, that Berlioz had to write notes to the conductor, such as: "This is not a clerical error. It's supposed to sound like this. Please don't 'correct' the notes."

Anyway, for Berlioz, the Symphonie fantastique was successful because it actually worked. Harriet Smithson showed up at the premiere performance and loved it. And after the concert they met, dated, and, got married.

Because of the language barrier, it didn't last, though. Even after several years of marriage, Harriet still didn't speak any French, and Berlioz never did learn English.

See what I mean? Eccentric. But I guess that's musicians for you.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Always be thankful

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
(Col 3:14-15)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Church hopping

After being marooned on a desert island for nearly 30 years, a man is finally rescued by the pilot of a small plane who happens to be flying overhead.

Upon landing, the man and pilot get to talking.

After a while the the pilot looks around asks, "So you've been here for 30 years, then?"

"Yes." replies the man.

"All alone?" asks the pilot.

"Yes." replies the man.

"Then why are there three huts over there?" asks the pilot.

"Well, the one in the middle is my home, and the one on the left is where I attend church."

"What about the hut on the right?" the pilot asks.

"Oh", says the man, "that's where I used to attend church."

Thursday, November 19, 2009


What is the definition of the word "repent?"

Many think "repent" means "to turn from sin"; but this is not strictly true. It's certainly a result of sincere, faith-based repentance, but it is not the definition of "repent." In other words, stopping bad behavior and beginning good behavior is the evidence that we have repented.

But maybe it's as important to know what repentance isn't as it is to know what it is:

Repentance isn't cleaning up our act in order to be worthy of Jesus Christ (Eph 2:4-6).

Repentance isn't promising God we'll never sin again. God doesn't ask us to do things that are impossible. Paul faced the issue of his sin in Romans 7:14-24, but his response in the next chapter isn't a promise not to sin. It's I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord ... (Rom 7:25). There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus ... (Rom 8:1).

And, repentance isn't a work necessary for salvation (Rom 4:5; Titus 3:5). We do have to trust, and that's our decision, but our ability to trust comes from God (Eph 2:8).

So, what does "repent" mean, then?

The Greek word metanoeo, translated "repent" or "repentance", means lit., to perceive afterwards (meta, after, implying change, noeo, to perceive; nous, the mind, the seat of moral reflection); therefore, it means "to think differently," or "to change one's mind."

In the NT repentance always (except in Lk 17:3-4) involves "thinking differently" or "change of mind" in reference to sin.

In the OT, however, repentance in reference to sin is not so prominent. Usually it refers to a change of mind, out of pity for those who had been affected by one's action, or in whom the results of the action had not fulfilled expectations. And this repentance is attributed both to God and to man (Gen 6:6; Ex 32:14).

In fact, the requirement John the Baptist proclaimed in the NT, that the people had to repent in order for the kingdom to be established, was completely new and became a stumbling block to them — they beheaded John and crucified Christ.

Therefore, to exhort people today to repent only shows we have failed to learn the lesson that God has demonstrated historically; that when given laws to keep we only break them, and when told to repent we only become angry. Only the goodness of God leads to repentance (Rom 2:4). People will think differently or change their mind about their sin, not because we tell them to, but because we preach the glory of Christ’s finished work and God’s love and grace, and the Holy Spirit opens their eyes to see it and their hearts to receive it.

So what is the connection between repentance and salvation, then? Obviously, a change of mind has to take place when we trust Christ. We have to believe that our sin has condemned us to hell and that we are incapable of doing anything about it on our own. We have to come to realize that faith in His death and resurrection is the only way we can be reconciled to God. We have to think differently about sin and ourselves and God because we are making the decision to stop trusting in ourselves or other things to save us and to trust in Him instead.

We have no power over sin before we make this decision, so we can’t stop sinning in order to be saved. But we do need to recognize that we’re sinners in need of a Savior.

Even after we trust Christ, we still live in sinful bodies in a sinful world, so we can't determine not to sin anymore. But, we do learn to lean on the Holy Spirit so sin no longer has dominion over us and the different thinking becomes easier. Every time we make the decision to follow God's will instead of our own, we are "thinking differently."

That's what it means to "repent."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Don't Look at Me

Don't look at me if you're looking for perfection
Don't look at me I will only let you down
I'll do my best to point you in the right direction
But don't look at me
No, no, no
Don't look at me, look at Him

Sometimes I have a fear
That you will see a mirror
And get the thought that it's the main attraction
But all that you detect
Is just what I reflect
Of the object of my own affection

I'll lead you to the One I found
He'll give you everything you need

Don't look at me if you're looking for perfection
Don't look at me I will only let you down
I'll do my best to point you in the right direction
But don't look at me
No, no, no
Don't look at me, look at Him

It's understandable to want a hero
But people can't meet all your expectations
Still some can teach you things about the love He brings
Just know the source of life is in the Savior

I'll lead you to the One I found
He'll give you everything you need

Don't look at me if you're looking for perfection
Don't look at me I will only let you down
I'll do my best to point you in the right direction
But don't look at me
No,no, no
Don't look at me, look at Him

He's the One who lived a perfect life
He's the One who always gets it right
He's the One and only guiding light
He is everything you want to be
He's the answer to your every need
If you follow Him then you will see He's like no other

I'll do my best to point you in the right direction
But don't look at me
No, no, no
Don't look at me
Oh, don't look at me
I'll only let you down
I'll do my best to point you in the right direction
Don't look at me
Look at Him!

by Stacie Orrico

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mary and Martha (Lk 10:38-42)

What place should the Word of God have in the life of the believer? I believe it should be first and foremost above everything else.

Certainly the record of Jesus' visit with Mary and Martha shows us this. Commentaries on this passage generally point out that Mary and Martha both had their good points, and this is true. But our Lord did not point out Mary and Martha's good points; rather, He reproved Martha and commended Mary regarding one thing in particular.

