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

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thoughts on the Church

"The church is a group of judgmental mudslingers. They seem to really like picking fights with others. Whether it is homosexuals, or other religions, or even with each other. That's the weirdest part. Jesus said to love one another, but you're always hearing how the church even fights among themselves and with other denominations. But this isn't anything new. Look at the Crusades. The church has always been an angry bunch." -- Gary's thoughts on the church as quoted in They Like Jesus, but Not the Church (pg. 99)

"You Christians really hate homosexuals, don't you?" --- a nonChristian seventh-grader attended a youth meeting and the youth pastor reported that this was his impression about the church. Not "You Christians really love each other," "you Christians really look out for the poor and stand up for the oppressed," not even "you Christians are so weird for trying to bless and pray for and do good things for your enemies." (pg. 103)

I continue to be challenged by the book I began a couple days ago. Which true followers of Jesus wouldn't be saddened to realize these are the impressions some in the emerging generation have of Christians based on what they see in our churches and among "our" (and I use that term loosely) leaders?

The author states that we are often known to be judgmental and negative and known more for what we are against politically than what we are for spiritually. He urges us to remember of all people in the world, we - who are promised abundant life through Christ - should be the most passionate about loving God, each other and those outside of the church. We should be known for serving God, others in the community, "helping the needy, looking out for the marginalized, and being good neighbors." (pg. 78) Instead we are often some of the most negative, joyless people in constant turmoil. Yes, life is tough, but isn't it tough for everyone? Shouldn't there be a Christlike difference when He offers peace that passes all understanding for those who abide and rest in Him? When people see us do they see a difference that they would want? Do they see the inner joy and peace that only a relationship with Christ brings? If all they knew of Jesus was what they saw in YOU yesterday or last week, would they want a life with Christ? *ahem* Sobering thought.

Perhaps this is why Paul urges us to rejoice in the Lord always and in everything give thanks and to not be anxious about anything, but to present our requests to God with thanksgiving! Apparently God wants His followers to be thankful, joyful people even when life isn't going our way! In fact when life is hard and people around you know it, they are likely more impressed at your abundant joy and peace because that's not normal ... it's Jesus reflecting in you!

What a challenge for today. For my life. Yikes!

“But historians of religion like to say that Christianity was born in the Middle East as a religion, moved to Greece and became a philosophy, journeyed to Rome and became a legal system, spread through Europe as a culture–and when it migrated to America, Christianity became big business.” -- the late Senate Chaplain Richard Halverson

This was also quoted in this book. Perhaps it explains why Christians don't make the difference that they are supposed to in this world. Maybe we have made Christianity into a business rather than a life-changing relationship with Almighty God. Businesses don't give us joy, but abiding in Christ sure does!

Maybe we are negative and judgmental because we aren't abiding in Him. Have we strayed from our loving Shepherd? Hmmm.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"They like Jesus, but not the church"

Yesterday I started to read two books that I've had for a few months now. One is The History of Islam that Basheer and his bookstore-working friend gave me when we were in Damascus. This is a three volume set and I foresee it taking a while to get through since I will likely read off and on as I read other books.

The other is a book I bought for Andrew, but I thought, too, that I would like it. It's called They Like Jesus But Not the Church by Dan Kimball. As the subtitle says, this book gives "insights from emerging generations." I've only read the first couple of chapters, but already I recognize myself and find myself challenged by what he writes. Especially about the Christian bubble or subculture. You know where you mostly hang out with Christian friends, go to Christian events, your church, your religious groups, your Bible studies and so forth. The author challenges us to see the heart of Jesus and how He went out into the world, listening to the people, spending time with them and meeting needs.

Dan remembers a time when he found himself in the church all week. He was there for staff meetings, he was there planning events, studying for his sermon -- all within the church's walls. He urges us to break out of our Christian bubble prison and engage with the world. He says he loves the heart of Jesus and how Jesus was willing to break out of the religious circles of His day. Jesus met with sinners because He knew it was the sick who needed a Physician, not the self-righteous who didn't even recognized how spiritually sick they were!

