50 Reasons Why I’m Still Thankful To Be An American

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Yes, America is going the wrong direction. And, yes, it is coming quickly. But I thought it might be a good idea to remember why America is still a great place to live— at least right now. Some of these things will change sooner rather than later. Hopefully, many of these things will never change. But, whatever happens, for this day…for this moment…we have so much for which to be thankful! Let’s not get so caught up in all that’s wrong that we miss the blessings that are right before our eyes.

And so I thought of 50 things for which we Christians can still be thankful. Yes, I know this is not a list that fits everyone. But if you can’t relate to some of mine, then think of some of your own that you have in your situation and then add them in the comment section below. I am sure I forgot some obvious ones. Please add them, as well. Here is my list–

1. I can count on the roads to be passable and safe.

2. My children have access to a good education and to higher education of their choice.

3. I can still go to any church I want to.

4. I can go to a mall and see Latinos, Asians, Indians, Middle-Easterners, African-Americans, and Whites all shopping peacefully together, without incident.

5. I can grow my own vegetables and fruit in my garden.

6. I can still share the gospel freely wherever I go.

7. I still feel safe when I jog, bike, and walk in my neighborhood.

8. My grocery store shelves abound with food of all kinds and varieties.

9. If I can’t find what I want at my grocery store, I can travel a short distance to a Farmer’s Market, an Asian Market, or a Specialty Food Store to find what I am looking for.

10. Our judicial system is not completely and utterly corrupt and full of bribery, like many other countries.

11. I can go to the beach or to the mountains or to the city for a getaway.

12. I can blog about anything I want without fear of being arrested or shut down.

13. I have a variety of specialists that I can go to to meet almost any medical need I have.

14. I can afford a reliable vehicle to take me where I want to go.

15. The general public still obeys traffic laws.

16. We can still buy, sell, and distribute Bibles and other Christian books.

17. We can not only count on getting a paycheck if we have worked, but we can also count on the bank being able to cash it.

18. We don’t have trash on the sides of our roads.

19. We don’t have people living in the city dumps, trying to make a living from people’s trash.

20. We have heat in the winter and AC in the summer.

21. We can freely travel throughout all 50 states without fear of interrogation and danger.

22. I have good dental care available to me. I can go to the eye doctor and afford glasses.

23. Most of our policemen are still good men with a heartfelt desire to serve the public.

24. We have a wealth of tests and tools available to diagnose our illnesses and keep us healthy.

25. I can sit on my porch to enjoy the sunset without fear of attack.

26. I can communicate with someone I love across the world without charge because internet access has become available almost anywhere–even in many public places.

27. Instead of the wild, foraging dogs that are so rampant in many countries, we keep dogs as faithful companions and protectors.

28. There is still an outpouring of love and generosity when someone is in need in this country– no matter their color, race, or sex. Americans have a wonderful sense of empathy and generosity. It is truly a beautiful thing.

29. We have faithful men in this country who are still dedicated to teaching the truths of the Bible.

30. The sermons and lessons of these men are available freely through podcasts and internet stations.

31. There is still the possibility to be successful in this country if you are willing to work hard. The American Dream is still a familiar concept to most of us.

32. I can still find wonderful Christian music to listen to online and in iTunes.

33. I have a multitude of good, wholesome entertainment available for my family through the likes of DVDs, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.

34. I have a plethora of fun activities to choose from for my children. So many, in fact, that I am forced to choose only the best ones.

35. If I choose to lose weight or rid myself of any other unhealthy habit, I can find programs and websites to help me– many which are free.

36. I can trust that when I cross a bridge that it will hold the weight of my car.

37. I don’t have to worry about wild animals mauling me.

38. I have fresh, drinkable water pouring from my faucet whenever I want it.

38. I look out my back window and see beautiful, green grass and colorful plants.

39. I have electricity available to me 24 hours a day.

40. I can choose to eat organic or to not eat organic. It’s my choice.

41. We can get in our car, on a plane, on a train, or on a bus, and go almost anywhere in this world if we really want to.

42. Our church can hold Bible School and picnics and festivals without fear of government censure or intervention.

43. I have ample amount of leisure time to spend as I choose.

44. We have a yard with plenty of room for picnics and activities.

45. We have affordable –and even downright cheap– clothing available to us. This is not the case in many countries.

46. Gasoline is far less inexpensive here than in almost any other country. Ask a European if you don’t believe me.

47. Even the lowest income person in this country has more than the average poor person in other countries.

48. We have vast sections of forest and natural resources that have been protected from greedy men.

49. Our kids can play or be involved in almost any sport that is known to mankind. If there is a will, there is a way.

50.  We can still enjoy a 4th of July celebration with our families!

 

Now will you please take a moment and add to my list in the comment section? And then go have an awesome 4th of July!

Diamonds and Axeheads

Diamond Necklace

Several years ago, I lost a necklace. Not the big, chunky kind made out of brightly-colored beads. This was a delicate chain with a small diamond charm. The special kind your husband gives you to celebrate a special milestone or anniversary.