What was that one thing? So many times I have heard this portrayed as an example to us to spend more time in prayer, but I don't think that is the main point of this passage because Mary was not praying — she was sitting at Jesus' feet listening to what He said. Mary had chosen what was better and Jesus said it would not be taken away from her (v 42).

Therefore, while prayer, testimony, and good works are certainly important in our lives, hearing God's Word is the most important. In fact, if we are in the Word, all the rest will follow naturally. We must study Scripture prayerfully and with an open heart, however, or we will read into it our own prejudices, seeing what we want to see. And this of course emphasizes yet again the importance of "accurately handling the Word of God."

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the Word of God (2 Tim 2:15).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sick cell

Cell phones are nice. They're not great, but they're nice. And I'm starting to think it may be time for me to buy a new one. Not that I really want to, mind you. My phone is in great shape! It's just that the battery only keeps a charge for about 1/2 hour now.The last time I replaced my cell phone, I really didn't want to either. But I had to, if I wanted a cell phone at all.

You see, I had a perfectly good old cell phone. Worked great, except the battery would no longer hold a charge. Solution? Go to the store and buy a new battery, right?! Not so easy. I tried to explain to the guy that my phone was in great shape. Sure it was three times bigger than any other cell phones I had seen lately, but who cares about that?! It still worked great. So I asked if he could please show me where the batteries were for this type of phone. Well, he was quiet for a moment and then said, "Ummm ma'am, your phone is considerably out of date and we haven't carried batteries for that type of phone for quite some time..."...and something else about analog versus something else...oh, I don't know... Anyway, so I had to buy a new phone.

I had decided to try a different phone plan at that time, too. It wasn't a hard choice for me to make. I knew I didn't need one of those big unlimited plans because I rarely use my cell phone. Not much of a talker, you know. But it is nice to have one in case of an emergency, and it has proven convenient at times. So, I chose the absolute cheapest plan — $15.98 a month — and it's been fine...really!...I guess. The only thing is, they've been rolling over all my unused minutes ever since and my total keeps growing and growing. In fact, today when I used my phone, that little voice that comes on every time I make a call reminded me that I only had 22 hours and 21 minutes to complete my call. What am I supposed to do with all that time?!!

Anyway, so now it seems I need to buy another phone because my "new" phone's battery is only holding a charge for about 1/2 hour. (You don't suppose they're still making batteries for my "new" phone, do you?) And just like last time, my "new" phone is still in great shape! Okay, maybe the plastic antennae that I have to pull out is a little bent over at the top. But I really don't mind that. Actually...I think it looks rather one has a phone just like mine anymore...and...I am still ekeing a good 1/2 hour out of it...

Hmmm...Maybe I can hold onto it for just a bit longer.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I have enough

Recently, a friend from choir introduced me to the music of Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson, mezzo soprano. And after listening to the first of her CD's I ordered — Bach Cantatas BWV 82 and 199 — I just want to say thanks so much Lois, and wow, what a voice!

The first piece on this CD, BWV 82 - Ich habe genug, is probably my favorite. Not only is it beautifully sung, it is brilliantly composed. But then of course with Bach as the composer, how could it be otherwise, right?

Ich habe genug expresses contempt for this worldly life and a yearning for death and heaven. It also has a very intriguing paradox — the words do not even mention the pains of living in this world; rather, they are full of radiance and hope. Bach’s music, however, is full of pain and dissonance. I think this conflicting combination well expresses the Christian life itself. The haunting "music" of this cursed world and its resulting pain fills the air around us and reverberates within us. We cannot escape it. But do we "sing" about the trials we're enduring? No (or at least we shouldn't). We "sing" about the glory to come!

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom 8:18).

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil 1:21).

The history behind Ich habe genug (meaning, "I have enough") is really rather interesting. Bach intended this cantata for the Feast of the Purification of Mary (also known as "Candlemas"), and it was first sung on that day on February 2, 1727. This feast commemorates Mary's journey to Jerusalem for the duel purpose of ritual purification forty days after giving birth and to present her child to God. It is based on Luke 2:22-32, which actually says little about the purification of Mary; rather it focuses on Simeon, to whom it had been revealed by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Simeon's beautiful prayer follows: Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel. In Bach's day, the Feast of the Purification of Mary was a time for Christians to think about their own deaths and to expand the idea of Simeon's words to mean, "now that the Savior has appeared, I can die with good cheer, for death has lost its terror."

Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson usually wore a flimsy hospital gown and thick woolen socks when performing Ich Habe Genug. And with her face contorted with pain and yearning, she portrayed a terminally ill patient who wants to go to heaven and be comforted by her Savior.

Ironically, Lorraine herself died of cancer on July 3, 2006 at the age of 52. It seems she was not a believer, however, for she has been quoted as saying this about herself regarding Bach's cantatas: "It was a revelation, even for a non-believer, to experience these works in context, as it were, and thus to discover how they really worked! For they are sermons, sermons in verse and music, beautiful and intense supplements to the sermons preached by the pastor in his pulpit." How very sad to sing such words of hope and never experience the truth of them.

Cantata BWV 82, Ich Habe Genug as sung by Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson

English translation:

It is enough.
I have held the Savior, the hope of all peoples,
In the warm embrace of my arms.
It is enough.

I have seen him,
My faith has impressed Jesus on my heart;
Now I wish this very day
To depart from here with joy.

It is enough.
My one consolation is this:
That I am Jesus’ beloved and he is mine.
In faith, I hold him.
For in Simeon, I already see
The joy of life to come.
Let us go forth with Simeon!
Ah! if only the Lord
Would free me from my body’s enslavement;
Ah! if indeed my liberation were soon,
With joy I would say to you, O World,
It is enough.