The author urges us to get to know the "natives" of our culture. He changed his ways by going to coffeehouses to prepare for his sermons. By going there, he met the workers, asked their opinions of things (which they LOVED!) and got to know the regulars. (This reminds me of my McDonald's days because I got to know many of the regulars and workers quite well so I can totally see this scenario that he describes.)

Asking people about Jesus while on a California university campus garnered very positive responses, however, questions about the church were a different story. "The church messed things up," and "They took the teachings of Jesus and turned them into dogmatic rules" and "Christians don't apply the message of love that Jesus gave" were among the replies. (pg. 37)

The author claims that we are so busy planning church events -- worrying if there will be good snow for our ski trip or how well the Valentine banquet will be attended -- that we feel complacent about those outside the church. We often aren't thinking of their eternal destiny or if they are experiencing the abundant life that Jesus gives; instead we often point fingers and complain about how horrible things are in our society. (pg. 41) Ouch!

"Jesus spent time with those who weren't religious. He talked with them, he listened to them, he cared for them, he cried for them. He died for them. . . . We need to have our hearts constantly broken for people, like Jesus' heart was broken. We need to look around us and see people through his compassionate eyes." (pg. 48)

The author asks if we are planning our escape from this prison of the Christian bubble. Like other books I've read recently and even a movie I saw the other day, the message seems to be: make relationships! Spend time listening to people and build friendships with them. Care for people.

And this is all just from the first 2 chapters....whoa!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Finished the Bible and July Books!

I finished reading the Bible today! I started last September and finally finished. This month I read many of the books at the end of the Old Testament -- Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. Most of those books are short and I do know there are a few not on there (e.g. Daniel, Jonah), but I read those out of order earlier in the year.

I don't think I'll finish a new book before the month ends so I'll go ahead and post the books I read this month.

The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller -- I wrote two posts already about this. I enjoyed reading about the elder brother's role...the TRUE elder brother, that is. Also the part about tasting and seeing that the Lord is good (pg. 108) was interesting.

On our longing for something else, the author writes, "The message of the Bible is that the human race is a band of exiles trying to come home. The parable of the prodigal son is about everyone of us." (pg. 97) See posts from earlier this month for more details on this book.

The Popular Encyclopedia of World Religions by Richard Wolff is "a user-friendly guide to [Islam, Shintoism and Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism, Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism, Judaism and Christianity's] beliefs, history and impact on our world today."

At the end of one section the author mentioned how Christians should relate to people of different faiths. He wrote, "Christians should be prepared to answer questions and explain the hope we have and do it with 'gentleness and respect.' Christians are ambassadors and therefore necessarily diplomatic. Christians are witnesses, not prosecuting attorneys. Witnesses relate what they have experienced. According to the words of Christ, it is the Spirit who will bear witness to him and convict the world of sin and guilt. We can only present the facts of our experience and share information, but without the Spirit, who internalizes the facts and convicts, new life will not blossom. We present the external evidence, the Spirit provides the internal evidence." (pg. 60)

The Difference Maker by John C. Maxwell focuses on "making your attitude your greatest asset."

"The happiest people in life don't necessarily have the best of everything. They just try to make the best of everything. . . . A person's attitude has a profound influence on his approach to life." (pg. 35)

The author discussed where our attitudes come from, what our attitudes cannot do for us, what they can do for us, how to make our attitudes our biggest assets and five big attitude obstacles (discouragement, change, problems, fear and failure.)

Unlikely Angel
by Ashley Smith is the author's recollection of the early morning hours of March 12, 2005 when she was held hostage in her own apartment by a man who had murdered four people in Atlanta, GA earlier in the day. Ashley recounted the time she spent with Brian Nichols and how God revealed Himself to her, helped her come to some decisions in her own life marked by drug addictions and how He was the hero. This book reminded me that God is always at work, He will never leave or forsake us and His ways and thoughts are much higher than our own. It was encouraging to see how God used this potentially terrifying situation to bring about change in people's lives.

