"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Whom have I in heaven but you?

I was sad this evening about the condition of a loved one, and the Lord brought a phrase to mind, as a prayer that I prayed to Him: "whom have I in heaven but you," and I found it in this chapter. I liked the whole thing so I wanted to include it here. Ever felt this way? It seems the wicked prosper and the ones who seek to obey the Lord struggle! I love the reminder at the end of this passage. I hope it encourages you as it did me.

Psalm 73

A psalm of Asaph.
1Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.

2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.

3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.

5 They are free from the burdens common to man;
they are not plagued by human ills.

6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.

7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.

8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
in their arrogance they threaten oppression.

9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.

10 Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.

11 They say, "How can God know?
Does the Most High have knowledge?"

12 This is what the wicked are like—
always carefree, they increase in wealth.

13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;
in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.

14 All day long I have been plagued;
I have been punished every morning.

15 If I had said, "I will speak thus,"
I would have betrayed your children.

16 When I tried to understand all this,
it was oppressive to me

17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.

18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.

19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!

20 As a dream when one awakes,
so when you arise, O Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.

21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,

22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.

24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

Thank you, Lord, for the peace you whisper to my heart. I praise you for how you will work in hearts and lives. I am eager to see how you will bring people to yourself. I trust you for this. Thank you for holding my hand and guiding me. You are my strength and refuge. Thank you, Lord, thank you!

Christmas Cards in November & Ordering Books

So yesterday I finally ordered the guidebook that I was wanting. Since I couldn't find it at the local bookstores, I ordered it at Amazon.com. It was several dollars cheaper anyway so I'm glad it wasn't available at Barnes & Noble or Books A Million. The "bad" part is that since I was ordering the guidebook, I went ahead and found other books from my "to read" list and ended up ordering 8 books all total. One was for Andrew ... some Navy SEAL wrote it. I am excited to receive my new books in the coming days. It will be exciting going to the mailbox and finding them there. :-)

Speaking of mailbox, I got a picture Christmas card from Robert Sharpe again this year. I do not know this man, yet he sent us a picture this year and last year of his family. The envelope says he is a Graham attorney, but WHY send us a picture of his family for Christmas? And even though it's not even December, his was not our first Christmas card. Ha, ha. We got a Christmas postcard from Andrew's friend Scott and his wife Heather who are with Youth Compass in Germany. I really love getting cards and good mail so this time of the year is especially fun for me!

Back to books, I had to find room for my new books so I cleared space on my bookshelf today. I need a bigger one, but don't really have space for it. Does that mean I need a bigger house? I used to only read library books or books I borrowed from friends, but ever since Family Christian Bookstore opened in town, I have bought a few books every now and then. And of course last night I went wild buying books on Amazon.com!

Here are the books I purchased.

1 "Shadow Warriors: The Untold Story of Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender"
Kenneth R. Timmerman

2 "Rethinking Holy Land: A Study in Salvation Geography"
Marlin Jeschke

3 "Lonely Planet Syria & Lebanon (Lonely Planet Syria and Lebanon) (Multi Country Guide)"
Lara Dunston; Terry Carter

4 "Unleashing the Warrior Within: Using the 7 Principles of Combat to Achieve Your Goals"
Richard J. Machowicz

5 "Mission Al-Jazeera: Build a Bridge, Seek the Truth, Change the World"
Josh Rushing

6 "Whose Promised Land?"
Colin Chapman

7 "God & Government"
Charles W. Colson

8 "Secret Believers: What Happens When Muslims Believe in Christ"
Brother Andrew

Can you tell which one Andrew wanted? Four of them are from Amazon and the others are from private sellers. Also I ordered 3 books for Andrew a couple weeks ago from Focus on the Family. One of those was about Pistol Pete, but I can't recall the others at this time. I told Andrew we will give each other books this Christmas!

Speaking of which, I need to decorate for Christmas soon. I did change my outside flags today so they reflect the Christmas season. Now for hauling the decorations and tree out of the attic. It seems like we just did this!

Epicenter - book review

Just finished reading Joel C. Rosenberg's Epicenter: Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future. This is one of the library books I mentioned the other day. After skimming through some of the chapters, I was curious about the author's views of the end times since he based much of this book on future headlines to watch for based on "the third lens," Scripture. Using mostly Ezekiel 38 & 39, the author discusses things such as a czar rising in Russia, raising fears of a new cold war and also Russia's coming alliance with Iran and how those nations will lead an attack against Israel (war of Gog and Magog) among other things.