Slumber, my weary eyes,
Fall softly and close in contentment.

O World, I will linger here no more.
For indeed, I find nothing in you
Pleasing to my soul.

Here I am resigned to misery,
But there, there I shall feel
Sweet peace and quiet rest.

My God! When will I hear that precious word: “Now!”
Then I will depart in peace,
And rest both here in the humus of the cool earth
And there within your bosom.
My departure is at hand,
O World, good night!

With gladness, I look forward to my death,
(Ah! if only it had already come.)

Then shall I escape all despair
That still enslaves me now on earth.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"All of our theology must eventually become biography.
The constant challenge in this life we call Christian is the translation of all we believe to be true into our day-to-day life-style."

You Gotta Keep Dancin’
(In the midst of life’s hurts, you can choose joy!)
by Tim Hansel

Saturday, October 10, 2009

We love Him because He first loved us - 1 Jn 4:19

Have you ever noticed that Paul never speaks of his love for Christ? Rather he keeps on talking about Christ's wonderful love for him. Neither does he insist that we love Christ. Instead he keeps telling us how Christ loved, and loves, us.

It's interesting to note that the law commanded, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matt 22:37). But then this is the very nature of the law. And we should love God. However, the law cannot produce love, so God comes to us in grace and says, “I love you.” Therefore, what the law could not accomplish, grace did and does, because love produces love. When we come to know the love of Christ, we respond to Him in love. That’s why Paul's epistles are so filled with the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:39).

Peter, like Paul, had once been a strict observer of the law, and he too had come to know the love of Christ. As a result, Peter had developed a deep love for Christ and the overflowing joy that accompanies such love. That’s why we read these heartfelt words in 1 Peter 1:8: Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.

Knowing and loving Christ brings inexpressible joy (1 Pet 1:8), but we can't love Him, or others, by trying. Instead, we must accept His love for us in faith so that our hearts may naturally respond.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Stolen Goose

John: Pastor, I have stolen a fat goose from a poultry yard.

Pastor Davis: That is very wrong, John.

John: Would you like it, Pastor?

Pastor Davis: Certainly not! Return it to the man you stole it from.

John: But I have offered it to him and he won't have it.

Pastor Davis: In that case, you may keep it for yourself.

John: Thank you, Pastor.

Pastor Davis arrives home that evening to find that one of his geese has been stolen...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Is ignorance bliss?

Are most people content to be ignorant? Does ignorance create bliss? According to an article written by Himanshu Mishra (University of Utah), Baba Shiv (Stanford University), and Dhananjay Nayakankuppam (University of Iowa), people who are about to make decisions do not like to be ignorant — they want as many details as possible. However, after they've made a decision, people want to be happy with it and thereafter only want vague information. "It does appear that vagueness can actually make one more optimistic about one's own life choices and subjective well-being by allowing one to see what one wants to see—a case of ignorance truly being bliss!" the authors write.

This article got me to wondering if this so-called "Blissful Ignorance Effect" has followed many of us over into our spiritual lives. Sometimes it seems we're afraid to study Scripture for fear we might discover we've made a poor decision to follow Christ. Or, maybe we've been brought up to believe certain things and we're afraid they won't stand up to the scrutiny of Scripture. If the latter is the case, what's so terribly bad about that? Are we secretly afraid our faith will completely fall a part if we discover some of the things we were taught in Sunday School weren't exactly right? The fact is, faith is not something we have to strive to hold onto because it too is a gift God has given us.

But God does want us to grow to spiritual maturity, and He has made abundant provision for every one of us to do so. In Corinthians Paul rebukes the believers for not having grown. The trouble with the Corinthians was that they did not have much appetite for the Word; they did not have a passion to know and obey the truth. And we know that "the babe in Christ who craves pure spiritual milk will grow up in their salvation, now that they have tasted that the Lord is good" (1 Pet 2:2-3). This was the trouble with the Hebrew believers, too. When the author of the book would have gone further into the great subject of Christ as "high priest in the order of Melchizedek," he was forced to write:

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn (Heb 5:11).

Scriptural ignorance is not bliss, for it is there that we learn who we are in Christ and how we are to live!

During World War II there were many stories about parents having prearranged a code with their sons so that "Johnny" could let them know to which theater of war he had been sent. These parents would pour over and study these letters in detail in an effort to make out what "Johnny" was trying to make them understand.

Such interest and concern over a letter from "Johnny"! And appropriately so, but do we show such interest in God's Word to us? Let's not be guilty of being content with "vague information," with knowing only a few passages which "warm our hearts."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sausage and Black Bean Soup

The arrival of brisk autumn evenings has turned my mind to making warm soups and breads. Several years ago a friend emailed me this delicious, and really, rather healthy soup. Served with crusty, fresh-out-of-oven bread, it makes a wonderful supper, and it’s incredibly easy to make. My family loves it!

6 oz turkey kielbasa sausage, sliced
1 c diced green, red, or yellow peppers
1 (14 oz) can fat free low sodium chicken broth
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 c picante sauce or salsa

Coat medium sauce pan with non-stick spray. Medium heat, add sausage, saute 1 minute. Add peppers and saute 1 minute. Add broth. Bring to boil; reduce heat. Add beans and picante sauce and simmer covered for 5 minutes. Serves 4.

And here's an easy bread recipe you can throw together and bake in a matter of minutes:
3 1/4 c whole wheat flour
1 1/4 c unbleached flour
3 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 c canola oil
2 c water
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Sift flours, salt, and baking power together. Mix in 1/4 c oil. In separate bowl, dissolve honey in water. Stir into flour mixture. Mix until just a sticky dough pulls together. Turn dough onto a well-floured surface and divide into 2 pieces. Form pieces into oblong loaves, similar to french bread loaves. Place loaves on baking sheet. Bake in oven for 18 minutes. Remove from oven. Brush with 2 tbsp melted butter and bake 10-15 minutes longer until bottom of loaves sound hollow when tapped.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Removing specks - Luke 6:41-42

This is a picture of my little brother, Tim. He's about 1 1/2 years younger than I am. He looks pretty innocent, doesn't he? Well he’s not. He’s a big conniver!

