Monday, October 29, 2012

Soli Deo Gloria

By Kimberly C.

I became familiar with John Piper even before I started seminary in 2000. A pastor of mine introduced me to his book Desiring God. The main quote of John Piper's is "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." That one quote means more to me now then it did when I first heard it. I will come back to the quote at the end of this post...stay tuned.

I opened up my ESV app on my phone the other day (just being honest, I didn't open my Bible, my phone is easier to hold when feeding the baby at 2am), and opened it to Galatians. It's so neat how, within the first 5 verses, God had convicted me of sin and given me His precious Word to meditate on.

"(Jesus Christ) who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever, Amen." (Galatians 1:4-5)

This verse has so many key points. Here we go:
  1. Jesus was given for us. Given by whom: the Father. God in His graciousness gave filthy sinners His beloved Son.
  2. He was given for our sins: even our good works (filthy rags) need salvation.
  3. He was given to deliver us from this present evil age. He basically came to free us from the tyranny of sin. Paul was writing to the church at Galatia, who lived in an evil time. We, here in 2012, live in an evil age. Let me illustrate just today. I am sitting here with my foot on a rocker-sleeper looking at a precious little boy sleep away (believe me, I am grateful). As I pull out the iPad and read blogs that I love, I find myself wanting a different life. Right now my life is my son and my husband. One is definitely easier than the other. Eric doesn't wake up 4 times a night and need feeding. Baby E doesn't know what potty training is. But, God has given me a special privilege that He has given to no other person. No one else in this entire world gets to be Elijah's Mom. I do. My sin in this: not being content with where God has me and what God has given me. Maybe some other things will come up later in life like they were in my life prior to this last month, but that is for Him to design. DIScontentment = sin. So for me, one vice I have to be careful of is how I use the internet and how it can grow discontentment in me. Discontentment is sin and one that I have to combat daily.
  4. Our Father God knows how to give good gifts. James 1 says that and I have come to know this fully well.
  5. Why did God the Father do all of this? Why did God send His only begotten Son to die on a cross for sinners and enemies? Was it solely for our good that He did this? No. He did this, as this verse says, for HIS glory. He gets all of it. We can take none of the credit for our salvation. We did nothing to earn it. We did nothing to receive it. 

All the hours of our lives should reflect this one purpose: live free of sin (by God's grace and the enablement of the Holy Spirit) for God's glory. God is infinitely glorious and we need to live for that glory.

So, how we can today (I'm talking to myself here), show God's infinite glory to this world? Be satisfied in God and God alone - for HIS ultimate glory in this world.

The Reformers were on to something when they put this as the last of the five solas.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Family Resemblance

By Kim. M.

Don’t you just love an “Aha” moment? This morning I had an “Aha” morning! It started when I read a Facebook post from a grown man wishing his dad a happy birthday. In the post he said, “I know I’m doing something right when people tell me that I remind them of you.”

My first thought was, “Wow, what a compliment for any parent!” But as I let that post sink in, it caused me to wonder, “Could any of MY kids say this about me? About the life I live?” This thought took me back in my mind to March, 1998. Katie, our oldest was seven and in second grade. I found a note she had written that said, “I want to be like Mommie”. I remember reading that note and having the very breath sucked right out of me as the impact of those words hit me. From deep inside I cried out, “Be like me?! No! Not like me, KATIE, not like ME!”

I tucked that note in my Bible…right on the page with 1 Corinthians 11:1 where it says: Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. I’ve let the note and the verse serve as a motivating truth for the last 14 years. The sobering reality is….my kids are watching me. They do imitate me. And with each new child God has brought into our home, the weight of that reality has increased. I want my kids to imitate me only as I imitate Christ. I want to live a life that is transparent so that they can learn from my mistakes and grow from what He is teaching me. This reality also challenges me to keep my eyes on Him; to focus on the goal of becoming more and more Christ-like.

