Learning From Those Who Have Gone On Before

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As you may have already guessed, I love to read. I have been reading books since I learned my alphabet. The first series I remember reading is the Boxcar Children. I loved solving mysteries with them! Next I went on to Nancy Drew and then onto Victoria Holt and Philippa Carr (same author, different pennames; don’t really recommend overall). Are you seeing a pattern here? Mystery was my genre of choice. I remember, as a teenager, staying up late one night to finish Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. The rest of the night I went in and out of a terrible nightmare, sure I was the next one to be murdered. I think I only ever read one Agatha Christie novel after that and that was just a few years ago! I was not anxious to repeat that experience!

As I got older, my tastes leaned towards Christian romance novels. I read Francine Rivers, Lori Wick, Lawana Blackwell, Karen Kingsbury, and Janette Oke–to name a few. I enjoyed them and they were easy to read, usually complete with happy endings. I still enjoy reading some of these once in awhile. They are easy and entertaining.

When I started homeschooling, I developed a love for the classics and I started reading books I never had an interest in before. In that phase, I read most of Jane Austen’s books, Jane Eyre, Count of Monte Cristo, Robison Crusoe, Oliver Twist, and Ivanhoe. I loved every single one of them. There is a reason they are called classics, and I really would like to read more from this category during my lifetime.

And then one year, I read the story of Gladys Aylward to the kids and I was hooked! I have been reading missionary biographies ever since. About that same time, I picked up a Christian Classic called Humility by Andrew Murray. These two genres strengthened my faith by leaps and bounds.  So, while I still do read some fiction and classics, I read mostly biographies and Christian classics now.

Have you ever thought how incredible the written language is? Dave Ramsey puts it this way: “We will be the same person in five years that we are today, except for the books we read and the people we meet.”

Books change us. So it is not only important that we actually read full-length books–something fewer and fewer of us are even doing–but it is critically important what we read. If we are satisfied with always reading junk food or–worse yet–the heretical stuff of modern times that leaves scripture out or twists it into something it is not (such as The Shack, Jesus Calling, Love Wins), then we may be changed but it certainly won’t be in a biblical way.

Romans 8:29 says this: For whom He {God} did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

These verses show that God has planned for us to grow more like Jesus every day. This should be the underlying passion that drives us if we are believers.

Ask yourself this question: Did any of the last three books I read teach me to look more like Jesus? Keep in mind that I am most certainly not talking about the world’s “Jesus”–the one that has been created to pacify their dull consciences. No, that isn’t Jesus. They just call their false god the same name as my Savior. I am referring to the One who is kind, compassionate, just, prayerful, loving, truthful. The One who denies Himself for the will of the Father. Who takes up His cross. The biblical Jesus that we read about in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

If not, why not?

I have thought of a few reasons why reading the words of those who have gone on to glory before me have helped me to grow in my faith. I am hoping that these reasons may compel you, too, to pick up a classic or a biography and get started. As I’ve already said, books change us. Because this is true, it is critically important that we read books that are in line with scripture.

Here is my short list of why you, too, should develop the habit of reading old books–

1.   They encourage us. Some of these people have gone through the worst circumstances possible and, yet, they faithfully continued to walk with Jesus.

2.  They teach us to turn to God and His Word in trials. If we listen to the world–and even the modern day church– around us, we will soon be convinced that God’s Word is irrelevant in this day and age. We need medications and doctors and therapists if there is ever going to be true change. But this just isn’t true.

3.  They teach us that our “Happy Ending” will be in eternity. We have this expectation as Westerners that we deserve a good life. And, yet, I am amazed at how few people really do have a good life. They are women born in middle-eastern cultures or children sold into the sex slavery trade by their own parents. Even more amazing yet are those that choose a hard life. Missionaries that give more than they can afford for little–if any–reward. Men and women who purposefully choose to live without any modern-day conveniences in order to reach the lost. Men and women who stand up for Truth, even if it means persecution and death. All because they aren’t constantly grasping and reaching for happiness and fulfillment here on this sin-splattered planet like the rest of us tend to do.