I'll never forget the day he hood-winked mom into giving him two extra cookies. It was so unfair!

After lunch that day we had each been given a cookie and sent out to play. See that swing set back there? I was swinging in the middle swing as high as I could go, while Tim kept going up and down that slide on the right.  For some reason — don't ask me why — he decided to lay his half eaten cookie on the bottom of the slide, when all of a sudden a big black crow swoops down, grabs it, and flies off.

Big deal. I still had my cookie. And he had already eaten half of his. But was he satisfied? Oh no. He started screaming and carrying on, and then ran into the house to con mom out of another cookie.

Of course it worked. Mom's such a pushover. And just because he was so upset, she actually gave him TWO cookies to replace the measly HALF cookie the crow had taken. His crying stopped suspiciously fast after that. See, I told you he's a big conniver!

You may wonder if he shared any of his extras cookies with his loving big sister. Ha! Yeah right.  Obviously, I'm a much more caring person than he is.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How Deep The Father's Love For Us

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

by Stuart Townend

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Helper

As Pastor Johnson was walking down the street one day, he noticed a young boy trying to press a doorbell on a house across the street. The boy, however, was very small and the doorbell was too high for him to reach.

After watching the boy's efforts for some time, Pastor Johnson crossed the street, walked up behind the little fellow and, placing his hand kindly on the child's shoulder, gave the doorbell a solid ring.

Then crouching down to the boy's level and smiling benevolently, Pastor Johnson asked, "And now what, my little man?" To which the boy replied, "Now we run!"

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why pray for others?

If it is ultimately up to the person for whom we pray to allow God to lead them, then what good does it do to pray for them?

We are instructed to "let [our] your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6) and to "…pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints" (Eph. 6:18).

We are not only to pray for ourselves on all occasions but for others as well. And, be on the alert for what? For Satan’s attacks: because we are all his targets, and they are “fellow-soldiers” who are fighting alongside of us. We are to build up and encourage one another to remain strong in the Lord. I know that I am certainly encouraged when I know that other believers are supporting and praying for me.

For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another (Rom. 14:18-19).

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing (I Thes. 5:11).

Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).

Prayer also changes us; our attitudes, our hearts. And when we pray for those around us, we open ourselves up to His leading whereby we may ask ourselves; in what way can I be of help in this situation? Can I bring a meal? Watch their children while they’re at the hospital? Visit them because they're lonely? Or encourage them with a note, card, email, or phone call?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rice Krispie Bars

Saturday evening we had 15 friends over for a Bunco!!! party and pizza. We had a great time! Before everyone left to go home, we had several desserts; one of which was this rich bar recipe I got from my nephew's wonderful wife. They live in northern Wisconsin, where my nephew pastors a small church, and have three grade-school-aged children.

1/2 bag of chocolate chips
1/2 bag of butterscotch chips
1 c sugar
1 c corn syrup
1 c peanut butter
6 c rice krispies cereal

In large pan, mix sugar and corn syrup. Heat on low until watery and boiling. Then take off stove and add peanut butter. Stir in rice krispies cereal and spread in 8 x 12 casserole dish. Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips in pan, turned on low and stirring every few minutes. Then pour over rice krispies cereal mixture and spread. Let set for 2-3 hours.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Divine Communications - indulging our wills

Does God communicate with us today through visions or by directly speaking to us as He did in the Bible?

Certainly God worked through visions with people of the OT. Ezekiel, for example, had the vision of the dry bones in the valley. Old Testament visions were given to prophesy things to come down through the ages. It’s the same with the New Testament prophets like Peter, Paul, John, and the Lord Jesus himself. This was done so God’s children and the world would be made aware of the future, and of the power of God to precisely foretell. Always, it was to give God glory, and to call people to repentance.

And sometimes when God wanted to get His messages across, He did so Himself by speaking audibly. For example; when God wanted Samuel to be His prophet, He simply spoke to Samuel out loud (1 Sam 3). No, it wasn’t what Samuel ate that night—it was really God. And when God wanted Peter, James, and John to know that Jesus was truly God’s Son and that they should listen to Him, He simply told them in an audible voice (Lk 9:35).

But some Christians today seem to think God still communicates in this way and pray in order to indulge their wills. They earnestly ask God to lead them, yet all the while determined that He will lead them according to their own desires, even if contrary to His revealed will in Scripture. And then, when faced with the Word, they say: “But I have prayed a lot about it.” Some even challenge God, asking Him if this isn’t His will, to hinder it somehow. Such prayers are worse than superstition.

Unfortunately, there is a lot superstition among believers regarding prayer. How readily many “feel led,” look for “inner promptings” or listen for the “still small voice” in answer to their prayers. They say, “The Lord told me” this or that, or “The Spirit whispered to me” or “I could just hear Him saying.” And it can be regarding anything and everything, from 'what color to paint their house’ to ‘should they go on a trip or not.’ When asked, these people invariably say that no voice was actually heard at all, but that they merely took some feeling or impression to be, in some mystical way, a direction from the Lord.

God does speak to us through the Holy Spirit through the Word. But with the Word completed, He no longer speaks to us by visions or even by still small voices. Therefore, we need to be careful not to depend upon 'inner promptings,' knowing that by nature “the heart is deceitful above all things" (Jer 17:9).

