Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My day

Fall busyness has officially begun.  Our daughter started college classes last week, it's the busiest season of the year at work, and church choir practices start up again tomorrow evening.

As always, I began my day with a cup of hot tea with milk and honey.  Sitting down at the computer I signed on to the forum to see if any moderating needed doing and if all my friends were okay.  After concluding that all seemed well, I moved on to facebook to check on my friends there — and to play a game or two. 

I know, I know, they're mindless computer games, but they're rather fun, and, I connect with friends through them, too.  One of my game neighbor friends is the English Department Head at a well known Christian University.  She tells me funny stories of parents and incoming students touring the school this summer, coming to her classroom and finding her at a mooing and clucking computer.  Oh the state of education today.  Ha!  She's also in church choir with me, and after Sunday services you can often find us comparing game notes in the lobby: "Okay, I'll send you few sheep; can you send me a cow?"  My husband scoffs.  I can't understand why. :)  Maybe he shouldn't, though, since one of my other game neighbors is the director of his division at work.

After facebook, I moved on to reading all the blogs I follow.  One blogger talked about how to know if you have the Holy Spirit; he had some good points, but I believe he also interpreted one verse out of context.  A couple of other bloggers filled me in on their family doings, which was great.  I also read one blog that's going through the Book of Acts, another where the blogger posts interesting pictures taken around his neighborhood, three blogs about cooking, and one that talks about medicine, politics, the Lord and life. 

I worked at the office from home today.  So next, after making the bed and getting another cup of tea, I pulled up all my work screens, chatted on line with my boss for a few minutes, answered a dozen or so emails, and then set to work auditing the 40+ missionary expense reports that had come in.  Except for a brief lunch break, that consumed the next six hours.

I then made a dinner of hamburgers with blue cheese, sliced tomatoes fresh from the garden, and milk.  After we finished eating, my husband and I cleaned the kitchen, swept the floor, and took out the garbage.  We planned on walking another 2 miles this evening like we did yesterday, but the incoming rain prevented us.  So here I sit typing out my day instead.  I think I'll try to inch forward on my blog post about the Holy Spirit next.  I keep setting that one aside because I'm really struggling with it. 

So was it a good day?  Was it a day lived by faith?  Was my focus on Him instead of myself?  It wasn't perfect; for one thing, I worried that our car was in the shop yet again.  But over all, yes, I think so.  I hope so.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bibles for sale

A pastor concluded that his church was getting into very serious financial troubles. While checking the church storeroom, he discovered several cartons of new Bibles that had never been opened and distributed. So at the next Sunday services, he asked for three volunteers from the congregation who would be willing to sell the Bibles door-to-door for $10 each to raise the desperately needed money for the church.

Jack, Paul and Louie all raised their hands.

The minister knew that Jack and Paul earned their living as salesmen and were likely capable of selling some Bibles. But he had serious doubts about Louie, a local farmer, who always kept to himself because he was embarrassed by his speech impediment.

Poor Louie stuttered badly. But, not wanting to discourage Louie, the minister decided to let him try anyway.

He sent the three of them away with the back seat of their cars stacked with Bibles, and asked them to report the results of their door-to-door selling efforts the following Sunday.

Anxious to find out how successful they were, the minister immediately asked Jack, “Well, Jack, how did you make out selling our Bibles last week?”

Proudly handing the reverend an envelope, Jack replied, “I was able to sell 20 Bibles, and here’s the $200 I collected on behalf of the church.”

“Fine job, Jack!” The minister said, vigorously shaking his hand. “You are indeed a fine salesman and the church is indebted to you.”

Turning to Paul, “And Paul, how many Bibles did you sell for the church last week?”

Paul, smiling and sticking out his chest, replied, “I sold 28 Bibles on behalf of the church, and here’s $280 I collected.”

The minister responded, “That’s absolutely wonderful, Paul. You are truly a great salesman and the church is indebted to you.”

Apprehensively, the minister turned to Louie and said, “And Louie, did you manage to sell any Bibles last week?” Louie silently offered the minister a large envelope.

The minister opened it and counted the contents. “What is this?” the minister exclaimed. “Louie, there’s $3200 in here.  You sold 320 Bibles for the church, door to door, in just one week?”

Louie just nodded.