Improving Your Serve
by Charles Swindoll is based on the verse in Mark where Jesus tells us He did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom. The author deals with thinking like a servant, the portrait of a servant, the influence, perils, obedience of a servant and the consequences and rewards of serving. I have a few blog posts from this month dealing more with this book.

Muslims, Christians and Jesus by Carl Medearis -- I read this book last year and found it very encouraging and full of great tips and wisdom. Recently -- like Saturday night after being rather harsh *blush* with some people about certain practices -- I felt prompted to reread it and was challenged anew when I realized how I had strayed from many things I had planned to put into practice. Instead I had followed my natural inclinations... but I digress. Here are things that stood out to me the second time around. By the way, here is my review from last year. You can see how much I raved about it then! Love, love, love Carl even though I don't know him!

"Jesus had compassion for people, and he valued the same quality in his disciples, even above personal sacrifice." (pg. 33)

"Jesus looks for a change of heart; men look for a change of culture. It's always a matter of the heart, and hearts changed by God lead to changed cultures." (pg. 98)

In talking to Muslims and desiring to present Jesus, Carl writes, "Drop the arguments and forget the fight. It isn't about who's more right and who's more wrong. It's about pointing toward Isa (Jesus) and allowing his Spirit" to do the work. (pg. 110)

"If you want to reach a person, you have to look at them as an individual. . .. There can be no more generalizations and blanket distinctions." (pg. 131)

Carl stresses relationships and building true friendships where we listen and share in others' lives. (pg. 132)

"We have the greatest commandment: Love God and love people. Love has always been and will always be the strongest force in the universe. No one can stand against it. . . . It is who God is and who he wants us to be." (pg. 144)

Carl says we shouldn't have an agenda except to "do good and serve people... Not to convert them or fix them or save them. Just love them." (pg. 154)

"Just lift up Jesus... present him -- the Good News." (pg. 156)

"See Muslims" [and] "interact at their point of need." (pg. 183)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

One week ago today . . .

my grandparents moved from South Carolina to their new home in the Old North State. God graciously gave them a pleasant trip during those hours in the car.

And some of us were there to welcome them.

Michael and Pop were acting goofy....POP instigated this!

Surprise, surprise!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Things to remember!

A few things worth recalling . . .

*** From a publication -- a reminder that if God calls us to do something, HE will provide what we need. Reminds me of the phrase "where God guides, He provides." Good stuff to keep in the ol' memory!

*** This verse really ministered to my heart when I read it just before bed last night.

17 "Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. (Jeremiah 32)

Thank you, Lord, for the encouragement! Love that: nothing is too hard for you!

*** Following Jesus as a servant requires obedience. And obedience means personal involvement,

14"Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet." (John 13)

requires Christlike unselfishness

15"I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."

and results in ultimate happiness.

17"Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."

And remember being blessed is a grand thing!

*** Waiting is often the most difficult Christian discipline.

*** And finally this verse from Hebrews 6 .. for some reason it struck a chord with me last night.

11 Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. 12 Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.

I think that's all for now! Oh, except for one last thing: don't just be a hearer of the Word... DO it!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


"Does it seem important to you that Christ calls us what He called Himself?"

This question from Charles Swindoll in Improving Your Serve made me stop and reflect this morning when I read it. The author is speaking of servants as light, and I believe we all remember Jesus' words in John 8:12 where He says, "I am the light of the world."

And then He tells us in the Sermon on the Mount

14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." -- Matt. 5

I think it's cool how our good works will make others glorify God! I remember reading awhile back about followers of Christ in a hostile nation. The people recognized something different about the believers and one man said, "You have Jesus in your eyes." I always thought that was really neat and wanted Jesus in my eyes as well! Being light and having The Light shining out of my eyes is a glorious thought!

On page 137 in the book, under the "I am responsible" paragraph, I was challenged by this thought about my responsibility in not letting my light be hidden. "We refuse to become ... 'rabbit-hole Christians' ... popping out of our holes and racing from our insulated caves to all-Christian gatherings only to rush back again. For salt to be tasted and for light to be seen, we must make contact."