I had taken it off at the end of a long day and placed it on the end table. When I thought of it the next day, it had completely vanished. I searched everywhere. I couldn’t find it.

We came to the conclusion that it had probably fallen in the small trash can next to the table. I sadly realized that it was lost forever. We have a big dumpster which holds all of the trash that our sizable company discards. The bag holding this necklace was in that dumpster. The chances of finding a tiny little gold chain inside a large trash bag in an even larger dumpster were slim to none. We didn’t even know which trash bag was the right one.

My husband decided to look, anyway. That’s just the kind of guy he is. I sent up a little prayer letting the Lord know that I would greatly appreciate finding this special necklace.

Within just a few minutes, Eric came inside the house holding the chain in his hand. Unbelievable. Why would God care about such a thing?

A few years later, I lost my anniversary band. It was a little big and when the weather grew cold and my fingers shrunk even further, the band must have slipped off. How well I remember that Monday at lunchtime. I looked down at my hand and realized it was gone. We searched everywhere for it. But my heart sank, knowing full well that it was unlikely that we would find it.

For several weeks, I prayed that it would somehow miraculously turn up. This ring meant even more than the necklace, as it was bought to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. It was very special and also rather expensive. I was heartbroken.

It never turned up.

But when my birthday came around a few months later, my husband presented me with a small wrapped box. When I opened it, I found the exact same ring that he had purchased over a year earlier. He had bought me this because he knew just how disappointed and upset I was about the loss of that ring. And you know what? This ring means almost more than the first one. It symbolizes unconditional love even through my failures and stupid moments. It shows me commitment and willingness to go above and beyond. He could have been furious and never bought me another piece of jewelry again. Instead he bought me a replacement for the ring I had lost.

So why am I telling you this?

These events came to mind as I read the account of the floating axehead in 2 Kings 6. Elisha’s servants decide to build a new dwelling. At least one of them is so poor that he needs to borrow an axe to fell the trees. While they are working by the Jordan, his iron axehead falls into the Jordan. He is in much despair over this, because it is not his and he does not have the money to replace it. Elisha asks him where it has fallen, throws a stick in the water, which causes the iron axehead to float, and the servant picks it out of the water.

This whole story takes place in only six verses. It’s only a minute portion of the Bible, but there is much to learn here. This man’s life was not in danger. His home, his wife, his children, his education are not mentioned. We know nothing about him.

What we do know is that iron was very expensive in those days and this lost axehead would cause him financial difficulty.

What we do know is that God cared enough about this man and his seemingly trivial problem to provide a miracle on this man’s behalf.

Now, I’m sure this didn’t happen every day and there were probably some axeheads that sat on the floor of the Jordan at the great displeasure and inconvenience of their owners and borrowers. God did not make every axehead float.

But in this instance, God decided to intervene.

This incident shows us that, just like my diamond necklace, God cares enough to help in the little things. Sometimes He chooses to show Himself in an amazing way.

But sometimes, as in the case of my ring, He instead has a lesson to teach us or something to show us by not interceding. And that’s okay, too.

No matter how God chooses to answer us, He knows best. We can count on Him to take care of us all the way. He will give us the strength and grace that we need–and even occasional little miracles–as we go.

And we come once more to the necessity to rest wholly in God’s Sovereignty. I am convinced that this one thing is what will bring us joy and peace as we travel through life. God cares about us. He cares about even the smallest thing. We know that He is in control, no matter what comes our way. What a comforting thought!

 

One Lone Voice

OneLoneVoice

One of my daughters decided to comment on someone’s outspoken support of Friday’s Supreme Court decision on one of her social media accounts. She was polite and kind and truthful, using God’s Word as her guide.

What she got was–

HATE.

Malicious, hostile, cruel hate.

I find it so extremely interesting that the cry is to love, love, love. But somehow that love does not extend to those who disagree. No matter how lovingly and gently you state your disagreement.

I want to unequivocally state here that I am not against people who support gay marriage. I know and care deeply about several people who live gay lifestyles. I do not have to agree with you to love you.

Somehow we have grown just a bit confused about what love really is.

Love and tolerance are the words of the day, but those two words that are thrown about by this group are not extended to Christians who simply want to practice their faith. In my mind, the vicious attacks made upon Jesus Christ and His followers are a great confirmation that we are on the right path. Few others are maligned the way we are these days.

The coming trials and persecution are going to give us many opportunities. We are going to be able to share Christ’s love and the Gospel with those who are confused and hurting. And we will be used by God in a mighty way if the Gospel is lived out in our lives like never before.

But are we brave enough for this daunting task before us?

Since the Bible Challenge began in January, I have been writing about what we are reading on Thursdays. But on Saturday I read something in my Bible reading that is so fitting— so pertinent— so applicable— to what we are going to face soon in this nation as true believers that I just had to write about it today.

In I Kings 22, we read of a man named Micaiah. As a little background, we read first of Ahab and Jehoshaphat discussing whether or not to join forces against the King of Syria. To confirm their decision, they decide to ask the prophets of the land. All 400 men– four hundred men who claim to be men of God– tell Ahab that he will experience victory. There is not even one voice of dissension.