I have had the privilege of having a mentor in life who set an example of pursuing Christ-likeness. Hebrews 13:7 always reminds me of her. It tells us to “remember those who led you, who spoke the Word of God to you, and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” Ever notice how someone lives a life that is an example worth following? They do it by faith, and they lead both in word and action. It’s not just the talk, it’s also the walk. Yes, they speak the word – they correct, reprove, exhort, and encourage with godly counsel; but they also live in such a way that their life matches their words. We see their faith in the result of their conduct. They live a life of faith that is “imitation material.” Do they live it perfectly? Of course not- none of us do. But when we observe their words and life, we discover character and faith worth imitating because they imitate Christ.

There is a poem written by John Wooden, the late coach of the UCLA Bruins, entitled “The Little Chap Who Follows Me” that I have reflected on over the years. I have taken the liberty of changing a few words and pronouns to apply this poem to my life; to motivate me to holy living. See if it gives you pause for thought, too.

The Little Girl Who Follows Me

A careful mom I ought to be,
A little girl follows me,
I do not dare to go astray
For fear she'll go the selfsame way.

I cannot once escape her eyes,
Whate'er she sees me do, she tries;
Like me, she says, she's going to be,
The little girl who follows me.

She thinks that I am good and fine,
Believes in every word of mine
The base in me she must not see,
The little girl who follows me.

I must remember as I go,
Through summer's fun and winter's snow,
In building for the years to be
The little girl who follows me!

What a reminder even now as my three “little girls” are young women, that I am always setting an example before them with my life. My heart felt prayer, whether in mothering or mentoring, is written in the margin of my Bible beside Hebrews 13:7. It says, “O Lord, may this verse be true of me someday! May my children be able to say this… that I live a life worth imitating because I imitate You… for Your glory.” It is HIM I want them to see… to see through me to Him! Isn’t that what it’s really about? Living in such a way that others see Him in me… that they see the family resemblance?

This leads me to my second “Aha” moment of the morning. As I continued to ponder on the birthday post (“I know I’m doing something right when people tell me I remind them of you.”), another truth of this simple post became clear. It’s not just living my life as an example for others to follow but THIS is one way I glorify my Father in heaven! It’s by living my life in such a way that others say, “You remind me of Him!” My words and example reflect my Father and His grace and work in me! This was a “connect the dots” thought for me. Although I am sure this truth should have been obvious all along, some days I can be a slow learner. Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” I live as an example to others and I live as a reflection of my Father… all to bring Him honor.

Is it a coincidence that this verse, Matthew 5:16, was my mentor Lib Wenger’s life verse? I think not! She purposed to live a life worth imitating and one that reflected her Father and gave Him glory. Living a life worth imitating doesn’t happen by accident. Living a life worth imitating is made one choice at a time through the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. My life is not about me. It’s about Him. So now added to my prayer of living a life worth imitating – I pray that when others see my life, it is a reflection of my Father and a reflection that brings Him glory. I know I am fully accepted in Christ, because of His work for me on the cross. As a result of that glorious truth, I want my life be an overflow of my heart for all He has done for me. May I bring a smile to His face when others say “You remind me of your Father.”

May the reality of belonging to the Father’s family be lived out daily in all our lives so that others may see our good works, and our “life worth imitating,” and may that glorify our Father. When others look at our lives, may they see the “family resemblance.”

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Trash to Treasure

By Jennifer R.

Do you ever watch those TV shows where they take some ugly, worthless, beaten up item that you or I would probably throw in the trash and transform it into something beautiful and useful?

It struck me today that that's a lot like what God is doing with us. He takes ugly, worthless sinners and transforms them into beautiful trophies of His grace.

And He doesn't stop there! He keeps refining us and beautifying us until ultimately (in heaven), we are completely transformed and perfected. I think we would be unrecognizable, except we are told that we will somehow know each other.

Can you imagine it? I can just see us now, walking around heaven, saying something like, "You made THIS out of THAT old thing? Incredible!" We will be utterly amazed with the Master Craftsman.

One effect of watching TV shows like that is that they cause us to look at "junk" in a whole new way. Our creative juices get flowing and instead of rushing to throw something away, we start looking for ways to "re-purpose" it.