Monday, September 7, 2009

The big picture

The next time I go to a party I'm definitely going to wear my favorite red sweater — the one I wore all the time in the first grade. I think I'll also dig out my old Snoopy slippers from when I was 10, my absolutely favorite pair of brown elephant pants that I wore in Jr. high school, my lovely puka shell necklace from my college days, my over-sized navy blazer with the big shoulder pads from, well, it's only from a few years old, and I'll pull the whole ensemble together with the new large yellow bag I just bought. I'm going to look great! Well, maybe not. Most of those things no longer fit me, and none of them go well together.

Many Christians assemble a theology that looks a lot like my outfit, though. They don't see that God dealt with people differently throughout man's history. And because they don't see this, they mix in things from all different time periods and come up with something that — while recognizable as Christianity — sure is weird-looking.

Some may argue, "But God never changes!" That's true. But in His sovereignty, God has chosen to vary some the ways He's revealed Himself to people. In other words, God has always used His master plan, but He's only revealed it to us a little at a time. Of course God knew from before creation exactly what would happen on earth, but He let us discover for ourselves that apart from Him, we would always fail miserably.

For example, Adam and Eve were created without sin. So right there is a huge difference between them and us now. They were in complete fellowship with God. They could go anywhere and do anything except — eat from one tree. If we tried to live by their theology, we wouldn't succeed. Just the part about running around naked would cause problems, in most places, that is. Our physical needs wouldn't be taken care of without work, and the world we live in certainly isn't perfect. Even though Adam and Eve had all of this, they still failed. They listened to Satan and ate the fruit.

Or, how about after sin entered the world until Noah came on the scene? Things changed a lot after Eden. God had immediately killed an animal and used the skins to cover Adam and Eve — a picture of Christ's sacrifice still way in the future. And now instead of just one rule about the one tree, there were now at least two rules — sacrifice animals (Gen 4:4) and do good (Gen 4:7). Because Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit, they knew good and evil and were expected to regulate their behavior based on that knowledge. God was still in direct communication with man, but it wasn't very long before all humans pulled away from Him, except just one — Noah (Gen 6:5). If we tried to live our lives today according to God's revelation at this time in history, we'd get into a lot of trouble with the local anti-cruelty society for slaughtering animals. We'd also immerse ourselves in sin, because time showed that following our consciences isn't enough to keep us on the straight and narrow. We'd end up just like the people in Noah's time.

Okay, what about after the Flood? A fresh start and all? God made a few changes in how man's behavior would be controlled after the Flood as well. The death penalty was enacted (Gen 9:6), which implies human government. Additionally, the rest of creation now feared people. God has never rescinded human government (Rom 13:1), but He has made other changes since then. Again, men and women failed to live righteously then just as they had before, and they gathered to build a tower (Gen 11:6). But because one-world government was too powerful, God confused their languages, forcing mankind to cease and desist and scatter. While we should still be subject to the government, we need to understand that God is allowing governments to rule that are antagonistic toward Him. This was sometimes, but not always, true throughout history.

So what about Abraham? God chose him to be the father of the nation Israel and made an unconditional promise to him (Gen 12:2-3). Mankind had fallen into sin yet again and was condemned to die. So God put the next part of His plan into action — He would do all that was needed to be done. He would provide salvation. Of course, this was His plan from the very beginning, but now He was showing Abraham a little more of it. Abraham was to take God at His word. That hasn't changed. But for Abraham, this still included the offering of blood sacrifices. And while God's promises were only to Abraham and his descendants, the entire world would be blessed by the things God would do through Israel. However, if we tried to live according to the revelation God had given to Abraham, we would confuse Israel and the Church and still be offering sacrifices.

But certainly we could live well during Moses' time. We'd have everything spelled out for us — the Law. We'd know just how to live to please God. With the giving of the law, God had revealed another portion of His plan to mankind. The thing is, when we think of the law of Moses, we usually think of the Ten Commandments (Ex 20). But they were only a very small portion of the whole law. There are actually more than 600 commands dictating proper behavior. Some seem a little strange (Deut 14:21; 20:19-20; 22:6-8, 10, 12; 23:12-13, 24; 24:5; and there's many, many more). Why would God give all these laws to Israel? Well, He was making a point. Neither they, nor we, could keep them, and God knew none of us could keep them. God has every right to demand complete obedience. After all, He created us. God could strike us dead the moment we sinned, if He wanted to. Instead, He sent His only Son to die in our place (Jn 3:16). But Jesus Christ had not yet died for man's sins back then. In fact, they didn't fully understand who the Redeemer would be or what He would do for them. But God also provided ceremonial laws, which were a way for believers to demonstrate their faith in what God would do in the future. By sacrificing an animal, the sins of the Israelites were covered until Christ could pay the ultimate sacrifice. So while the law condemned them, God also made provision to save them.

So you can see the problems of trying to mix different parts of God's plan together without an understanding of how God unfolded that plan. If we tried to live without any rules at all, like Adam and Eve did, it would quickly lead to sin and confrontations with the authorities. If we offered blood sacrifices, we would be denying the sufficiency of Christ's ultimate sacrifice. And if we claim the promises made to Israel apply to us too, we will soon begin to wonder why God isn't keeping His word. In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul mentions the importance of studying Scripture carefully to avoid such problems:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Christians pray for many different things: a happy marriage, for success, and so on. Yet it turns out those very people can have bad marriages and fail at their endeavors.

We try to reason why this is so. Some believe that somehow their prayer was answered. They say the possible answers are "Yes," "No," and "Wait." And while technically any one of these three words can qualify as an "answer" to most requests, it does not truly address the question, "Why didn't God give me what I requested."

Others say that it wasn't answered because it "wasn't for the best," or it "wasn't His will." These answers are problematic, too, because we understand that there are prayers with answers that would fit into God's will; yet they too go unanswered.

