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.