Tuesday's slice of bread

A weekly post premised on this: Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord (Prov. 16:20)

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Location: Florence, Kentucky, United States

married to my best friend, writer, teacher, avid reader, occasional poet, volunteer

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Parents' Examples

I have been thinking about my parents a lot lately. My parents exemplified as best they could these commands from Deuteronomy 6:5-7: "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."

As they were rearing my sister and me, they did this. They loved the LORD personally, and my mom still does, and they took every opportunity to teach us diligently all 66 books of the Bible. When we had questions, they didn't blow us off but worked to help us understand.

They taught us to be like the Bereans, whom Paul refers to in Acts 17:11, to not believe whatever we heard but test it by Scripture.

Like Timothy, from childhood we knew the sacred writings which we able to give us the wisdom that led to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15). The Lord graciously brought this saving grace to each of us--my sister and me--when we were relatively young.

As we grew, we saw other examples in our parents.

Being part of church was always important, and not just showing up. They were always involved in one ministry or another. Their common interest in music caused them to meet in a choir not long after World War 2. That wasn't the only choir they were part of. They sang in various groups. My dad sang in quartets, often accompanied by my mom on the piano. They sang duets. But music wasn't their only ministry.

They were always hospitable. They opened their homes not only to relatives, but a variety of others over the years, giving generously of whatever the Lord provided them with.

Looking at photos, I am reminded of all of the friends my parents took in, whether one at a time or in groups--and missionaries who were home on furlough. My mom even has photos of a time they entertained a couple of young men from Sweden.

Our dad had four careers during his life, having a variety of interests. His death almost 24 years ago came as a shock to all who knew him. Even after our dad passed away, our mom continued in various ministries as long as she was able to, whether having people into her home, hosting missionaries, teaching Bible studies, or visiting people in the hospital.

Our parents did not just talk faith in Christ, take us to church whenever the doors were open. They exemplified a living faith. Mom may not remember much, but she always encourages me in the Lord whenever we talk.

As of this writing, our mom is in a hospital. We don't know how near she is to seeing her Lord face to face. We would appreciate your prayers for her, my sister, my husband, and me.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Observing Growth

Watching, and scenting,
The growth of the pine trees;
Seeing the lengthy things which
Remind me of cacti;
Seeing the pine cones forming,
I appreciate this orderly growth
At the time God ordained.

Is there not a corollary in me?

There is a time of gangly-ness,
Spiritual adolescence,
The slow forming of what
A Christian is to be known for;
A scent that is life to some and
Death to others, as Paul wrote:

"But thanks be to God,
Who always leads us in triumph in Christ,
and manifests through us the sweet aroma of
the knowledge of Him in every place.
For we are a fragrance of Christ to God
among those who are being saved and
among those who are perishing;
to the one an aroma from death to death,
to the other an aroma from life to life.
And who is adequate for these things?"
(2 Corinthians 2:14-16; NASB).

Observing growth this 2017 spring.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

What "Forever" Means Compared to "Here and Now"

In Isaiah 40, we read: "The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever" (verses 7-8; NASB).

Some time ago I wrote a piece called "Pruned" about the pruning of some bushes outside of our home office and the anticipation of the bushes' greater growth that their pruning produced. Now those pruned bushes are full of leaves, but the leaves look over-watered, limp, as if they experienced too much of a good thing. Since we did have a lot of rain recently, and not much sun, that could explain it.

Spring brings greener expectation, much as youth does. Spring brings graduations, weddings, baby showers, many expectations.

But the green doesn't last. Sun takes its turn to shine, to brighten, to mature things. Eventually, as Isaiah wrote, the grass withers and the flower fades.

As Christians, our hope is not in the seasons we experience, whichever one we are in, but in the promise of Isaiah 40:8: "The word of our God stands forever."

As Jesus Himself promised us: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away" (Matthew 24:35; NASB).

We can enjoy the seasons God has gifted us with--"While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease" (Genesis 8:22; NASB)--and rest in the unchangingness of His Word, which remains forever.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

The Straight and Narrow as I Understand It

The straight and narrow road is hard to find;
God must make your mind
And heart alive to its existence,
Or you will merrily travel the wide road
You were born on--
Dead while thinking you are alive and
Partying with your companions on that
Road so enticing, so straight to hell.
The narrow road, by comparison, is
Wide enough for only two:
The Savior and you.
And you enter it by means of
His cross and resurrection;
And then He is your Companion and Keeper,
Shepherd and Guide, for this life and the next,
Faithful to every word in His Word.

Psalm 23; Matthew 7; Ephesians 2

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sanctification and Kindness

First John 1:5-10: "This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is no in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanses us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."

What do you walk in? What do you count on as regards being cleansed from sin, or do you claim to have no sin?

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Confession is the beginning, but not the end, of our salvation; for the confession of sin and cleansing need to be part of the sanctification process. And there is so much to learn.

Last week I posted the first five verses of Psalm 32; here are the rest of the psalm's verses:

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, otherwise they will not come near to you.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones; and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart" (Psalm 32:6-11).

In this psalm, then, God promises to instruct us and teach us in the way we ought to go, and He will. But that's not all.

We need, also, the certainty promised in 1 John 5:13: "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life."

We recognize, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

We receive comfort. Jeremiah wrote, "The LORD appeared to him from far away, 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you'" (Jeremiah 31:3).

We receive more comfort. John wrote, "In  the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:1, 14).

We grow. Paul wrote, "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving" (Colossians 2:6-7).