For example, if we pray for a friend or family member to be saved, and that person is never saved, that unanswered prayer definitely wasn't for the best. It also wasn't God's will that the individual not be saved (2 Peter 3:9).

I believe the real reason God doesn't answer many prayers according to their requests is not found in these simple "Yes, No, Wait, God's will" cliches. Scripture doesn't use these answers, yet we still use them to offer comfort. Often, however, these cliches merely silence those who truly need understanding, and even drive others to doubt if God is there.

In the situation where a loved one is never saved, I think the real reason is a more practical one — freewill. God has always allowed us freewill. And though He is always working, He never manipulates. Therefore, if a prayer involves manipulating someone's freewill, that prayer will not be answered.

That certainly shouldn't stop us from praying about these situations, however. We are instructed to bring our every request to God (Phil 4:6-7). Additionally, we should always be ready to respond with a word (1 Pet 3:15) or to help in any situation (2 Thes 2:16-17; Eph 2:10; Col 1:9-10), and prayer prepares our minds to do so.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Broiled Lamb Patties

If you're tired of the usual beef and chicken fare and are looking for something just a little bit different, why not give ground lamb a try? I unearthed this recipe from an ancient Betty Crocker Cookbook a couple of years ago, and it instantly became a family favorite. There's no telling how old my ripped and battered cookbook is because the copyright page is long gone. I'm fairly certain it was printed sometime after the Flood, though from the looks of the cookbook itself, I can't be absolutely sure.

1 lb ground lamb
2 tbsp dry bread crumbs
1 tbsp snipped parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried dill weed (I usually add more than this.)
1 egg
1 clove garlic, crushed (I usually add more than this, too.)
4 slices bacon

Mix lamb, bread crumbs, parsley, salt, dill weed, egg and fresh garlic. Shape mixture into 4 patties, each about 1 inch thick. Wrap bacon slice around edge of each patty secure with wooden picks.

Set oven control to broil and/or 550 degrees. Broil patties with tops about 3 inches from heat, turning once, until done, about 15 minutes. Serves 4.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

God With Us

Who are we---that You would be mindful of us?
What do You see---that's worth looking our way?
We are free---in ways that we never should be.
Sweet release---from the grip of these chains.

Like hinges straining from the weight,
My heart no longer can keep from singing.

All that is within me cries
For You alone be glorified:
Emmanuel, God with us.

My heart sings a brand new song.
The debt is paid, these chains are gone.
Emmanuel, God with us.

Lord, You know---our hearts don't deserve Your glory;
Still You show---a love we cannot afford.

Like hinges straining from the weight,
My heart no longer can keep from singing.

All that is within me cries
For You alone be glorified:
Emmanuel, God with us.

My heart sings a brand new song.
The debt is paid, these chains are gone.
Emmanuel, God with us.

Such a tiny offering
Compared to Calvary;
We lay it at Your feet.

Such a tiny offering
Compared to Calvary;
We lay this at Your feet.

All that is within me cries
For You alone be glorified:
Emmanuel, God with us.

My heart sings a brand new song.
My debt is paid, these chains are gone.
Emmanuel, God with us.

(by MercyMe)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Against the law!

Do you know that it's illegal to throw shoes at a bridal couple in Colorado; rob a bank and then shoot the bank teller with a water pistol in Louisiana; sneeze in public in Nebraska; eavesdrop in Oklahoma; sing out of tune in North Carolina; push a live moose out of a moving airplane in Alaska; sit on the curb of any city street and drink beer from a bucket in Missouri; and, wear a false moustache in church in Alabama if it makes people laugh?

I doubt these are state-wide laws. But according to some sources, all of them, though old and outdated, are on the law books somewhere in these states because it isn't worth legislators' time to remove them. It's hard to imagine the circumstances that required such laws to be written in the first place, or even how they could have been enforced. But do you suppose for a moment they made people live their lives any differently? So often, prohibiting something makes us want to do the very thing that is prohibited.

I think the prohibition era showed us that human behavior cannot be legislated. And this is true with the law of God as well. Some people think that the Ten Commandments were given to help us to be good, but this is not so. The Bible clearly says they were given to show all of us that we can never obey them and therefore need a Savior. Romans 3:19 tells us that the Law was given "that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." And Romans 3:20 says, "for by the law is the knowledge of sin." This is why we see in Romans 8:3 that "what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature," God sent Jesus Christ to accomplish. Also in Hebrews 7:19 we read that "the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did." This "better hope" is "that through Jesus Christ there is forgiveness for your sins." And "everyone who believes in him is declared right with God—something the law of Moses could never do" (Acts 13:38-39).

EVERYONE has broken the God's law (Rom 3:23). Do you believe that Jesus Christ paid your penalty for you (Rom 6:23; Jn 3:16)?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

And, here's the pitch ...

So, you've settled into your seat, read your program book, and now, the concert is about to begin. The Concertmaster — whose job it is to tune the orchestra — walks onstage, acknowledges the applause of the audience, turns his back, and then points to the oboist. On cue, she lifts her oboe and plays a single note until all the members of the orchestra have had a chance to hear it. But not just any note, mind you — an A. And not just any A, but A-440.

But what in the world does A-440 mean? I'll try to explain what I've found out about it.

All the sounds we hear are produced by vibrations, or waves, in the air. The number of waves that hit our ears in a given second is called the frequency, AND the more waves there are, the higher the frequency is and therefore the higher the note that we hear is.

In the music world, the note that everybody tunes to is called A-440 because that particular sound has a frequency of 440 waves per second — producing the note A.

But how can anyone possibly determine with any accuracy what frequency their instrument is playing? Well, it used to be that great musicians were able to learn to tell the differences. These days, however, many musicians use a tuner. This little machine, about the size of a deck of cards, has a meter on it which measures the exact frequency.