“That’s impossible!” both Jack and Paul said in unison.

“Yes, this does seem unlikely,” the minister agreed. “I think you’d better explain how you managed this, Louie.”

Louie shrugged.. “I-I-I re-re-really do-do-don’t kn-kn-know f-f-f-for sh-sh-sh-sure,” he stammered.  "A-a-a-all I-I-I s-s-said wa-wa-was, w-w-w-would y-y-y-you l-l-l-l-l-like t-t-to b-b-b-buy th-th-th-this B-B-B-B-Bible f-f-for t-t-ten b-b-b-bucks—o-o-o-or— wo-wo-would yo-you j-j-j-just l-like m-m-me t-t-to st-st-stand h-h-here and r-r-r-r-r-read it t-to y-y-you?”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

You are my hiding place
You always fill my heart
With songs of deliverance
Whenever I am afraid
I will trust in You

I will trust in You
Let the weak say
I am strong
In the strength of the Lord

You are my hiding place
You always fill my heart
With songs of deliverance
Whenever I am afraid
I will trust in You

I will trust in You
Let the weak say I am strong
In the strength of the Lord
I will trust in You.

by Selah

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor 12:9-10).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A day by the lake

Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus with Carlos Kalmar conducting
Yesterday was a beautiful summer day, not too hot and with a nice breeze.  So what better way to spend it than listening to the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus's final rehearsal of the season with my good friend Holly?

Holly and I met at church years ago when our daughters, already friends, were about 10 years old.  Since both had an interest in music, they hit it off quickly.  They're 24 now and still good friends, even though one lives in Kansas City and the other in Philadelphia most of the year. 

While our daughters were growing up, Holly and I got to know each other.  We joined the church choir, attended Sunday School classes and a small group Bible study group together, and discussed our daughters' challenges and accomplishments.  And now just this past week, Holly's daughter, associate concertmaster of the Grant Park Orchestra, was given tenure.  What an exciting week!

The Grant Park Orchestra, formed in 1943, presents 10 weeks of free, classical music concerts in the Jay Pretzker Pavilion in Millennium Park each summer.  Its musicians come from different orchestras and musical institutions throughout the United States.  During the rest of the year these musicians perform with major orchestras, teach at numerous universities, and appear frequently on concert stages across the country.  Holly's daughter plays for the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra, the Philadelphia Opera, and subs and solos in numerous other orchestras.

Yesterday the orchestra and chorus were rehearsing Verdi Requiem for its closing night concerts last night and tonight.  I have to admit my attention was drawn mainly to the chorus and soloists, though, since I can more readily relate to them.  The soprano, Amber Wagner, was absolutely wonderful!  What an amazing voice!  She performed so effortlessly, too.  I watched her and the mezzo soprano soloist, Michaela Martens, very closely.  Michaela's voice wasn't quite as full and she didn't sing quite as effortlessly, but she did do one thing that particularly interested me — she kept moving and holding her jaw to loosen and relax it.  Funny that I should have noticed that, but I did because my voice teacher had been forever on me to relax my jaw and to move and hold it just like that.  I always thought I was completely awful and would never learn what he was trying to teach me.  But if a professional mezzo soloist has to do that too, well then I'm encouraged — maybe I wasn't quite as awful as I thought.

Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, Chicago, IL (click on picture to enlarge)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sealed with the Spirit

The very first fact that every believer in Christ should learn is that instantly upon believing we are given eternal life. Ephesians 1:13-14 speaks to this point:

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Notice, too, that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit Himself is the seal. So rejoice in your completed redemption and rest in the fact that the Holy Spirit keeps you eternally safe!

While we can't lose the Holy Spirit we can, and often do, "grieve the Holy Spirit." But the wonderful news is that absolutely "nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:38-39). This is why Paul, in the same breath, tells us not to grieve the Spirit and again reassures us that this same Spirit keeps us eternally safe:

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Eph 4:30).

But doesn't this encourage sinful living? Those who think so have missed Paul's whole point. He doesn't warn us that if we grieve the Spirit we will be lost. Rather, in grace he says, "Don't grieve the very Spirit who in love and mercy has sealed you forever as His own. Don't repay such love with such ingratitude."