But there is one man by the name of Micaiah, who has not been asked. Ahab even states that he hates to ask this man of God anything because he always gives him an answer he doesn’t like! (I Kings 22:8) But with Jehoshaphat’s encouragement, Micaiah is brought before the two kings.

Micaiah chooses to speak truth, rather than tickle the Kings’ ears, even though he is going against the message of the 400 men who call themselves men of God. The truth of the matter is that Ahab will not return home from that battle alive. Micaiah bravely shares this bad news with the King. He is the one lone voice of truth.

In reaction to this unpleasant news, the King throws Micaiah into prison.

A few days later, Ahab is killed in battle.

There is so much to learn from this biblical account, in light of what we are facing in America today. Here are a few of the lessons that came to mind–

1. We need to speak truth, no matter how many people disagree with us. Our truth does not come from visions and supernatural messages anymore but from the Word of God–the inspired and inerrant Book that God has protected throughout the ages. It doesn’t matter if the whole world disagrees with us– we still speak the truth as it is presented in the Bible.

2. We speak truth, knowing full well to do so could be at our own peril. Micaiah landed in prison because he chose to spoke the truth. Are we prepared to lose our freedoms, our reputations, our jobs, our comforts, our wealth, our friends, and our families? We are moving into a strange new land. It is not the land of our grandparents. And to follow Christ is going to mean sacrifice. Are we ready for this? Even as I write this, I realize that to do this will require the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in my life, giving me the courage and grace I need. Because when I think about this in my own strength, I tremble. Will I be strong enough to bear what’s coming?

3. We cannot alter our message to please the hearers. Micaiah could have tried to soften the blow and just hedged around, but he did not. While he wasn’t mean or unkind, he was forthright. If you recall, our ultimate example, Jesus, was very much the same way.

4. The majority does not represent God. The 400 men who told Ahab to expect victory were very obviously wrong. The majority can be– and often is– wrong! I am not sure what it is about peer pressure, but humans have this strange “herd” mentality where they just believe they need to follow the crowd. But the crowd is rarely right. Micaiah stood against the crowd. And so should we.

5. So-called revelations are not trust-worthy. These 400 prophets claimed to have special revelation from God. But they were lying. Just because someone says that God gave them a message doesn’t mean He did! These men were either lying to please the King or had been given a false message from demonic sources. Whatever it was, they were not trustworthy and we should take a lesson from this. With so many running around saying they have heard a special message from God–particularly the messages that go against God’s Word–we can be assured that they have not had a message from God. It may have come from their own selfish thoughts or from a demonic spirit but it certainly did not come from God.

6. The consequences of sin are real and Jesus is the only way, no matter what we choose to believe.  Ahab chose to believe that the majority was telling the truth but he was still dead by end of the day. Have you ever heard someone say that “whatever you believe is true for you?” I do not understand how a logical, thinking person could be brainwashed into believing such garbage, but most of our young people today do believe this. (This fact gives great proof to the brainwashings of our public education system and higher institutes of learning, in my opinion.) Truth is truth. It cannot be swayed or changed or twisted. And it certainly isn’t going to bow the knee to my whims and desires. Ahab was set to die and his choice to not believe Micaiah’s message would not change the outcome. And so we, too, are going to pay a very real price for our sin unless we come to the Savior. We can choose to believe this or choose not to believe this but, in the end, it doesn’t change the truth.

Fellow believers, we live in a frightening time. While many of our brothers and sisters in other lands have faced persecution and hard times for following Christ, we have lived in our comfortable homes, freely worshipping and sharing our faith. But the storm that was off in the distance for such a long time has now settled in upon us. Oh, it may not affect you directly…today. And you will be able to fool yourself for a few more months, or if we are fortunate, a few more years. But I encourage you to get in the Word of God and to grow your knowledge of His great strength and help in the time of trials. I encourage you to deepen your relationship with God and to grow a strong prayer life. Prepare to be the one lone voice in your churches, your families, your work places.

Because it’s coming.

It’s just a matter of time now.

 

Brief Thoughts on the Supreme Court Ruling (It’s Not All Bad)

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As most of you know by now, the Supreme Court just ruled this morning that marriage can be between any two people, regardless of sex.

This is disheartening, to say the least, but certainly not surprising. With the steep downward decline of this culture, this should have been expected.

So what does this mean?

If means that, as believers who stand firmly on God’s Word, we are going to be called a lot more names, be targeted by government and liberal organizations, and start losing our rights to operate our businesses and churches as we choose (which has already been happening, anyway).

Our churches will eventually be forced underground and our kids forced into public education systems that will brainwash them. Study the histories of Rome and Germany if you’d like some idea of how this is going to end. While we are not a carbon copy of either culture, there are eery similarities that do not bode well for this great nation.

But what else is going to happen?

There are a couple of things about this decision that are positive. Yes, I said positive.