I believe this stood out to me because often I do go from Christian gathering to Christian gathering and seldom have a lot of contact with others. Well, I was like this more years ago and I'm not quite as much that way now, I suppose. Still, it made me think.

In order to spread my light and salt, I need to make contact with others. I can't stay only in my Christian circles or stay alone all the time.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Forgetting & Thinking Like a Servant

Some more thoughts from Improving Your Serve by Charles Swindoll . . .

In the chapter on the "servant as a forgetter," the author quotes missionary Amy Carmichael:

If I say, "Yes, I forgive, but I cannot forget," as though the God, who twice a day washes all the sands on all the shores of all the world, could not wash such memories from my mind, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

"The Lord God promises us we can forget because He personally will take the place of those painful memories." Joseph named his first son Manasseh which means forget. Genesis 41:51 records, "Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, "'It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household.'"

What a wonderful truth to realize that GOD can wipe away remembrances of our pasts that haunt us presently. He can make those thoughts go away never to bother us again!

In the chapter of thinking like a servant, Dr. Swindoll reminds us "Living differently begins with thinking differently." The Scripture is clear that we must renew our minds (Romans 12) and let the mind of Christ be in us (Philippians 2). "When Jesus Christ truly takes charge of our minds, bringing our every thought captive to Him, we become spiritually invincible. We operate with supernatural power. We walk under God's complete control." (pg. 91)

"When God is in control of the servant's mind, we realize as never before that life's greatest joy is to give love away." (pg. 93)

"Thinking right always precedes acting right. . . . Servanthood starts in the mind. With a simple prayer of three words: 'Change me, Lord.'" (pg. 95)

We should not pray for others to be servants so they will serve us, but we should pray for people to serve God, beginning with ourselves. Change me so I will serve You, Lord.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Serving through Giving and Forgiveness

Today I started reading a book Improving Your Serve by Charles Swindoll which is based on Mark 10:45 and concerns "the art of unselfish living."

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

According to Jesus, the greatest in God's kingdom is the one who serves others (Matthew 20:25-28). And according to the verse above, Jesus came not so others could dote over Him, but to serve and to give!

The author included this quote from Wilbur Rees.

"I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please - not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough of him to make me love a foreigner or pick beets with a migrant worker. I want ecstasy, not transformation. ..."

So many of us want enough of God so that we feel good ... God's got our back, He's there for us when troubles come. But we don't want the challenging part, the most eternally-rewarding part of following Jesus -- serving others.

One of the first chapters in this book deals with "the servant as a giver." There were a few quotes that stood out to me that I wanted to write here in order to review sometime.

"I willingly release my way this day. Lord, show me how You would respond to others, then make it happen in me." coupled with a reminder of Galatians 5:13 which stood out to me as I really read these words: "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love." (pg. 40)

Oh to have the eyes of Christ and respond to others as HE would! I wonder if I prayed that if He would do that in me! If I had His eyes of compassion, I would be moved to help others. Remember reading about Jesus being moved with compassion (Mark 1:41)? And how interesting to see that, yes, I was given freedom, but not so I can do whatever I want. My flesh rarely wants to serve others out of love!

This next part really challenged me because quite often I am more willing to give money to help than actually take the time to help meet needs. I don't like to be inconvenienced or like to mess up my schedule. So when I read this, I was greatly convicted:

"It is impossible to give ourselves to others at arm's length or in absentia. Personal involvement is essential, not incidental, and it usually involves adapting our ways and schedules to fit into other's needs. . . . [Being] a person who genuinely and personally gives to others calls for a plentiful supply of flexibility. . . . Authentic servanthood calls for people with a passion for giving whatever without recognition, without reservation, without reluctance, and without restriction. And those types are rare indeed!" (pg. 47-48)

A reminder from pg. 53 - "We are never more like God than when we give."