Actually, A-440 hasn't always been the standard for tuning. The standard pitch has gone up over the years. In fact, in the Baroque era (about 300 years ago), musicians tuned to a lower version of A — about 430 cycles per second. Because of this, music written for sopranos in the Baroque era is much harder to sing now than it was back then. The high notes in Handel's Messiah, for instance, are much harder for the chorus to hit now than they were back in 1742.

And the frequency of tuning continues to rise. Today many orchestras are tuning to A-442. It's only a slight difference, but they feel that the higher frequency gives them a brighter sound.

Hmmm, I might finally have the perfect excuse for not being able to hit some of those high notes ...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

More word plays

She's happy to make a pair of pants for you, or at least sew its seams.

Those who jump off a Paris bridge are in Seine.

The dead batteries were given out free of charge.

Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He's all right now.

A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class because it was a weapon of math disruption.

A cardboard belt would be a waist of paper.

He said I was average - but he was just being mean.

It's a fact, taller people sleep longer in bed.

Did you hear about the fire at the circus? The heat was in tents.

You feel stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.

She was the apple of his eye and he liked to sit down be cider.

If you leave alphabet soup on the stove and go out, it could spell disaster.

In a recession, the most secure job is garbage-man. Business is always picking up.

A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

If a judge loves the sound of his own voice, expect a long sentence.

The primary responsibility for a child's education is apparent.

The liquor store advertised, 'We De-Liver.'

Seven days without a pun makes one weak.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Above the law?

Some people think that living under grace means we may do as we please. But grace is not a license to sin (Rom 6:1-2). It is argued, however, that because the covenant of the law was made with Israel, we were never under the law:

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God (Rom 3:19).

Yes, the covenant of the law was made with God's chosen nation, Israel, and no such covenant was ever made with any other nation, BUT that did not exclude Gentiles from God's law because it also says that the law was given, "that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God" (Rom 3:19).

So, Israel was to represent the righteous and holy standards of the Law of God in the world. And, "when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves" (Rom 2:14) shows that Gentiles had "the work of the Law written in their hearts" (Rom 2:15). It's no wonder we live the lives we do when we feel we're above the law of God.

Instead, now, where there is neither Jew nor Greek (Gal 3:28), it should be true of us, that "sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace" (Rom 6:14). "Not under law" does not mean that we are above the law. We are to produce fruit that is spiritual (Col 3:1-4), and heavenly (Eph 1:20-21; 2:6) in nature. And in doing so we will, by His grace, accomplish what the law could never do.

It is for this reason that, as members of the Body of Christ, Paul tells us to, "walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh" (Gal 5:16), and reminds us that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law" (Gal 5:22-23).

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Friday, August 7, 2009

Matthias, the right man for the job?

At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said, "Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. "For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry." (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) "For it is written in the book of Psalms, '(LET HIS HOMESTEAD BE MADE DESOLATE, AND LET NO ONE DWELL IN IT'; and, 'LET ANOTHER MAN TAKE HIS OFFICE.' "Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us--beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us--one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection." So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. And they prayed and said, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place." And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. (Act 1:15-26).

Acts 1:15-26 speaks of the first official act of the eleven disciples following the ascension of Jesus Christ — that of appointing a successor to Judas to bring their number up to twelve again (Matt 19:28; Lk 22:30).

Not everybody agrees that Matthias was the right man for the job, however. In fact, some hold that the choice of Matthias as Judas' successor was a great mistake. They believe that this choice was made in the flesh; that the disciples were out of order in appointing two candidates and then asking God to choose between them; that they should have waited for God to appoint a successor, and that this was demonstrated by the fact that God later appointed Paul. In short, they believe that Paul, not Matthias, was God's man for Judas' place.

But this can't be right because the Lord had given the apostles authority to act officially in His absence (Matt 18:18-20; Jn 20:23). And it seems to me that because they had been instructed to obey the commands of Ps 41:9; 69:25; 109:8 (Lk 24:44-45), that in harmony with the Law of Moses, they would also cast lots (Num 26:55; 33:54; 34:13; 36:2).

Additionally, to say that the disciples acted first and prayed later is as untrue as it is unfair because of what we see in the verse immediately preceding this passage:

These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers (Acts 1:14).

Furthermore, Paul could not have taken Judas' place as one of the twelve because of the following reasons:

First of all, the requirements for the new disciple were very exact:

"Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us--beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us--one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection." (Acts 1:21-22).

So Paul wouldn't have been eligible at any time, because he had not accompanied the Lord Jesus in His earthly ministry — in fact, he had not even seen Him.

Secondly, Paul was reserved for a special ministry entirely separate and distinct from that of the twelve (See Acts 20:24; Gal 1:11-12, 17-19; 2:2, 7-9; Rom 11:13; 15:15-16; 16:25; Eph 3:1-3).

And finally, that Matthias was indeed God's choice for Judas' place, is evident from what we read in the very next passage:

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance (Acts 2:4).

Surely this is confirmation enough!

Monday, August 3, 2009

He's Concerned About You

God is just a prayer away
All you need to do is call
He will hear your faintest cry
He's concerned about you.

So while your tears are flowing through
Your time of mourning
He is here to lift your heavy heart
Because He's in love with you.


He knows
He cares
He sees
He's there
He'll carry you
He's concerned about you.

Weeping may endure for a night
But the morning will bring joy
He won't give you more than you can bear
He's concerned about you.

He loves you, oh yes
He loves you
He loves you (I know He does, He really does)
He's concerned about you.


He knows
He cares
He sees
He's there
He'll carry you
He's concerned about you.

He knows and
He cares
He sees
He's right there
He'll carry you.
He's concerned about you
He's concerned about you
He's concerned about you.