You can be sure that there is going to be a vigorous sifting of believers and those who call themselves believers. The true church will be purified through all of this, because anyone who has taken the Christian label but has never experienced genuine salvation is not going to stick around to take heat for something the world is telling them is normal.

While I am not making a judgment about those who call themselves Christians and believe homosexuality is okay (if they are a true believer, they will eventually be convicted about this and it is certainly not my place to judge each individual), scripture is extremely clear on this issue and this ruling will cause “fake” believers to start falling away.

The other good thing I can see coming out of this ruling is that we Christians will (hopefully) stop arguing about unimportant things. I am sometimes amazed at the debates and fights that take place within the church walls that are so unnecessary. Things that just do not really matter. But can’t you see this unifying our churches? Somehow the little stuff will fall away in the light of losing our right to free speech and the other rights we have so long enjoyed in this country as a church body.

I do believe that this ruling is the beginning of unifying and purifying the true church.

It reminds me of something I once heard Mark Lowry say in a concert. He compared the church to a river of water. When the river is above ground it is wide and shallow and often very muddy. But when it moves underground, it becomes narrow, pure, and crystal clear.

It also reminds me of something I recently heard Jan Markell say:

Things are not falling apart, they are falling into place.

God is sovereign and this did not take Him by surprise. And so, while this wasn’t the greatest news to hear this Friday in June, we need not be devastated because we are not hopeless. We know the Truth and we are on the winning side! But we’d better hang on, because I have a feeling the ride we are on is going to get pretty unpleasant.

 

To Everything There is a Season

Ecclesiastes 3-1

Lately, I have been really pondering this thing called life.

How fleeting it is. And how sad. And how lovely.

I think it’s pretty natural for most people to start reviewing their lives a bit when things start changing for them. As you already know, life is changing for me. With an extremely busy husband and two very busy young women living at home, I find myself alone more often than not these days. This is quite an adjustment for a mom who used to home school four kids. No children’s laughter ringing out loudly in the evening air. No passionate arguing. No calling of “Mom!” from across the yard. The house seems to almost join my sadness in its eery silence. It gives me way too much time to think.

And so how appropriate that in the past week of our Bible Challenge I read Ecclesiastes. How poignant to read these words–

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to mourn,
    And a time to dance;

A time to gain,
    And a time to lose;

These are just a couple of phrases from Solomon’s poem about life. But these especially struck me, being where I am at in life just now. I feel like I should add a verse:

A time to raise children
      And a time for them to start out on their own.

Of course, Ecclesiastes 3 is best left without my addition. But it is certainly something I have been contemplating much lately.

But it’s the first part of that poem that we really start to understand and think on as we grow older and become more familiar with death–

A time to be born,
    And a time to die;

Here in America, we seem especially inoculated to this thing called death. With modern medicine, we see less of it than any other group of people in all of history. And so it scares most of us. And we hate it. We hate to see anything die (even baby birds, if you remember my post from Monday). But, much more so, we hate to see people die. And so when something like the church shooting in Charleston happens, we struggle with it. Why were these people ruthlessly murdered? It just seems so cruel and tragic.

I heard John MacArthur’s thoughtful response to this event the other day and it really makes sense in light of Ecclesiastes. He first shared that he had been in Charleston for a conference and had met many of the African-American pastors there. He had been welcomed there with open arms. He asked us all to pray for the Christians–our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ–that are hurting there. He was heart-broken. And then he added one more thing–

He said may this remind us that death is a reality. We are all going to die. May this remind us why we need to keep sharing the gospel. Because the only thing that can take away the sting of death is salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. Because our lives are so much more than these fleeting moments on earth.

Those aren’t his exact words but my paraphrase of them. As I thought about his words, I realized just how distracted I can become by the things that aren’t important in the light of eternity.

We can become a bit depressed as we read these words of Ecclesiastes 12:a–

For who knows what is good for man in life, all the days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow?

And the words of James 4:14–

whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

But then we realize the hope that is within us as believers! We have many promises in God’s Word on which to build our faith (Romans 8:28-39; I Peter 5:7; Isaiah 41:10; John 11:25-26; I John 3:2-3; Philippians 3:20-21 to name a few).

This hope we have in Christ us should make us different in this world where death is such a non-negotiable part of life–

1. We should have a “peace that passeth understanding”. (Philippians 4:7)

2. We should remain hopeful– even in the midst of the worst circumstances. (I Peter 1:3-5)

3. We should have the true joy that comes from standing guiltless before God through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. (2 Corinthians 8:1-2)

4. We should have a driving need to tell others about salvation and the promise of eternal life we have because of it. (Romans 10:14-15)

But instead, so many of us Christians are apathetic and distracted. We don’t really care if our neighbors and co-workers know the Lord because we have enough of our own problems.

We don’t have hope or joy or peace, because we have invested heavily into the things of this world and this is where our treasures are–worldly, precarious treasures that come and go like the wind.