"God so loved the world, that He gave. . . . "

In the chapter on "the servant as a forgiver," Dr. Swindoll writes: "[It's] God's forgiveness of us that makes possible our forgiving others." (pg. 57)

King David knew the awesomeness of God's forgiveness and penned these words:

Psalms 103

Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits-

3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,

5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

. . .

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

I'm sure I'll share more later so check back if you are interested.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tagged again!

The Muslim Kid tagged me in a note where I am supposed to share ten things about myself so here goes!

1) I have always enjoyed reading. Within the last couple of years the types of books I read has changed. Used to be predominately Christian fiction whereas now I have grown to really enjoy nonfiction books.

2) I am currently rereading the Bible and finding so much good stuff in the Old Testament that I missed before or else forgot. Perhaps it helps, too, that I am reading it in a more modern version so I can understand it better.

3) Sometimes I strongly relate to Jeremiah's nickname as "the weeping prophet." Not the prophet part, but the other.

4) High-speed internet service is one of the best gifts I ever received. I think this is probably the only utility where I feel I get my money's worth each month. I cannot say the same thing for my phones - landline and cell!

5) I am thankful that I still keep in touch with some of my high school classmates from time to time. My Girls' Night Out crew makes me laugh and I love those cheeseballs!

6) Earlier this year my husband and I broke out of our comfort zones and did something I never ever planned to do: we visited Syria! Met the most amazing people! Absolutely loved it...and miss it every day!

7) One of my dearest friends in the world lives in Damascus. I firmly believe God guided us together as friends. (How we met: my version; his version.)

8) I love my Arab friends, and am very happy when I hear from them by instant message or e-mail or on Facebook. I really want to talk to them face-to-face again one day!

9) More and more I learn that I am a work in progress and God can still use me in spite of the resources, talents and abilities that I lack.

10) I have been saved by grace through faith...not by my works. It's through Christ alone. Any good works are a result of my salvation and abiding in Christ (John 15), not a way to earn it.

I'm supposed to tag people now, but whoooo wants to do this? Angela? Amber? Carmen? Niki? Kip? Chris? If you want to do it, do it and let me know you are .... well, I read your blogs so I'll know if you do. :-)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Two Quotes -- Failure & Success

"Failure is just like success -- it's a day-to-day process, not someplace you arrive one day. Failure is not a one-time event. It's how you deal with life along the way. True, you will make mistakes, but you can't conclude that you're a failure until you breathe your last breath. Until then, you're still in the process, and there is still time to turn things around." (pg. 158)

"Success each day should be judged by the seeds sown, not the harvest reaped." (pg. 178)

From The Difference Maker by John C. Maxwell

Monday, July 13, 2009

"Focus on your faith and feed it"

In life, both faith and fear will arise within you, and you choose which one will prevail. Someone once wrote,

Two natures beat within my breast,
The one is foul, the other blessed.
The one I love, the other I hate;
The one I feed will dominate.

The thing is, both of those emotions will always be present in you. The emotion you continually feed is the one that will dominate your life. You can't expect fear simply to disappear. If you continually focus on your fears, entertain them, and give in to them, they will increase. The way to ultimately overcome them is to starve them. Don't give your fears any of your time or energy. Don't feed them with gossip or negative news shows or frightening movies. Focus on your faith and feed it. The more energy and time you give it, the stronger it becomes. And anytime you feel afraid of doing something but go ahead and do it anyway, you will be reprogramming your attitude. When you feel fear, it will mean "go" instead of "stop," and "fight harder" instead of "give up."

[Eleanor Roosevelt] once wrote, "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

That is what overcoming fear may be to you -- doing what you think you can't.

From The Difference Maker by John C. Maxwell, pages 142-144

"The Joy Is in the Journey"

"We get on board that train at birth, and we want to cross the continent because we have in mind that somewhere out there is a station. We pass by sleepy little towns looking out the window of life’s train, grain fields and silos, level grade crossings, buses full of people on the roads beside us. We pass by cities and factories, but we don’t look at any of it because we want to get to the station.

