Disciple’s Renewal

I was struck by a pray read in the church service this morning. By struck, I mean that it rang true with my heart and soul. I thought I’d share it with you.

It is taken from Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions:

O My Saviour, help me.
I am so slow to learn, so prone to forget, so weak to climb;

I am in the foothills when I should be in the heights;
I am pained by my graceless heart,
my prayerless days,
my poverty of love,
my sloth in the heavenly race,
my sullied conscience,
my wasted hours,
my unspent opportunities.

I am blind while light shines around me:
take the scales from my eyes,
grind to dust the evil heart of unbelief.

Make it my cheifest joy to study thee,
meditate on thee,
gaze on thee,
sit like Mary at thy feet,
lean like John on thy breast,
appeal like Peter to thy love,
count like Paul all things dung.

Give me increase and progress in grace so that there may be;
more decision in my character,
more vigor in my purposes,
more ELEVATION in my life,
more fervor in my devotion,
more constancy in my zeal.

As I have a position in the world,
keep me from making the world my position;

May I never seek in the creature what can be found only in the creator;

Let not faith cease from seeking thee until it vanishes into sight.

Ride forth in me, thou king of kings and lord of lords,
that I may live victoriously,and in victory attain my end.

Calvin on the Bus

On the way into work this morning I was reading John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion on my iPhone (using the Logos iPhone Bible Software). Calvin being always quotable, I thought I’d share some with you:

For (such is our innate pride) we always seem to ourselves just, and upright, and wise, and holy, until we are convinced, by clear evidence, of our injustice, vileness, folly, and impurity. Convinced, however, we are not, if we look to ourselves only, and not to the Lord also—He being the only standard by the application of which this conviction can be produced.  (1, i, 2)

Some things never change, huh? When all we ever do is look at ourselves, we begin to think we’re ok. But what if there is something else we should be comparing ourselves to? Calvin helps clarify:

And since nothing appears within us or around us that is not tainted with very great impurity, so long as we keep our mind within the confines of human pollution, anything which is in some small degree less defiled delights us as if it were most pure just as an eye, to which nothing but black had been previously presented, deems an object of a whitish, or even of a brownish hue, to be perfectly white. (1, i, 2)

When we only seek to look around us for comparison, we can indeed think we are quite fine. Oh, look, I’m a better husband that that guy. I’m a better employee than that slacker. I’m nicer than that cashier. But these are nothing less than the “whitish” and “brownish” of which Calvin speaks. So, what are we to do?

So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms, and seem only less than demigods. But should we once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and reflect what kind of Being he is, and how absolute the perfection of that righteousness, and wisdom, and virtue, to which, as a standard, we are bound to be conformed, what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity; what strangely imposed upon us under the name of wisdom will disgust by its extreme folly; and what presented the appearance of virtuous energy will be condemned as the most miserable impotence. So far are those qualities in us, which seem most perfect, from corresponding to the divine purity. (1, i, 2)

We are to stop and turn our attention to our creator. The problem I find is that we are far to lazy in this effort. I speak primarily to myself here, though I’m sure it applies to you as well. We are far too comfortable looking around ourselves for the standards of good, righteous, holy, acceptable, right. However, we must stop and look to God and realize that “those qualities in us, which seem most perfect, (are so far) from corresponding to the divine purity.”

However, gazing upon the creator and divine purity, we see our great shortcomings. I am far from a good husband. I am far from a good employee. I am far from nice. But what is our hope? Are we left to dwell in misery after turning our eyes and attention unto God?

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  for fall have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.  It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.  (Romans 3:21-26)

The God to who we turn our eyes and see our inadequacies has provided the answer. It is through faith in Jesus Christ. God has put forth Jesus and His perfection as the gracious gift to all who believe. As Pastor Pete read in the benediction on Sunday:

…though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
(Isaiah 1:18)

May you and I, this Christmas season, turn our eyes to God and not only see our great need for a savior and redeemer but that Jesus is that savior and redeemer.

Children & Christmas

Just read a great post over at Preschoolers & Peace about Honoring Christ and Christmas. Part I of a 2 part series. It was jut a great perspective on of course presenting CHRIST throughout Christmas and teaching our kids about giving, but mostly remembering that they are children and will act & think as such. I think I often forget that growing up is a PROCESS and that just because my (3 & 4 year old!) kids don’t have the self control and selflessness expected of a christian adult, doesn’t mean they won’t grow toward that. She mentioned it last year, and I’m so glad she did this year too, because..well…I forgot! :) Thanks again Kendra! Now, go read the short post: Honoring Christ and Celebrating Christmas, Part I.

Read and Share Toddler Bible Review

About a month ago I signed up to be a book reviewer for Thomas Nelson. At the time there weren’t many titles I was interested in reviewing, so I decided to grab the Read and Share Toddler Bible since we are always on the lookout for good kids Bibles.

Now, the book says that it is for ages 1-4, but I often felt that it was WAY below my 3 and 4 years olds. The stories were really short and the language was very basic. Perhaps this was exaggerated by the fact that we’ve been reading The Jesus Storybook Bible to both our kids since they were born, and it is neither short nor basic in its language.