No matter where we find ourselves–whether young or old, poor or wealthy, single or parent–we need to ask ourselves these questions:

What am I doing to make sure that anyone who comes in contact with me knows that I have a hope within that doesn’t compare to anything that the world offers?

What am I doing to make sure that my treasures are in heaven and not on earth?

Life is fleeting. And we are all going to die. These are two facts we cannot escape.

Am I leaving a legacy that is befitting one of God’s servants? And have I liberally planted seeds to further God’s kingdom?

Born to Die

Baby Birds

I first thought about the chirping when we were about ten minutes from the nursery.  It was quiet and rhythmic.

Cheep, cheep! Pause  Cheep, cheep!  Pause…

I leaned over the back seat to look through the plants we had there but didn’t see anything.

When we stopped spontaneously at a little greenhouse down the road, I jumped out of the truck and opened up the back door so I could look more closely. I could still hear the cheeping, but couldn’t see a thing. All plants looked normal and no baby birds were to be found anywhere. Okay, then.

Fifteen more minutes down the road, it was starting to drive us a little crazy. There had to be a nest in one of the plants. When we stopped to eat, we were determined to find it. We both got out and started rooting through the plants. Finally, Eric said we probably won’t be able to find it until we start unloading the plants when we get home. He took one final glimpse at the plants.

“There it is.”

Camouflaged perfectly against the background of soil, was a newborn baby bird and three more eggs in the pot of the peony I had picked out. Of all peonies to choose, I had picked out the one with the bird’s nest.

What now?

We didn’t really have time to return it (although if we had to do over that is exactly what we would have done. I keep thinking of that poor mama!) and so we texted ahead to my sixteen-year old and told her we were bringing home a baby bird. I looked up the eggs and figured out that it was a killdeer nest.

My daughter prepared a little box and googled how to take care of baby killdeers. She was quite excited for this little adventure.

She got the hang of how to feed the little creature and it actually ate for her. As she was feeding it, we heard chirping coming from the eggs. Did you know that killdeer babies cheep before they ever leave the egg? Now you learned something new for today…

The baby was named Dexter and he survived the first night! Not only that, but baby number two was starting to peck his way out of his shell. By half-way through Saturday, he was laying there in the dirt–a tiny pile of limp, wet feathers and gangly gray legs. He was named Cheepers and my daughter did her best to feed this little motherless creature.

They survived most of the day, with my daughter taking such good care of them. But she wasn’t their mother and they were so young. It was really an impossible task from the beginning. We kept telling ourselves– they are only birds. They are only birds. It was heart-breaking to watch them grow weaker and weaker.

By Saturday evening, Dexter had perished. We had run an errand and when we returned, he lay there stiff and cold. It was so sad. Cheepers wasn’t looking too healthy by that point, and so it was no surprise when I came downstairs the next morning to find him lifeless in his little makeshift nest. What was a surprise was to hear one of the eggs chirping loudly every time I walked by the box! There was still a baby bird trying to make its way into the world. We tried to keep the egg comfortable and warm, but by afternoon even that chirping had stopped and the box was instead filled with a foreboding silence.

I just kept thinking that those poor babies were simply born to die. We did all we could in our power to keep them alive, but there just wasn’t any way we could replace their mama. We have access to almost anything we could want or need, but we didn’t have what we needed to rescue those babies. That was completely outside the realm of any power we humans have.

All in all, it was such a disheartening event for us. I know lots of people would say they were only baby birds, but there is something in us that hates to see death in any living creature (insects and snakes don’t count…)

But the parallel to our lives cannot be ignored.

We can be the best person we can be. We can obey the ten commandments and feed the poor.

But we still can’t save ourselves.

We have access to almost anything we could ever possibly want or need.

But we still can’t save ourselves.

We can delude ourselves into thinking we are a good person.

But we still can’t save ourselves from the horrible consequences of sin.

Just like that mama bird was the only one that could have saved those babies, so Jesus Christ is the only one that can save us from our sinful selves.

We can do all in our power to make it to heaven, but we won’t get there without the saving blood of Jesus.

Oh, how humans so easily fall for the “good person” trick that Satan uses. How many have fallen prey to this philosophy throughout history? And yet, we lay there dead in our sins and without hope if we don’t know Jesus.

I am thankful for the the hope we have in Christ. I am thankful that I am not laying dead in my sins, but that I am free from its chains! I am thankful that I can stand guiltless before God–not because of anything I have done, but because of the sacrifice of Jesus.

God has provided one way of salvation and that way is Jesus. (John 14:6) All other efforts are vain and futile.

If we know this, then we should be sharing it with others. Let’s not get so distracted with our own circumstances that we don’t tell others about the Great Physician–the only Person who can reconcile us to God, remove the sting of death, and give us eternal life.

The Thing Anger Never Accomplishes

disinterestedwoman_600x450

Anger is just one of those things we justify, isn’t it? We can come up with so many different reasons why we should be “allowed” to be angry. Such as–

Someone said something unkind

Our spouse didn’t meet our expectations

Someone isn’t giving us something we want

Our co-worker isn’t carrying their load

Our kids are too noisy or too defiant or too annoying

The line is soooooo long

We are cut off on the highway

Our phone quit working

We spilled coffee on our laptop

The dog chewed a hole in the carpet

There are over a million reasons that we Christians will use to rationalize our angry outbursts or our seething, simmering, cold silences.