(by CeCe Winans)

Ezekiel 36:26-27

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

Excuse me while I vent a little ...

If one were wanting to talk about regeneration, would one pick this passage to help explain it? Are these promises for us? Are all promises in the Bible ours to claim? Maybe some would say yes. But let's look at a few more verses in Ezekiel 36, verses 24-25:

For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.

Should we claim these promises then, too? Are we going to return to the land of Israel and remove all images and idols from it (cross references - Is 2:18, 20; 43:5-6; Ezek 34:13; 37:21)?

And what about verses 28 through 30?

You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God. "Moreover, I will save you from all your uncleanness; and I will call for the grain and multiply it, and I will not bring a famine on you. "I will multiply the fruit of the tree and the produce of the field, so that you will not receive again the disgrace of famine among the nations.

Has abundant grain, fruit and produce of the field been promised to us as well?

Context is king. We must always look at the context to find who is being addressed and what subject is being talked about. When we look at verse 22, we see that the house of Israel is being addressed. And the subject? The Lord is promising Israel, that though they are scattered and exiled for a time, they will not always be. God promises to gather them again and cause them to walk in His statues.

Don't get me wrong, verses 26-27 do seem to speak about our regeneration. However, it's not what is being spoken of here. So why go to Ezekiel and pull these few verses out of the middle of a passage so obviously not about us in order to talk about what happens to us at our conversion? Wouldn't it be so much better to use passages like these instead?

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Rom 8:6-8).

But what does it say? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART"--that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation (Rom 10:8-10).

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation (Gal 6:14-15).

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7).


The Book of Job is generally considered to be the oldest book in the Bible. And its main theme is the sovereignty of God. It's almost like God was saying to us right from the start, "Before we begin all this, I want you to know — I'm in charge!" The Book of Job also gives us a vivid illustration of God's protection over His own people in respect to the attacks of Satan.

In this book, Job is represented, not as one who needs to be punished for evil — as Job's three friends thought, and whose error God severely condemns at the end of Job's trial — but as one who God declares to be "blameless" and "upright" (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3). (As Christians, we are also blameless and upright in God's eyes — because we are in Christ. — Rom 8:1; 10:10; 1 Cor 1:30; 2 Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9)

However, Satan has two complaints regarding Job: (a) Job is so completely protected that Satan cannot reach him, and (b) Job does not really love God. Satan declares that God is paying Job a salary to pretend that he loves Him. So putting this challenge to an experimental test, God releases Job to the power of Satan. But until that time, as pointed out by Satan, Job is safe in God's hand. And even before God transfers Job to Satan's hand, He limits what Satan can and cannot do, which Satan can in no way over-step.

So, Job was given the privilege and honor of proving that God is worthy of all adoration, apart from His benefits, and the lie of Satan was completely exposed, to the glory of God.

Satan was not, however, given this kind of physical power over Job indefinitely, because we see at the end of the book that God restores all things and more to Job. And it cannot be assumed that because this happened to Job, God may allow it to happen to us as well. God allowed it to Job because He used Job to make a particular point at a particular time in His revelation to us.

Indeed, God's will was accomplished in every respect — He revealed that He is sovereign and that we are safe in the palm of his hand.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Divine Communication - general revelation

It is truly incredible that infinite God has chosen to communicate to finite men, and yet that is exactly what He's done. Because of this, although God is incomprehensible, He can be truly known, but not fully known. He hasn't told us everything (Deut 29:29), but He has told us everything we need to know. And one way God has chosen to communicate to all mankind is through general revelation.

He has done this through creation:

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world (Ps 19:1-4a).

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Rom 1:18-20)

From looking at creation, we can know that God is powerful, that He is above creation, and that He has a personality — He isn't just an abstract concept. And when Paul says this information is "evident," means that we are capable of knowing it. Therefore, ignorance is willful disregard of God.

Another way God has communicated through general revelation is through man's conscience:

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them (Rom 2:14-15).

Conscience is the inward sense of right and wrong, and everyone has it to one degree or another. The ability to know right from wrong is part of the image of God in man, but it can be become seared, making it less sensitive. (Reminds me a bit of that line from Finding Nemo — "Are--Are you my conscience?""Y-yeah yeah yeah, I'm your conscience! We haven't spoken for a while! How are you?")

While we do have some knowledge of right and wrong, it is only through the Bible that we can learn about all of God's standards. So the statement "Let your conscience be your guide" is not exactly right. People often don't feel any guilt about their sins because conscience decides on the basis of the standard given it. And if the standard is not God's word, then the standard is wrong, and the behavior will be wrong. Therefore, conscience is an unreliable guide.

The purpose of general revelation is to reveal general truth about God; such as, 1) God exists; 2) God is the creator; and 3) God has established standards of right and wrong that must be obeyed. Therefore, it renders all men inexcusable before God.

General revelation by itself cannot save, however. It doesn't have enough content. It communicates enough truth about God to make a man responsible to seek God for salvation (Heb 11:6), but it does not communicate the gospel message (Rom 10:14).

The following question is frequently brought up: "But what about the native in some remote corner of the world who has never heard the gospel? If he follows the light that he has, acknowledges the God revealed in nature, and sincerely seeks to do what is right, won’t he be saved?" The answer is found in John and Acts:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (Jn 3:16).

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (Jn 14:6).

And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

... Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved ... (Acts 16:31)

No one responds to general revelation by being saved. That’s why we need special revelation.

And regarding the so-called remote native: I don't see that the Bible specifically says what happens in such circumstances. But I do know that God always knows what is truly in a man's heart (Ps 44:21; Lk 16:15; Acts 15:8; Rom 8:27; 1 Jn 3:20), and that He is a God of justice AND of mercy.

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy (Rom 9:14-16).

So I must leave this in His hands.