In all, my biggest problem is that with the Read and Share Toddler Bible I kept feeling like something was missing. After thinking about it, I think that what I miss is the over arching story of the Bible. In the Read and Share Toddler Bible every story is its own neat little unit that teaches a point. The garden teaches us what happens when we disobey. Jacob and Esau teach us to be kind to siblings. Moses leading the people out of Egypt teaches us to trust God. Daniel in the lions den teaches us to pray. And Jesus dies on a cross “…so that when we do wrong, we can be forgiven.”

Now, none of that is “bad” or “wrong.” But where is the gospel? Where is man lost in his sin and in need of being reconciled to a holy God? Where is the fellowship that is broken in the garden? Where is the promised seed that flows through Jacob? Where is the promise land that points to Jesus? And where is the savior that doesn’t just die so we can be forgive, but to satisfy the justice and righteousness of the God we have sinned against?

The Read and Share Toddler Bible never seems to leave “Bible stories” and actually get to the Bible. Perhaps the author assumed that the parents would simply make the jump and connections where needed. Whatever the case, I always left our reading time with this book wishing it was something more.

In the end, I can’t recommend this toddler Bible. Right now, our go-to Bibles for the kids are The Jesus Storybook Bible and The Big Picture Story Bible. Both of these have set the bar for toddler and children’s Bibles very high as they both help point your children to Jesus and the Cross, not simply for forgiveness, but because as Sally Lloyd Jones so perfectly states, “Every story whispers His name.” Sadly, the Read and Share Toddler Bible didn’t live up to the standard they have set.

Subversive Jam

This summer I went through the book, “Feminine Appeal” by Carolyn Mahaney with the women’s group at my church. It basically goes through Titus 2:4-5.  I read it a few years back, I think when i was pregnant with Grace, and I LOVED it then.  So I was excited to go through it with other women. I think i read it the first time in 2 days (staying up almost all night to finish it….i think i was at the end of the pregnancy where you can’t sleep).  This time? I’ll be honest. I didn’t enjoy it as much this time.  I put off the reading until last minute & then skimmed through quick so it would hurt less.  I think the last time I read it I was either blissfully ignorant of the depth of my sinfulness, or I had just not yet reached a stage in life where I was having to put the principles in the book to work.  Most likely both.  More heavy on the latter, since most of my ‘problems’ were the chapters relating to our children.  Anyhow, it wasn’t that I disliked the book, I just disliked the mirror the book held up.  So it was a good thing, I’m just a booger so it was a tough read this time around.  Anyway. What does this book have to do with jam?  Nothing.

One of the things I really enjoyed/appreciated during our bi-monthly discussion group was how Cheryl & Betsy were careful to remind us time & again the concept of, “Principle vs. Method”.  Principle being the overall idea or concept or uh…biblical PRINCIPLE being taught and method being ways that principle can be applied.  Often we get this mixed up.  For example, let’s take the ‘principle’ of saving money on groceries.  Sally might clip coupons and shop at 4 different stores to save money.  She does a great job of it and enjoys it and tells her friends about it.  Her friends hear that and think, “If I’m going to save money, I need to clip coupons and shop in various stores”.  There are other ways to save money on groceries, but many of Sally’s friends might accidentally come to the conclusion the CORRECT way is hers.  That was a lame example but I’m too tired to come up with a better one.  Anyhow, with all things but especially things regarding child-rearing and living out our faith and being good stewards of the things God has blessed us with, it is VERY easy to slip into the ‘principle/method’ mix-up.  It’s always a good thing to be reminded that the way Sally loves her husband or cares for her children and home is going to look different from the way I do.  Just because Sally didn’t make her own jam this year, doesn’t mean she’s not being a good steward.   ..no, that’s not where jam comes in either.

The last week discussing this book Cheryl took some time to ask whether or not we felt method was being placed above principle during the course of discussing the book.  She used an example about tattoos and we got a tiny bit sidetracked about how one person could be getting a tattoo out of rebellion, while another could be doing it as an expression of love or something equally honorable.  That much like wearing makeup is no longer reserved for prostitutes, tattoos don’t relegate you to delinquent status anymore.  Suddenly it hit me.  Jam.  Can making jam be a sin?

I made a bunch of raspberry and blueberry jam from berries we picked this summer.  In fact, I’m fairly confident we have more than enough canned to float us through till next year.  This was my first time ever making jam & my first time ever canning.  When I realized it was working and we did in fact have jam that could sit in the pantry until ready to use, I did not feel warm and homey like a frontier woman or something.  Nope. I felt like a subversive punk rock D.I.Y rebel.  Down with ‘big AG’.  I don’t need your sugar/fructose/corn syrup laden preserves or overpriced ‘all-fruit’.  I’m opting out.  I’m making my own.  I live in the suburbs in 2009. I do not NEED to make jam.  This was a political protest.  Yep.  You never know what a person’s motives are.  I guess that’s why God says, “It is mine to avenge, I will repay…” (Deut. 32:35 NIV).  Left up to us…well…One would probably assume I’m just being holly homemaker with my hot water bath canner boiling away.