Monday, August 15, 2011

You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in You,
all whose thoughts are fixed on You.
Is 26:3 (NLT)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Love produces love

"I love you.  Through thick and thin, my love for you remains the same." 

How do we usually respond to someone who's made a declaration like that?  Hurl rocks at them?  I guess that might depend on who said it.  But under most circumstances, wouldn't our natural inclination be to love them right back?  I know mine would.

This is consistent with the message specially entrusted to the Apostle Paul, "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24).  Interestingly, Paul never speaks of his love for Christ or instructs us to love Him.  Instead he keeps talking about Christ's wonderful love for him and how Christ loved — and loves —us.

While the Law says, "You shall love the Lord your God" (Matt.22:37; Deut 6:5-25), law can't produce love.  Despite this, many preachers today still preach law, telling us that we must love God.  But the Law only convicts — it is meant to show us our need for a Savior — so rightly it only produces guilt. 

But now God comes to us in total grace and says, "I love you".  This is why Paul's epistles are so filled with "the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:39).

The fact that God deals with us in grace doesn't mean that we should not, or do not, love Him. The very opposite is true. It's when we come to know the love of Christ, and His Spirit has come to indwell us (Rom 5:5; Gal 5:22), that our hearts respond to Him in love; "we love, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19).  In the same way, the more we are convinced of Christ's love for us, the more we naturally love our brothers and sisters in Christ, who then naturally respond in kind to us — because love produces love.  The law could never accomplish that (Rom 13:10; Gal 5:14)!

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.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word (2 Thes 2:16-17).

Friday, August 12, 2011


One sunny Sunday afternoon, two young church members were going door to door inviting people to visit their services. When they knocked on one door, however, it became immediately clear that the woman who answered was not happy to see them.

She told them in no uncertain terms that she did not want to hear what they had to say and slammed the door in their faces.

But to her surprise, the door did not close; in fact, it bounced back open. She tried again, really putting her back into it, and slammed it again with the same result — the door bounced back open.

Convinced these rude young people were sticking their feet in her door, she reared back to give it a slam that would teach them a lesson. Just then one of them said quietly: "Ma'am, before you do that again, you really need to move your cat."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Interesting tidbit - 10 (Rom 3:30)

A:  What is the meaning of Romans 3:30"since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one"? Does "by faith" mean something different than "through faith?"

Q:  Theologians have have long puzzled over the reason why believing Jews are said to be justified "by faith," but believing Gentiles "through faith." Some hold that there is no difference in meaning between the two.  But others say that the justification of the Jews, as born heirs of the promise, are purposely said to be "of faith," while that of the Gentiles, previously "strangers to the covenants of promise" (Eph 2:12), are said to be "through faith," as thus admitted into a new family. So who's right? 

It seems to me that the second explanation makes more sense, that the answer to this question lies in the original status of each.  The Jews, belonging to the covenant race, were justified by (Gk., literally "out of") faith, while the "far off" Gentiles (Eph 2:13) must come through (Gk., literally "by way of" or "by means of") faith; but both Jew and Gentile are justified by God upon believing.

Not only were the Jews justified "out of" faith, it is also evident that they were justified by way of works, whereas the Gentiles were justified directly "by way of" faith. For the Jew, sacrifices, etc. were (instrumentally) the means of his justification — he came "by way of" works — but the Gentile comes directly "by way of" faith for his justification.

And according to this verse, all is based on the fact that "God...is one."  I think Vine explains this rather well:

“The oneness of God was a belief basic to Judaism and proclaimed by every devout Jew each day (cf. Deuteronomy 6:4). Here Paul appeals to this doctrine, claiming that since God is one, He must have the same concern for the salvation of the Gentile as he does for the Jew. The Judaism of Paul’s day, however, did not draw the same conclusion from God’s essential unity. They taught that the only way a Gentile could be rightly related to God was to become a proselyte to Judaism, including coming under the yoke of the law. And even then, they were always Gentiles, never quite up to the level of Jews by birth. In the eyes of the Jew, they had no natural claim on God. Paul says, however, that God is interested in the Gentiles apart from the law and that contrary to certain Jewish expectations, the Gentiles are saved through the same faith that saves a Jew.”

Sunday, August 7, 2011

So what were they preaching?

Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere (Lk 9:6).