As in —pretend they aren’t sinful. Pretend they aren’t our fault. Pretend that we aren’t to blame for our anger. We convince ourselves that it is someone else’s fault. It is certainly not ours.

When we do this, we do feel better, don’t we? At least on the surface. This requires no repentance. No work on our part to change. No guilt.

The past few weeks we have been reading in Proverbs in our Bible Challenge. There is so much wisdom in this book of the Bible that I have found myself liberally highlighting many of the verses there. But the verses on anger may have been especially appropriate for me with this read-through. Let me tell you why–

Recently, I have fallen prey to this dangerous anger game. I would be irritated or frustrated and instead of taking responsibility, found it easier just to blame it on someone else. Even as I write, I find myself a little reluctant to take full responsibility for my anger. After all, she did this…or he said that

And then my Sunday School teacher said something the other week that stopped me in my tracks. (Thank you, Morris!)–

Your anger will never accomplish anything for God’s righteous purposes.

I felt like he was speaking directly to me (and–if I’m honest– maybe to my husband, too!) We have had an interesting last few months. Interesting seems a good word, since I don’t want to complain. Most of what is happening is really good–some of what is happening is not so good, but, through it all, we are very aware that we are so blessed. But what all of these changes have led to is a whole lot of stress and intensity of feelings that is a bit outside our norm as a family.

My teacher’s words struck a chord deep within as I realized that I had been trying to use anger (it’s cold, punishing silence and the occasional unkind outbursts) to try to make things the way I want them to be. Or to fix something. Or to make someone feel guilty. Or to change someone’s mind.

There are many reasons to be angry and to act on that anger– but none of them are for God’s glory.

Anger can be a very effective tool. But there is always a way that we could do it better and more effectively. Anger is never the best way. Sure, we may be able to make our kids obey us by screaming at them, but if we train them to only respond when our voice reaches a certain pitch, then they will continue in that same pattern with their own kids. How much wiser to keep our voices low and demand obedience immediately, with consistent consequences to follow.

And let me make something very clear– I am not saying that we did this right. I am here saying we didn’t do this right. Anger has always been a struggle for us in our family. We can see the fruits of it in our kids’ lives and we are sending them off into the world to fight their own battles with this sin. We could have done such a better job in this area. Oh, we never threw plates or shouted obscenities, but we did let many angry words fly over the years and for that I have great regret.

Especially when I think of it in light of the words of my teacher.

I remember someone talking about angry words years ago and comparing them to toothpaste– once they are squeezed out of the tube, you cannot put them back in. Our kids don’t forget the mean, hateful things we say in the heat of an argument or temper tantrum. Neither do our spouses and other family members. Self-control–that fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23–is very much in need when it comes to this sin of anger. For even if we are angry, we need to think first and confess before we act on it.

If we are human, we will have to admit that anger is as natural a feeling as being happy or sad. We humans, without exception, hate our plans being thwarted. Sure, some of us get worked up much more easily than others, but we all have our limit. We all have our threshold of when enough is enough. How that looks is different for all of us. Some of us are screamers. Some of us grow icy cold and quiet. Anger is a sin in both cases, although screamers tend to have more pieces to pick up after it’s all over. Some withhold conversation or physical touch in order to punish, others may yell and curse– or even occasionally throw something –but both reactions are sinful reactions.

There are a few sins that have become extremely accepted by the church — to the point that we rarely even discuss them anymore. I believe anger is one of them.

I have no idea today if you have fought this battle, are fighting this battle, or aren’t even convicted about this. You know where I’m at. I need prayer. These next few months promise to be so happy and exciting, but also stressful and demanding and, yes, even a little sad. I want to rise to the occasion and be a good testimony– I don’t want to flounder in my own wants and desires, demanding my own way. I want to remember that anger never accomplishes God’s righteous purposes!

I hope that you feel the same way. Here are some verses to get us started on our way to battling this sin.

Proverbs 16:32
Ephesians 4:26
Ephesians 4:31
Ephesians 6:4
Colossians 3:8
I Timothy 2:8
James 1:19
Galatians 5:16-26
Matthew 5:22

Proverbs1632

Wednesday Wisdom: A True Story of Revival

As you know, I stopped doing Wednesday Wisdom officially about a year and a half ago. However, occasionally, I come across something that I can’t resist sharing–like this testimony of a pastor from the former USSR. His memories of what his country was like is so eerily similar to what’s going on in America, that I thought this may help us find the silver lining to the dark cloud. Perhaps true revival will come to America, as well!