We grow. Peter wrote, "So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up into salvation--if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good" (1 Peter 2:1-3). A hunger and thirst for righteousness should drive us all to on-going intake of the Word.

We do good works, not to become saved, but in response to the saving work of Christ.

Paul wrote about this in several of his letters.

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed" (2 Corinthians 9:8).

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

"Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds" (Titus 2:13-14).

"This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds" (Titus 3:8).

"Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful" (Titus 3:14).

How do we display fruitfulness?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23).

What do Christians have to look forward to?

"You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11).

"Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever" (Psalm 23:6).

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Justice and Kindness

Micah 6 has a startling passage: "With what shall I come to the LORD and bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sins of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good, and what does the  LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:6-8; italics added).

We think perhaps to buy off God with offerings contemporaneous to these days. We may not bring burnt offerings, animals, oil, children, but what do we offer for our rebellious acts and for the sins of our souls?

When we are told what we are to do is justice, what we are to love is kindness, and what we are to do is walk humbly with out God, we are asked to do what is not in our nature to do.

We want justice leveled on our enemies, not kindness. And walking humbly? Please. This is not in our human DNA.

Sin being in our spiritual DNA means we have to have a changed nature, not merely a changed external wardrobe; a new heart, not merely a new behavior. And we can change neither because we are spiritually dead; read Ephesians 2.

Those who chafe at God's decision that salvation should be gained through only one way ought to remember also that He is not obligated to save anyone. It is only because He chooses to save any that salvation is even available.

For  those who chafe at the idea that we are not free choosers, remember that unless His grace frees us in that one way He has made, we will spend both this life and the life to come enslaved to Satan, under whose bonds we were born. He is the present prince of the power of the air, who often presents himself as an angel of light when he is no such thing, and he can do only what God permits and approves (see Job chapters 1 and 2).

Oh that you who chafe at the way of salvation would see the cost of it borne by the Holy Lord of all that it might be accomplished according to the Father's good pleasure. Chafe not but plead to know such grace, such saving grace, such costly grace.

To do justice as God defines it, to love kindness, to walk humbly with our God requires a totally new nature. And this God gives us, along with a new heart, when we are redeemed.

Acts 4:12--"And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

Romans 10:13--"For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

2 Corinthians 5:17--"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."

2 Corinthians 6:1-2--"Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, 'In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.' Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation."

Psalm 32:1-5--"How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD'; and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah."

After that initial forgiveness, comes sanctification, the subject of next week's post.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Reflecting on Our First 28 Years

Elizabeth:  When we married, we were both working and I moved in to the apartment where Garry lived. We went to the same church already.

We expected to always work for the same companies, live in the same area, attend the same church--at least until we retired.

But God had other plans.

Garry:  At that time I had just returned to commuting on the train from the western suburbs where we lived to downtown Chicago to my relocated office.  Elizabeth caught a ride with co-workers to her office in the suburbs.

Elizabeth:  The day before our fourth wedding anniversary (March 24, 1993) Garry came home and asked me to sit down.  So I did.

Garry:  That day my boss told me that a major project I had been involved in had been cancelled and that I would be laid off before the end of the year.

Elizabeth:  That turn of events was a real surprise.  I had assumptions regarding Garry's job which had just proved false.  And we could not make it for long on just my income.  The second shock that year was the unexpected death of my dad less than a month after Garry cleared out his desk at his office.

Garry:  Providentially my company paid me four months of severance money, beginning in September 1993.  And they also had me do several free-lance projects for them.  All that helped bridge the income gap for us.

Elizabeth:  The day before our fifth wedding anniversary (March 24, 1994) we moved in with a family from the church we were attending.  They had recently finished renovating their home and had enough room for us and our remaining belongings.  There was even room for Garry to set up an office.

Garry:  We stayed with our friends and their young children for four months until I secured a job with the Grace to You media ministries in Southern California (just north of Los Angeles).

Elizabeth:  I had never been one of those who craved to live in California.  It held no appeal.  And I had never heard a Grace to You broadcast, so I didn't know John MacArthur, the pastor who is its main teacher.  Garry had brought a new book by him home, which I read to see what kind of theology he held--I quickly saw that his views were very solid.  My parents had done their best to teach my sister and me to be Bereans.

Garry:  I worked as a publications editor with Grace to You from 1994-2013, at which time they gave me the opportunity to  retire and join in with a church plant a good friend from Grace to You had been invited to lead in the Cincinnati area (we actually moved to a suburb of Cincinnati--Florence, Kentucky, right across the Ohio River).

Elizabeth:  And so, after close to 19 years in California, we ended up moving back to the greater Midwest (July 2013) and being closer to family and some friends.  It was a blessing that we did.  Garry's dad had passed away while we lived in California, and it was a challenge to get to Iowa before he died, and to spend some time with Garry's mom and other family members before returning to California.  Not much more than a year after we moved to Kentucky Garry's mom became ill and passed away in just months.  We are glad for the time we got to spend with her and that we could be closer by to help in her final weeks.  (It has also been a blessing to be able to visit Elizabeth's mom and sister more often in South Dakota and assist them in some important matters.)

After thinking Illinois would be our "forever" home, and then California, I no longer think of Kentucky as our "forever" home, either.  Home is wherever it pleases God to put us.

Pertinent Scripture passages for us are the following:

James 4:13-15:  Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there and make a profit"--yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live, and also do this or that."  (ESV)

Psalm 46:1-3:  God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth give way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling,  Selah. (ESV)