What if we looked at people that way? Instead of mentally writing someone off as hopeless, maybe we should be imagining what a miraculous transformation God could make in their lives. Imagine how useful they could be made under the skillful hand of God.

Would that affect the way we treat them? The way we speak to them? The way we pray for them?

I think it would.

Is there someone in your life you're tempted to give up on? If so, try imagining them as the newest recipient of God's Extreme Makeover: Heart Edition. And then pray that God would make something even more beautiful out of their lives for His glory.

Re-posted from Jennifer's blog, Reflections by Jennifer.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Prayers for My Husband

By Kim W.

I desire to pray for my husband on a daily basis. I know how important that is, but sometimes I lack the specifics of what to pray for. Also, I tend to pray for the same things, not looking to Scripture to guide me on how to pray. This biblically based list (click on the link to go to the list) reminds us all 1) what to pray and 2) how to use Scripture in our prayer life as we pray for our husbands. It has been helpful to me... just thought I would pass it on! Pray without ceasing, ladies!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mrs. Grace

By Hannah S.

Don’t you love technology? Many who know me may be surprised to hear such words from my mouth, but technology has allowed me to be blessed many times over the last few months. As we have accepted the precious gift of a new baby into our lives, I have had to make some changes, and one of those changes has to do with one of my favorite things: reading Christian books. As much as I love a good book, my sleepy brain just can’t seem to make it through even a few pages. As I was expressing this to a dear friend, she encouraged me to begin to listen to sermons online as a way to encourage my soul spiritually. What a joy it has been to have at my fingertips some of the greatest communicators in the evangelical world!

One particular message was so convicting and meaningful to me that I wanted to share it with you. The message is by Jani Ortlund and was given at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference in Orlando this June. The message is entitled: “Marriage through Gospel Eyes: Mrs. Law or Mrs. Grace” (Click on the title to listen to the message.).

Jani does an incredible job addressing the struggles that we often have of being gracious – especially with our husbands. Her sweet demeanor and her vulnerability help one to digest the conviction that she brings from God’s Word. She shares stories from her own life that allow us to see that she understands the struggle and temptations that many of us face in marriage. Whether your marriage is healthy or whether you are feeling hopeless, Jani brings you hope from God’s word. The answer for a Godly marriage and happy home life is really found in the gospel – the gospel of grace. I pray that as you listen to this message that God’s Word would transform each of us so that our homes are full of grace and our husbands might be happy to call us Mrs. Grace.

Monday, October 1, 2012

You're Not the Boss of Me!

by Deborah H.

Recently I’ve been moved by the difficulties several of our membership are having “raising” aging parents. As many of you know, I’m in this boat, too. My parents have presented complex challenges to my life, for sure. And I must say, it is an extremely frustrating and confusing exercise. I always thought “rebellious teenager” would be the hardest situation to manage. But now I know differently. “Aging parents” is the tougher of the two.

Perhaps that’s because we owe so much to them for all they’ve sacrificed for us over the years. Perhaps it’s because as children, we still must honor our parents and treat them with respect. Sometimes that’s really complicated when the tough decisions must be made and implemented.

In ways, there are similarities between rebellious teenager and aging parents:
  1. In both cases, we are deemed “the enemy.”
  2. In both cases, they believe they are perfectly capable of living independently from us. We know better. But when we try to explain to them the ultimate consequences of their actions and behaviors, they tell us we’re just being negative. One group’s functional independence is in the future. For the other, it’s sadly in the past.
  3. In both cases, no matter how gently we try to present alternative views and suggestions, they take it as criticism and answer with emotional outbursts.
  4. In both cases, they bad-mouth us to their friends.
  5. In both cases, they suspect our motives. Instead of seeing the intense love that motivates our assistance and guidance, they think we’re being mean, that we enjoy “putting them down.”
  6. In both cases, when we make the effort to keep up with what they’re doing, where they’re going, who they’re seeing, how they’re struggling, we are told we’re trying to control them when we are actually looking for ways to help.