We believe that out there is a station where a band is playing and banners are hung and flags are waving, and when we get there that will be life’s destination. We don’t really get to know anybody on the train. We pace up and down the aisles looking at our watches eager to get to the station because we know that life has a station for us.

This station changes for us during life. To begin with, for most of us, it’s turning 18, getting out of high school. Then the station is that first promotion and then the station becomes getting the kids out of college, and then the station becomes retirement and then… all too late we recognize the truth – that this side of that city whose builder is God, there really isn’t a station. The joy is in the journey and the journey is the joy.

Sooner or later, you realize there is no station and the truth of life is the trip. Read a book, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, hug a child, go fishing, laugh more. The station will come soon enough. And as you go, find a way to make this world more beautiful." ~ Barbara Bush

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Life is dangerous

Well, it felt like July today! The humidity was back. I'm not complaining though. We've really had a pleasant summer thus far. This evening Andrew and I were reading on the porch. A while back he checked out two John Maxwell books from our local library. He finished one and I am reading it now. He is reading the other. Here are a couple of things from each:

Under the heading "Sometimes things are painfully obvious and need little explanation" are these humorous warnings and pieces of advice collected from the military:

  • "Aim towards enemy." -- Instruction printed on U.S. rocket launcher
  • "When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not our friend." -- U.S. Army
  • "If the enemy is in range, so are you." -- Infantry Journal
  • "It is generally inadvisable to eject directly over the area you just bombed." -- U.S. Air Force Manual
  • "If your attack is going too well, you're probably walking into an ambush." -- Infantry Journal
  • "Never tell the platoon sergeant you have nothing to do." -- Unknown army recruit
  • "Don't draw fire; it irritates the people around you." -- Your buddies
  • "If you see a bomb technician running, try to keep up with him." -- U.S. Ammo Troop

Talent is Never Enough by John C. Maxwell. Andrew especially laughed at the last one. :)

And from the book I was reading called The Difference Maker, on the subject of fear:

"Maybe the best approach [to life] is to adopt the attitude of poet Gertrude Stein, who said, 'Considering how dangerous everything is, nothing is really frightening.' There are no guarantees in life. People look for many things to protect them: burglar alarms, traveler's checks, aspirin, umbrellas, GPS systems, and air bags. But the truth is that life is dangerous, damaging to your health, and will eventually kill you. So you might as well live life to the fullest." (pg. 136)

Now there's a thought! :-)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More on the elder brother

More from The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller -- see the previous post for background information on this book and the elder brother.

"Elder brothers' inability to handle suffering arises from the fact that their moral observance is results-oriented. The good life is lived not for delight in good deeds themselves, but as calculated ways to control their environment" (pg. 50). Thus elder brothers often suffer "confusion and rage" because they expect their very moral lifestyles to equal a good life. However life seldom is this way. The elder brother also has a "strong sense of his own superiority" (pg. 53) which often leads to racism, classism and even believing "God favors them because of their particularly true doctrine, ways of worship, and ethical behavior" (pg. 54). Their attitudes to people of "wrong" spiritual beliefs is often hostile: "it becomes easy to justify hate and oppression, all in the name of truth." (pg. 54) On a personal level self righteousness "creates an unforgiving, judgmental spirit."

Elder brothers also often have "joyless, fear-based compliance" (pg. 57). They "may do good to others, but not out of delight in the deeds themselves or for the love of people or the pleasure of God" (pg. 62).

The elder-brother spirit is also known by the "lack of assurance of the father's love. . . . As long as you are trying to earn your salvation by controlling God through goodness, you will never be sure you have been good enough for him. You simply aren't sure God loves and delights in you" (pg. 63).

The author says elder brothers often have dry prayer lives because their "main goal in prayer is to control their environment rather than to delve into an intimate relationship with a God who loves them" (pg. 65).