By Georgi P. Vins
(Pastor in USSR who spent 8 years in Soviet prison camps for his faith | Author of The Gospel in Bonds)

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Photo: A communion and worship service in the persecuted church in 1984 in Kiev, Ukraine (taken from The Gospel in Bonds; from the personal collection of Georgi Vins’ daughter, Natasha Velichkin; used with permission)

Revival

At the beginning of the 1960s, the Lord sent a spiritual revival among the Evangelical Baptists of the Soviet Union. The revival preceded a great assault from the atheistic authorities. Soviet newspapers and magazines spewed an endless flow of articles against believers and the Christian faith, against the Bible and God. Radio, television, and movies were used for anti-religious propaganda. Believers were fired from their jobs, and Christian young people were kept out of educational institutions.

In 1960, the Soviet leader, head of the Communist party, Nikita Khrushchev, announced a twenty-year program of definitively creating communism in the Soviet Union. By 1980, there was not to be a single Christian left, nor one church. All citizens of the USSR would have to become atheists and confess only Communist ideology.

In Evangelical Baptist churches, sermons on salvation were forbidden, and children under the age of sixteen were not to be permitted to be present at church services. As a primary measure, it was also forbidden to baptize young people under the age of thirty. This decision of the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was enforced by the KGB, the police, and other authorities.

 Unfortunately, some of the ministers of Evangelical Baptist churches, fearing persecution, accepted these ungodly decrees as the basis for their ministry and actively began to implement them in the church. The churches were going through great testings. Many thousands of believers raised their voices in fervent prayer to the Lord for help and deliverance. The Lord heard those prayers and answered His people, as it is written in His Word: “It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law” (Psalm 119:126).

A spiritual awakening began. New churches started to take shape, and groups of believers who refused to compromise with atheism proclaimed the Word of God as the absolute authority in all matters of faith and life. Young people and children attended newly formed congregations whose worship services often took place in crowded private homes or in forests. These meetings were subject to cruel disruption by the KGB and police, with the police beating up believers, and throwing them out of the meeting houses into the snow. Bulldozers were sometimes used to destroy the places where the meetings took place.

The atheistic authorities went to believers’ work places with threats of arrests and trials. But no one could stop the revival, because the Word of God says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:35-37).

By 1966, several hundred independent fundamental Baptist churches had formed. Sixty to seventy percent of the membership of these churches were young people between the ages of fifteen and thirty. The hearts of believers burned with great love toward God, courage, and selflessness in ministry. My poem “Revival” was written in January of 1966, and five months later, in May of 1966, I was arrested in Moscow for taking part in the revival.

My Savior! How I love Your precious call
To slaves of unbelief, by sin defeated.
You long to bless and have each one delight
In all the joys of our eternal promise.

My Jesus! Mighty is Your matchless love,
Your hands are full of tenderness and kindness,
As constantly You lift to life anew
The sons of earth, to save them from destruction.

Our brethren You have visited once more
With Your pure flame of heaven-sent revival!
For exploits and for suff’ring You inspired
To stand for truth and infinite salvation.

When I behold the vibrant Christian youth
With glowing faces, joyous and exultant,
Their gladness like a boundless ocean’s tide,
Burst forth in ever glorious songs of triumph. . . .

And when I listen to a youthful soul
For the first time, his heart to God uplifting:
Scarce breathing then I reverently pray,
While in my thoughts the sufferers recalling. . . .

I know that not in vain their blood was spilt!
They did not bear the pain and grief for nothing.
For now I see our youth’s pure, fervent love
Their hands stretched out to Christ in supplication.

For the revival burning in our church
And for our youth rejoicing in the Savior—
We may, without misgivings or dismay,
Lay down our very lives in distant prisons.
January 1, 1966
Kiev

Weekend Reflections

Weddings

Today’s post is not typical and there really isn’t going to be any spiritual lesson. Instead, I am going to try to encapsulate my emotions from this past weekend just a bit. We had my son’s wedding on Saturday (which you already know) and then we had my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary party on Sunday. S0, before we go any further, I will answer the question I know you are thinking– yes, I am a bit crazy to do that. That has already been established.

However, just so you know, my brother is from out-of-town and this just made the most sense. Plus we were able to use the wedding venue and the wedding centerpieces, so it came together pretty easily–especially when you have a sister-in-law and a daughter who should really go into party-planning as a business…

Now that we have my sanity (or lack thereof) established, we can move on to some of my impressions from the weekend.  As mentioned above already, this is certainly not my normal kind of post but I thought I would share this here because so many of us share the same emotions when it comes to our children and our parents. I’ll get back to my normal style on Thursday.

So, first, my impressions of Saturday–

I guess if you read my blog, you are already familiar with the fact that I have been on an emotional roller coaster regarding this wedding. Let me say first and very clearly, this roller coaster had nothing to do with my son’s choice of a bride. She is the perfect choice for him and we couldn’t be more thankful. The fact that her parents are some of our closest friends is a very special bonus. It’s the stuff in life you could never plan! I think, rather, that it was partly because it was my only son’s wedding and I knew he now would officially have another woman as his priority in life. Some of you will get what I’m saying and some of  you won’t. I also think it was because the reality of the empty nest is starting to set in now.