I’m telling you, it’s a hard road, this parenting your parents. We must be so careful with how we speak to them, what we suggest, how to care for them while promoting as much independence as they can actually achieve. At first, maybe it’s just picking up on things that indicate they could be losing their cognitive abilities. Or maybe we can see that their physical abilities have diminished.

We take them to the doctor and stay with them because many times they don’t remember what the doctor said if we don’t. We make sure there is food in the cupboards and in the refrigerator—and must also make sure it’s not all still there the next time we visit.

We begin to take on more and more responsibility. We fill their pill boxes every week because they’ve begun to get confused about when they take what. We must look to their every day hygiene. Sometimes we have to ask, “When was the last time you bathed, Mother?” This is usually met with something resembling, “None of your business.” She doesn’t see how much pain it causes when you notice the smell of unwashed flesh about her when she’s always been so fastidious about her grooming.

When we see their car parked horizontally on the driveway or get calls from strangers telling us our parents have gotten lost on their way to or from their house, we know we must step in and take their car keys, no matter how much they protest. Their safety and the lives of others on the road trump their hurt feelings and damaged egos.

Inevitably, we find they are not able to stay by themselves anymore. It becomes necessary to move them closer to us, or in with us, or move in with them, or move them into an assisted living facility, or even a nursing home. It breaks their hearts to leave their home, to whittle their possessions to fit their new accommodations. They don’t realize how it also breaks our hearts to do it.

Just like we must ensure spiritual nourishment with our children, we must also look to our parents’ needs in this important area, as well. There again, many times this input is not appreciated and is sometimes even resented.

My mom sometimes says, “I wish you’d think about me every now and then.” Oh, if she only knew that there are very few moments of the day and night that she is NOT on my mind.

This brings me to the last similarity between rebellious teens and aging parents—no matter how sacrificially we serve them, love them, guide them, chauffeur them, and care for them, we are almost totally unappreciated. That’s hard to bear for most of us. My pet peeve in this arena is this: I don’t do these things for kudos and expressions of appreciation. Those things are nice every once in a while, it’s true! But I can serve without that. What makes me angry is when I’m doing everything I can for them and meet with criticism and resentment in return. “Okay, don’t give me the positive. I can handle that. But don’t give me the negative criticisms when I’m trying so hard to please you.” That’s when pride raises its head in my life.

The point is this: we cannot, in either case, allow their ingratitude to affect our level of care. We must still provide guidance, care, instruction, and (don’t forget) LOVE! So many times I have to remember Matthew 25:40, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Wow! What a motivator for service. When my heart is faint within me and I want to throw my hands up and say, “Okay, you’re on your own,” I have to stop and remember that what I do for my parents I do for Christ.

If I think in those terms, it’s my Lord’s hand I hold to keep Him steady. It’s His food I prepare and sometimes feed to Him. It’s His well-being I’m most concerned with. It’s His safety I look after.

Our parents sacrificed for us and loved us when we were an awful lot of trouble and expense. They struggled through the tough years for us. Now it’s our turn, no matter what the sacrifice, even if they don’t appreciate us, even if they’re an awful lot of trouble, even if they’re costing us a lot of our hard-earned money. This is the way of things.

I hear you talk about these issues. I notice the heart-felt prayer requests. I sense the emotional and physical toll it’s taking on some of you. And my heart overflows with compassion. I know how hard it is. And I just want you to know I understand.

One day, we won’t have this struggle anymore. One day, they will have passed away. Already I’m steadily saying goodbye to aspects of their personalities and their traits. Already I’m missing the mom and dad I used to have. But one day, I’ll have them no more. I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to serve them better today.

Brothers and sisters, we are commanded to bear each other’s burdens. Let us offer encouragement and support to each other as we navigate this oh-so-tricky time in our lives and in the lives of our parents. Through prayer, trust, effort and love, we can each approach this service as a special ministry opportunity. And may God be with us! It is His strength that will enable us to see this through to the inevitable end.