"Elder brothers have an undercurrent of anger toward life circumstances, hold grudges long and bitterly, look down at people of other races, religions, and lifestyles, experience life as a joyless, crushing drudgery, have little intimacy and joy in their prayer lives, and have a deep insecurity that makes them overly sensitive to criticism and rejection yet fierce and merciless in condemning others" (pg. 70).

Excuse me while I go look in the mirror ... and while I doctor my poor toes.

"The Prodigal God" -- Elder Brother

Yesterday I went by the library to renew a book for Andrew, and a small book on the top shelf of the new books section drew my attention. And even though I have a number of books at home already that I need to read, I checked out The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller since the story from Luke 15 is very special to me. It's almost like I needed to see what this author had to write about it ... especially since it was titled the prodigal GOD! In the introduction, he explains that prodigal doesn't mean "wayward" as we often believe. It actually means "recklessly extravagant" and "having spent everything." Perhaps you can tell by that definition how it would fit God.

After not reading far at all, I saw, too, where this author was focusing not only on the immoral younger brother who tends to get most of the attention, but also on the self-righteous elder brother. Both young men were mentioned by Jesus and each represented people listening to Christ's message, the "sinners" and the Pharisees.

I've read the first few chapters and here are a couple of things that I wanted to share thus far. They really made me pause for reflection.

"Elder brothers obey God to get things. They don't obey God to get God himself - in order to resemble him, love him, know him, and delight him. So religious and moral people can be avoiding Jesus as Savior and Lord as much as the younger brothers who say they don't believe in God and define right and wrong for themselves. Here, then, is Jesus's radical redefinition of what is wrong with us. Nearly everyone defines sin as breaking a list of rules. Jesus, though, shows us that a man who has violated virtually nothing on the list of moral misbehaviors can be every bit as spiritually lost as the most profligate, immoral person. Why? Because sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord and Judge." (pg. 43)

The author gave an example of someone who tried to earn God's favor, success, and "the good life" by being very moral.

"[By] seeking to put God in his debt and get control over him through his good works -- instead of relying on his sheer grace -- he was acting as his own Savior. . . . There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord. One is by breaking all the moral laws and setting your own course, and one is by keeping all the moral laws and being very, very good." (pg. 44)


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fun with Friends!

Last night we celebrated the Fourth with friends! Most of these are with my crazy friends, Teresa and Denise.

We went to see the city's fireworks .... we happened to sit so we viewed them from behind a tree. Interesting perspective. :-) We had a GREAT time!

Still cracking up when I think of Chelsey talking about a friend who spelled words/his name with statements such as "it's p as in pneumonia, g as in gnat, k as in knight." Ha, ha, ha, ha!

~*~*~ Happy Birthday, USA! ~*~*~

It's . . .

So head on out and . . .


Friday, July 3, 2009

Thoughts on Jeremiah

I started reading Jeremiah a couple days ago and am a bit over halfway through it. It really struck me the other day how God was so good to Israel, yet they rejected Him. I found myself feeling sad as I realized how people God loves reject Him even though He has demonstrated His love and faithfulness. And before I start criticizing the Israelites of old, I best remember that I often do the very same thing!

As I read, God's heart ... His emotions stood out to me. He's not an unfeeling God who doesn't care what we do. Just as someone explained to me recently "the reason we apply pressure on our loved one to do right is because we love him." Yes, I understand. I've said the same thing in the past. If we didn't love someone, we wouldn't care if he made unwise choices and ended up hurting and destroying his life. We become involved because we do care and we do love!

Just now I was reading Jeremiah 30 & 31. This verse in chapter 31 really touched me:

20 Is not Ephraim my dear son,
the child in whom I delight?
Though I often speak against him,
I still remember him.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
I have great compassion for him,"
declares the LORD.

I really love that. I can relate to those sentiments of my heart longing for someone or something. Dictionary.com says this about "yearn."

1. to have an earnest or strong desire; long: to yearn for a quiet vacation.
2. to feel tenderness; be moved or attracted: They yearned over their delicate child.

I am so glad God has great compassion and that His heart still is moved towards His erring children.