This verse simply says that the twelve disciples went around "preaching the gospel."  Verse 2 of this same chapter explains how the Lord had sent them "to proclaim the kingdom of God." They could not have been preaching "the word of the cross," as Paul later did (1 Cor 1:17-18), because it wasn't until at least two years later that the Lord began to tell them how He must suffer and die (Matt 16:21) and Peter "began to rebuke Him" (Matt 16:22) and none of the twelve even knew what He was talking about (Lk 18:31-34).

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Frosted Banana Bars

Even if you don't like "banana stuff" you'll like these bars.  This recipe is that good!  I don't generally like things made with bananas, but I do these.  And many in the same boat as I have told me the same.

I got this recipe from a good friend who got it from her daughter.  Thanks so much, Margaret!

1/2 c butter, softened
1 1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
8 oz sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Add eggs, sour cream and vanilla.  Combine flour, baking soda and salt and gradually add to the creamed mixture.  Stir in bananas.  Spread into a greased 9 x 13 baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool.


8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 c butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 3/4 to 4 c powered sugar

Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth.  Gradually beat in enough powered sugar to achieve desired consistency.  Frost bars and store in the refrigerator. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What is saving faith? cont.

Interestingly, James also used Abraham as an example to illustrate the importance of having living faith in relation to the message he proclaimed to the circumcision — "the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad" (James 1:1).  James, however, specifically singled out the account when Abraham was called upon to offer his son, Isaac, upon the altar.   This is significant because we know Abraham was already saved prior to this testing.

Approximately two years after Abraham was justified God gave him the covenant of circumcision (Acts 7:1-8) and changed his name from Abram to Abraham (Gen 17:5).  This covenant of circumcision was what separated him from the ungodly heathen nations around him.  Technically, this was the birth of the Hebrew nation, and it was not too long after this that Isaac was born. 

The sign of circumcision was the seal of righteousness of the faith that Abraham had placed in God (Rom 4:11-12).  Today, the seal is the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13-14).  But clearly, the covenant of circumcision was a covenant of works (Gen 17:10-14; 26:4-5).  The most obvious example of this is, every male child was to be circumcised the eighth day in order to be made a child of the covenant.  Although the rite didn't save him, in Israel a male couldn't be saved if he wasn't circumcised.  Circumcision gave him an opportunity to be saved.  It seems to me that it was under this program and message that James wrote:

But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone (James 2:20-24).

James' question, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works?" merely indicates that Abraham's works confirmed his faith. The combination of faith and works verified that Abraham's faith was a living faith, which manifested itself by works. According to James, Abraham served as a pattern to the circumcision that faith plus works were required for salvation at that time.** And what time was that? The transitional period, which ended with the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

**A few years after the Book of James was written, the Jerusalem Council was held, which concluded that Gentile believers needn't be circumcised nor keep the Mosaic law in order to be saved (Acts 15:1-21).  Nothing, however, was said about whether or not Jewish believers were to remain under the law.  It seems they assumed they were because no revelation had yet been given to them that they were freed from it.  Also, even later in Acts 21:17-26 they were still "all zealous for the Law."  Apparently the middle wall of separation between Jew and Gentile was gradually broken down.

Monday, August 1, 2011

What is saving faith?


Paul used the above quotation from Genesis 15:6 to prove that "the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness" (Rom 4:2-5).

It's wonderful that God doesn't require — in fact, doesn't even permit — human works for salvation. He requires only faith. But what is faith? And what kind saves?

There is no indication in Scripture that "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24) or "the preaching of the cross" (1 Cor 1:18) was proclaimed to Abraham. We must go back to the passage which Paul quotes to see what Abraham believed. Genesis 15:5 says:

And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

But that wasn't the first expression of Abraham's faith because Hebrews 11:8 says:

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

This took place considerably before the Genesis 15 incident, and we are specifically told that through his faith he "gained approval" (Heb11:2). 

From all this it is clear that Abraham believed what God told him and was counted righteous, which we now know was through a redemption still to be worked by Christ in the future.  Today we must also believe what God tells us — and this is nothing less than the account of Christ's all-sufficient finished work on the cross for us (Rom 4:25).

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets (Rom 3:21).

But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter (Rom 7:6).

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen (Rom 16:25-27).

(to be continued)