**I’d like to clarify that i’m being facetious, and I do not think my jam rebellion sinful, as I’m not rebelling against God. Though sure, there’s probably some pride mixed in there that would qualify.

Idol Factory Reminders

I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll mention it again. If my experience is any indication, it’s a topic that bears repeating.  John Calvin gave the human heart the claim to fame of being a ‘perpetual factory of Idols’.  With the definition of Idol being anything we place above God in our lives, whether by word or deed, the list of possibilities are endless.  There’s the obvious: money, STUFF…golden calves… and the easily unnoticed: spouses, children, jobs, education….SAVING money…. ect.  This morning I was going through my feed reader and a blog I enjoy for the purposes of helping wrap my mind and day around educating and enjoying my preschoolers had a suprise little reminder for me.  I’m sure it was written mostly for ME, but I’ll pass it on to ya’ll just in case.

Here’s a little snippet of the very short but sweet post by Kendra over at Preschoolers and Peace:

The idols in our lives tend to creep in under the auspices of godliness: Homeschooling.  Family integrated worship.  Modesty.

Ouch.  Did I hurt you?  I didn’t mean to.  It’s just that the longer I walk this path of home education, the more I see people dropping off the cliff of self-righteousness and formulaic spirituality.  Formulas do not save. Ideologies don’t either.

Take your children to the cross.  While there, lay down all of those things that stand in the way of Christ’s redemptive work in their lives.  Get yourself out of His way.  There is only One who saves, and it is for Him we live and breathe.

“Death is not Dying”

I just spent the past 55 minutes making liver pate, cleaning the kitchen and and weeping in sorrow, joy, shame, gratitude….listening to the following on my laptop. It is a message a woman named Rachel Barkey gave a couple weeks ago in Canada. She is a wife & mother of 2, and is not expected to live to her 38th birthday. I’m not one to fwd every video I think is interesting or funny (only the MOST funny ones. ;) ), but here ya go. I put my “non-fwding” pride on the line & demand you sneak in an hour to listen/watch. I picked it up from the Girl Talk blog. I also stole this from that blog post:

Many people have asked Rachel, “Why? Why is this happening to you? To Neil? To Kate and Quinn? To your family and friends?”

“I don’t ask ‘why?’” says Rachel. “Because I know.”

Please watch or listen and learn what Rachel knows.

Sweet Distractions

I’ve mentioned before that although my women’s bible study has long since finished going through, “Stepping Heavenward” with the study guide, I figured I should still um…START it…and work on it during my morning ‘devotional’ time. I had just finished commenting on twitter that I feel “behind”…even though I’m not going through this WITH anyone (on earth anyway..ha), and I’ve not been given a time-line….why must I always make things into rules I have to follow, or better yet a competition?

Anyhow, on I went with the business of the study. I was too look up 1John 5:19 & Matthew 4:8-10 in regards to ‘worldliness’ & who ‘has authority to rule over this world’. While reading 1John I got a little distracted by a mention of an ‘unpardonable sin’. I’ve seen mention of this elsewhere and it always makes me feel uncomfortable. Given my propensity toward legalism and wanting to know I’m following “the rules” purely for the sake of the rules, I’ve always gotten nervous at the notion of an unpardonable sin. I mean…surely I’ve committed “every sin in the book” in one form or another….including verbal blasphemy. Enter nagging doubt. So I read the study notes in my bible, but it was mostly just a redirect to a mini-article that was in Mark. Not wanting to get distracted, I made a ‘mental note’ (aka: will forget it in 30 seconds never to return again) to look it up after i “finish”. Then off on my merry way to Matthew 4. Except I accidentally went to MARK 4. After struggling to figure out how the heck Mark 4:8-10 ties in with the given topic, I realized I was in the wrong book. But then I noticed, “hey, there’s that article on the unpardonable sin”. So of course I read it. Feeling sufficiently relieved, I went back on my way.

Then I stopped. Wait….that was NOT my run of the mill “i get distracted far too easily” type-distraction. That just slew an enemy that would’ve been lying in wait for me the rest of the day (week/month/life?)…sorry..been reading too much old school Sir Lancelot…. Suddenly I became aware of the Goodness of my Father in Heaven…and reminded that indeed….He loves…ME. How quickly I forget. How sweet for him to “distract” me, to shine a light on my doubt…helping me realize not only “what it means” but the reminder of the assurance of my salvation –> it cannot be ‘lost’…the goodness of God & richness of His love & mercy (toward me..even me!)…that He would ‘interrupt’ my bible study to encourage me and gird me against that doubt that hangs on my every word waiting to accuse me.

Dandelions Everywhere

I think i’ve decided Dandelions are my favorite flower. I don’t care if they’re not ‘really’ flowers. we seem to be living in the capital of the dandelion world. they’re EVERYWHERE. the kids are so excited. flowers everywhere AND they’re allowed to pick each and every one! We have had a consistent glass filled with them this whole week.

I already posted about the song last year, so I won’t re-do that. Just read this old post & it explains why they’re among my favorite flowers (daisies of all kinds being next in line). Why I love Dandelions