The other day I was laughing as I read this description of idols from Jeremiah 10. The part about the scarecrows in a melon patch and the idols having to be moved just amused me! But now it just seems rather sad when I think of it. People were -- and still are -- willing to worship and follow useless, man-made things when the Savior wants a relationship with them.

3 For the customs of the peoples are worthless;
they cut a tree out of the forest,
and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.

4 They adorn it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so it will not totter.

5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch,
their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
they can do no harm
nor can they do any good."

Which leads to
this part of a verse (21) from chapter 30 which was really probing. I'm not sure what it means in its context. Regardless just this phrase jumped out at me and I read it many times.

'... For who is he who will devote himself
to be close to me?'
declares the LORD.

Maybe this stood out to me because here lately I've felt as if God wants me to learn first to wait on Him and second to not think of waiting as wasting time. Time spent with God is never a waste. As I wrote about recently, I need to learn to be satisfied with God and delight in Him. And maybe ask myself if I'm willing to devote myself to getting close to God.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Michael's baptism!

On Sunday, June 28, Michael was baptized at his church.

Here he is with his friends, twins Olin and Louin

Michael was baptized just before his dad was. People chuckled when they saw how high the water was on him in the baptistry.

He looks so proud. When asked if he'd accepted Jesus as his Savior, you could hear a loud and confident "YES!"

Michael & friends at the beach

Last week Stephanie and Michael went to the beach with 3 other moms and 5 other boys. As Steph put it, "The boys had a lot of fun." Here are a few pictures of them enjoying their days together.

Stopping to smile for the camera

Michael (R) and one of his buddies.
I think this pose is rather Syrian. :-)

And yet again. Michael (L) and friends.

The last night ... Mike on left

Looks like a barrel of fun!
Michael is the one being hugged...hey, I do it, too!

And here they all are - clean & civilized
Michael is center left.

Starting July with a bang! Oh, the excitement!

Dear sweet Amber tagged me the other day so I shall start the month of July with this "8 things" thing.

By the way, happy July, y'all!!!

8 things I'm looking forward to:

1. Going to Teresa's on Friday -- we are celebrating America's birthday one day early
2. God working mightily in some people's lives
3. My next Girls' Night Out
4. Going back to Damascus to see old friends & meeting Louai one day
5. Restored relationships
6. Seeing where the "Wild Goose" takes me
7. Visiting with Michael again & the rest of my family, too
8. Seeing Jesus & being with loved ones & meeting new loved ones in heaven

8 things I wish I could do:

1. Something worthwhile!
2. Relax and enjoy God while waiting & be satisfied
3. Change people's hearts (including mine)
4. Restore marriages and other broken family relationships
5. Lose a bunch of weight
6. Eat only healthy foods & love living that way (no sugar, no pizza, no junk food)
7. Live elsewhere for a while
8. Go back to Damascus and see all my wonderful friends again

8 things I love:

1. Jesus
2. My family
3. Meeting and talking to foreigners
4. Damascus/"my" Arabs
5. Flowers, trees, grassy hills, mountains, the beach
6. A sweet, cool watermelon on a hot summer day
7. High-speed internet service
8. Reading

8 things I did yesterday:

1. Went to the post office to buy stamps and mail a letter
2. Uploaded Michael's baptism pictures to Facebook
3. Cut up a cantaloupe
4. Talked to Samer on Messenger
5. Read and responded to a few blogs
6. Looked at all of Carmen's wonderful pictures from her two weeks in Florida
7. Walked the neighborhood ... morning and evening
8. Sat on the porch and read in my world religions book

8 Shows I watch:

1. The Andy Griffith Show (reruns obviously)
2. FOX8 10:00 news sometimes
3. The Amazing Race
4. Survivor
5. I used to watch The Apprentice until they went to two-hour episodes last season
6. I can't think of anything else that I watch right now

If you read this, and you haven't been tagged or done this before and are interested (how is that for adding conditions?), consider yourself tagged! :)