Since Joel believes the Genesis 12:1-3 promise to Abraham about blessing Israel holds true even today, I was interested when I saw on page 242 that the author wrote the following:

According to the Scriptures, blessing Israel means

  • praying for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6)
  • bringing good news of God's love to the afflicted (Isaiah 61:1)
  • rebuilding the ancient ruins (Isaiah 61:4)
  • caring for the poor (Deuteronomy 15:11)
  • being a "light to the nations" of the Middle East (Isaiah 49:6, NASB) -- that is, blessing Israel's neighbors and her enemies, not just Israel herself

Pretty interesting book. I'll be eager to see if the author is correct as I scan the news headlines in the coming months or years.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

November Stuff

I've been staying pretty busy this month. I went to SC to visit my grandparents a couple weekends ago. I had not been all year so it was great seeing Mema and Pop again. The pictures in my "Happy Thanksgiving!" post are from our trip to Falls Park when we were in Greenville. I enjoy walking down there.

Today we ate Thanksgiving lunch at my sister's house. Even Berkie and Megan came down from the mountains to join us. It was great! A very nice surprise seeing them and their puppy, Stella. We had a great time eating, talking, laughing, looking at Black Friday ads, watching Michael sword fight to "Carol of the Bells" (instrumentals only, please) and so forth. The weather was pleasant so after lunch a few of them rode bikes and we sat outside to enjoy the fresh air. The food was plentiful and good. Steph's corn casserole was probably my favorite. Andrew smoked the turkey yesterday. Other things we had included mashed potatoes and gravy, mixed vegetables, green beans, corn bread (Mexican), stuffing, cranberry sauce, rolls, biscuits, sweet potato casserole, pecan pie, brownies, cheese cake, pumpkin chocolate chip bread and cookies. Yes, lots of food!

I have to get busy with Christmas preparations soon. I have not put up my decorations or done any shopping. :-/ I don't know yet if I will write cards. I need to get those out of the attic.

I've been reading in some travel books lately that I found at the library. I have gotten some pretty good tips for traveling. I need to order a travel guide that I cannot find in local bookstores. Also I've been reading a couple other books this month. I am nearly finished one of them, but the other will take a while longer. It's about the books of the Bible. Really cool book with colorful pictures, glossy pages and interesting points and summaries of each book. I found it at the local Christian bookstore. Today I read about Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Songs of Solomon. I'll update when I am finished that book and the one I got from the library. I won't do a review of the travel books since I am not reading everything in those. Some sections (e.g. cruises) I am skipping altogether.

God has been so good to me. I am blessed and just want to close this post thanking Him for how He is strong and faithful and encouraging to me. Truly He spoils me, I think. :-)

Yep! I look spoiled for sure!
Susanne and Michael
October 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Falls Park
Greenville, SC -- November 2008

Psalm 100

A Psalm of Thanksgiving.
1 Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
3 Know that the LORD, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
5 For the LORD is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Book Review

Once An Arafat Man by Taysir "Tass" Saada with Dean Merrill is a true story of how a former PLO sniper was transformed by the grace of God. In this book Tass shares how he was born in Gaza, grew up as a refugee in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, fought as one of Yasser Arafat's men and how he eventually moved to the United States. Of note to me was when he talked of the Palestinian children who were deprived of their childhoods because of the oppression they were under and also because they were taught to hate and fight back at such a young age. In fact, as an older teenager, he was in charge of toughening up the 9 through 13 year old boys at a Fatah training camp in Jordan (see pg. 43).

Also interesting from page 46 is that the PLO had arguments within its ranks whether they wanted to set up Palestine as a Muslim-only state or welcome people of other faiths.

I enjoyed reading Tass' impression when he first came to America. He was delighted how he was not referred to as "refugee" or "immigrant" such as he had in Saudi Arabia. He said the Americans were "congenial and open." He even waited for people to put down the Palestinians and praise the Israelis, but that subject never came up. (see page 68)

His meeting with FBI agents questioning him on his involvement in Fatah was rather amusing. (pg. 80)

Tass had been in the United States living as a somewhat secular Muslim for many years before the Lord saved him. By the way, it was cute when Tass realized Jesus was a Jew since he grew up hating and killing Jews. After a while God sent him on the road sharing his story with others. He stressed how important it was for Christians to care about Muslims, and God guided him along the way to pastors and leaders who were interested in this work.

Of special interest was reading of Taysir's meeting with Arafat only 6 months before Arafat's death. He was able to share with his former hero how his life had been radically change from one of hate to one of love.

Also interesting from page 158 -- Taysir asked the tour guide in Israel if they could visit Ramallah since it was only 6 miles north of where they were touring. She politely replied that wasn't a good idea for tour groups. It made me realize that the Israelis want to keep evidence of their settlements and continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza from the eyes of tourists, and I don't blame them. I'm sure it would sway public opinion away from their favor if people could see the truth of what they are doing in the name of "security against terrorism."

When Tass and his wife later went back to Gaza to help his people, he went with no weapons this time except the ones from God -- love and compassion and practical service. On page 188, Tass writes, "We simply kept our focus on what God had asked us to do, which was lift up the spirits and hopes of these people, to let them know that they were not abandoned to violence and terror. Somebody cared. And why did we care? Because of the love that Jesus Christ had placed in our hearts."