But, last Monday, I started to feel so much better. Over the course of the next few days, I had three or four dear, dear friends text or tell me in person that they were praying for me. I could feel their prayers holding me up and I had a great week last week. Prayer is an amazing thing.

And, this morning, I am okay. I am really exhausted but I’m okay. Although, I cannot lie–there is a big empty sadness that fills me when I think about my son’s room never being occupied by him again. It’s just so…strange.  No one ever tells you when your babies are little what it feels like to watch your birdies try their wings and fly off away into their own lives. I find myself wishing I didn’t feel so deeply. It makes it so much harder.

But we are so excited for our son–and for our two daughters– and their future lives. They have all grown up to be responsible adults who want to follow Jesus and have found spouses who want to do the same. What more could you ask as parents? While there may be some mourning over what was, I stand amazed (and also filled with a bit of relief if I think back to the question marks of the teen years!) when I look at my adult kids. They are not perfect kids and we are far-from-perfect parents. We take no credit. God is so good. And He is so faithful.

Which leads me to my impressions of Sunday–

As people started to file in to my parents’ party I saw many dear friends that I hadn’t seen for so many years. Memories of yesteryear filled my mind. And I had to think of how God uses certain people in our lives at certain times and then they leave the stage of our lives and we move on. It’s the nature of life. We move, we change jobs, we change churches, and we become disconnected. And it makes me thankful for two things–first, that we are graced with the presence of so many dear friends throughout our lives. People who have supported us and encouraged us just when we needed it. What an incredible blessing from God! And, second, for the really special friends that God gives us that hang around our entire lives. At the party were a few friends that my parents have remained close to through all of the changes in their lives. They have a special connection (I call it a “kindred spirit”) with my parents and have been with them through thick and thin. If we are fortunate enough to have just a few “kindred spirit” friends, we are beyond blessed. True friends are hard to come by. They are a treasure and should never be taken for granted.

And as we celebrated, the absence of several relatives was felt. But, for me it was the absence of my mother’s brother, Larry, that was felt most deeply. He has gone on to be with the Lord and life on earth–at least for this family–will never be the same. He is still so sorely missed. I know that all people are missed, but Larry was special. He was one of those uncles that you knew cared about you. That you could go to if you ever needed anything. And he made us laugh–oh, how he made us laugh. I know that life will never be the same without him.

I was also filled with such thankfulness as I thought about God’s sovereignty in putting me in this particular family as a tiny baby. Why me? Why was I so blessed to be put there? I have no answer for that. But I do have a very grateful heart.

And so this weekend was filled with emotion for me– the hope of the future and looking back to the past. It was a lot to take in. To say the least.

But I guess if there is any lesson to be had here, I would leave you with something my dad said when he shared a few words yesterday.  He said that before any children joined the family, he and mom had talked about the fact that nothing would ever be more important to them than that their children would come to know the Lord. That would always be the priority. My parents were not perfect, but that was always the priority. They held to their word.

They now have a son who is a preacher (and an amazing one at that!) and a daughter who writes about biblical principles. But their decision has also affected the lives of their grandchildren. For we, their children, have also made that the priority with our own children. And it is our prayer that our children will do the same.

If you have young children– or even if your kids are older– I encourage you to make the same priority in raising your kids. Nothing is more important. No sports trophies or academic accolades compare. No stage or glory or awards matter more than this one thing–that our kids love and serve Jesus.

Weaknesses and unkind words and unloving actions have abounded in my families. They were part of my life growing up and they are part of my life now. But if we keep the Lord our priority, he is so faithful. He is so faithful. He fills in the gaps of our weaknesses and honors our commitment to Him. It is truly hard to explain the joy and peace that fills a heart that lives for Him. Life isn’t perfect and there are hard times. But, through it all, it is well with my soul.

I know so many of you have experienced the same faithfulness. You have experienced God’s great love and grace for you. We don’t base our Christian walk on that experience (as is so common today) but, the experiences confirm what we know to be true from scripture. They confirm the promises we read in God’s Word. I leave you with just one of those promises–

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! (Psalm 34:8)

 

A Few Favorites on Parenting

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As you may already know, our family has two weddings scheduled for this summer and the first one is this Saturday. It seems like I was just updating my About Me page with the engagements of our son and our daughter a few weeks ago, but here we are already. Wow, that nine months went fast!

As you can imagine time is at a bit of a premium this week, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite posts on parenting. One of the disappointing things about blogging is that the things you have written in the past seem forever lost, as most people are generally looking for something new and fresh when they go to a blog. But some posts are worth re-visiting. I hope you will agree with me!

Would you consider sharing one or two of these posts on social media if you enjoy them? Thank you so much!

Are We Dropping the Ball?
The importance of a godly legacy

A Letter to My Children
Remembering what is really important as we raise our children

Pushing Too Hard
Knowing when {and when not to} push our children

Parenting With Purpose
Five things I have learned about parenting

7 Steps to Raising the Perfect Teenager
Some helpful tips on raising teenagers