I enjoyed the idol talk (thinking we must have a certain outcome in order to be happy, secure and fulfilled) on page 225 and also Taysir's ideas about hope for the Middle East in the last couple of chapters.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Chase the Lion -- the last 2 chapters

Chapter 8 -- The Importance of Looking Foolish

I loved this chapter so lots to share from it . . .

"Faith is the willingness to look foolish." -- Think of Noah building an ark for years and years, the Israelites marching around the wall of Jericho with trumpets, Peter stepping out of the boat to walk on water and so forth.

On page 151 the author states that "normality is overrated" and declares that we are called to be like Christ who was a nonconformer. Mark believes diversity should be celebrated in the church because God created this variety. We should not all seek to act, dress and think the same way. We are the body of believers ... and body parts differ greatly. Not all of us can be arms or toes or eyes.

Loved the part about the kingdom of God being "child-centric." Afterall Jesus did tell us we had to become as little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. (see pg. 155)

Page 156 includes an e-mail one of Mark's church members sent him regarding children. It was wonderful being reminded how children have so many dreams -- they want to be superheros or doctors or spies or astronauts when they grow up. However, as we get older we tend to stop dreaming, we embrace limits, "reality" some would say. But the woman says we "internalize limits ... [and] worse, we become small people with a small God." She asked what limits we are holding onto -- we are too old, don't have enough talent, not enough money, it's too weird. She reminded us that Jesus saw 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread and saw a feast for thousands of people. Our God owns it all. We don't need to live limited lives. Dream. Live. Chase lions!

Pages 159 to 162 discuss David's utter joy and dancing before the Lord. How he was not afraid to look foolish in front of his people because he was doing this for God's eyes, not for humans' approval! Wow! Oh that I could live this way consistently and dare to look foolish for Christ's sake! The author says:

I think David gives us a picture of pure worship. Worship is disrobing. It is taking off those things outside our relationship with Christ that we find our identity and security in. It is a reminder that our royal robes are like "filthy rags." It's not about what we can do for God. It's about what God has done for us. And that understanding produces the greatest freedom in the world: having nothing to prove. Instead of trying to prove himself as the King of Israel, David was consumed with worshiping the King of Kings.

One of Mark's "core convictions" -- "Christ followers ought to be the most passionate people on the planet." (pg. 163)

Chapter 9 -- Unleash the Lion Chaser Within

"I have an unshakable sense of destiny because I know that as long as I pursue God's calling on my life, then God is ultimately responsible for where He wants me to go." (pg. 168)

Lion Chasing Skills

You have to start by trying to comprehend the infiniteness of God so that you can believe He can help you to defy the odds. You have to face your fears, or they'll hold you back forever. You have to learn to reframe your problems through Scripture reading, prayer and worship. Then you'll shift your perspective so that your problem becomes less significant and God's greatness becomes more evident. And remember, you must take risks. That is the essence of faith. Then you're ready to seize the opportunity. But you have to be able to see it to seize it. That means getting yourself in tune with the Holy Spirit. You have to listen to His still, small voice prompting you and believe that He is setting you up for success. And finally , you have to accept that you're going to look foolish sometimes. Chasing a lion usually looks pretty crazy to everyone else. But following Christ is doing the will of God no matter how foolish you look in the process. (pg. 169)

What lion is God calling you to chase?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Chase the Lion -- chapter 7

Grab Opportunity by the Mane

"Lion chasers don't look for excuses. They don't focus on disadvantages. They find a way of making circumstances work in their favor. . . . Isn't it ironic that some people who have so much do so little and others who have so little do so much? Lion chasers don't let what they can't do keep them from doing what they can." (pg. 131)

This reminds me of a young Iranian lady I read about just the other day. She is 20 years old and boldly sharing her faith with her people even though this means persecution for her if she is caught. And here I am with so much and I rarely share the good news with people here.

"Think of every opportunity as a gift from God. What you do with that opportunity is your gift to God. . . . The great irony about opportunities [is] that they usually come disguised as insurmountable problems." (pg. 132)

"One of our spiritual shortcomings is low expectations. We don't expect much from God because we aren't asking for much. . . . Low expectations are the byproduct of prayerlessness, but prayer has a way of God-sizing our expectations." (pg. 133)

Yes, this is definitely a problem that I have at times. Oftentimes I will keep my expectations low in case God doesn't come through. That way I won't be very disappointed. Then if He does comes through, I will be overjoyed. But what a way to live expecting little of God. Hmmm. I am trying to change this now and pray more boldly and with great faith that anything we ask in His name, He WILL do it!

"Living in prayer mode is the difference between seeing coincidences and providences. Prayer has a way of helping us recognize that what we might dismiss as human accidents are really divine appointments." (pg. 136)

Ohhhh, I want to live in prayer mode rather than survival mode. The author says the latter is just reacting to things that happen. I'd rather live expecting God to work and desiring to be part of His work on this earth.