4. They teach us how to walk with God. I love God’s Word and this should be our first and foremost place to go for learning and studying. But God has gifted certain men and women with insight to exposit and explain scripture. Their works are wonderful companions to what we are learning in God’s Word. Currently, I am reading through the Gospels, following the schedule my pastor gave us at the beginning of the year. My study has been so enhanced by reading Expository Thoughts on the Gospels by J.C. Ryle and Why Four Gospels? by A.W. Pink. These books really are helping me to understand the scriptures better. I have gained such insight from these great men of God.

5. They show us that God controls the things that are outside our control. Oh, the peace and comfort that I have drawn from reading about the miraculous ways of God in seemingly impossible circumstances. Even now, as we face an impossible election with two of the worst candidates imaginable and the future looks increasingly bleak, I know that my God is in control. God’s Word says this and I have seen the truth of these words in the lives of those who have gone on before us. He will make a way for us to go through the upcoming deep waters. “He will make a way when there seems to be no way.” (Anyone else remember those lyrics from the 80s worship chorus??)

6.  And, finally, and perhaps most importantly, these books give us perspective. Oh, precious perspective. We can become so myopic and self-focused. These books teach us to look outward and upward. They remind us of the many lives that have been lived well before us. They remind us of what matters. And why it matters.

I am currently reading Iain Murray’s biography of Jonathan Edwards. I think the thing that has struck me most is how similar his battles are to ours. He, too, was persecuted for standing up for truth. He, too, was battling against experience-based religion that took hold of his culture. And yet, he kept on serving the Lord by preaching and writing. And here we are–hundreds of years later–still reading his words and benefiting from his insight because he remained faithful in the midst of the fire.

I want to do the same. And these books encourage me to do that!

Practically speaking, I know that these books are not the enjoyable fodder we want to read on the beach or during our summer vacations. We like light stuff this time of the year, and I, too, usually pick a novel to read. But I truly do hope you will consider picking up a serious book or two to read along with your novels. I will list a few of my favorite authors below. Many of these authors’ books are public domain, which means they are free or very inexpensive for Kindle.

Here are a few of my favorite Christian Classic authors with some titles–

J.C. Ryle (Holiness; Practical Religion)

A.W. Pink (The Attributes of God; The Sovereignty of God)

Charles Spurgeon (Lectures to My Students; Twelve Sermons on Humility)

Jeremiah Burroughs (The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment; A Treatise of Earthly-Mindedness)

R.A. Torrey (How to Study the Bible)

Elisabeth Elliot (The Liberty of Obedience; Discipline: The Glad Surrender)

While I have read (or am reading) most of these books, I have not read all of them. A few of them are on my Kindle awaiting their turn. However, the specific biographies below I have read and have been changed by reading them. I highly, highly recommend–

Anything by Iain Murray. He writes biographies of great Christian men; anything by him will be of great benefit to you. As I mentioned, I am currently reading his biography on Jonathan Edwards.

Isobel Kuhn has written several autobiographies and biographies. They are excellent! By Searching is a good place to start.

George Muller: Delighted in God by Roger Steer

Gladys Aylward by Sam Wellman

Under His Wings by Stephen Lehmann

The Story of John G Paton or Thirty Years Among South Sea Cannibals by John G Paton

 

I hope these will give you some ideas of a place to get started. I promise you–I PROMISE YOU–you will not be sorry if you purposefully develop the habit to read books like those listed above. You will grow in ways you never thought possible. Your faith in God will deepen and you will be changed. Let’s purpose to fill our minds with biblical books that deepen and enhance our understanding of the Bible rather than those that relegate the Bible to the background or eliminate it altogether.

Happy Reading!

 

The Glory of the Garden

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The dying rose caught my eye. It only had a few of its petals left. Nestled among the leaves close by this rose were still-green, closed buds, along with buds just starting to show their color, adolescent roses shyly opening their petals to the world, and full and stunning roses in the height of their glory. This last group were the ones which I had come to photograph. Is there any flower that shows its glory more than the rose? I was coming a bit late and had missed the first push of the season, but I still found many beautiful roses, bright and gorgeous flowers in shades of pinks, salmons, yellows, oranges, and whites.

But it was that fading rose that really started me thinking.

In a way, our lives are similar to that of the roses. We start as baby buds–young children with so much potential ahead of us but, still green, we give little indication of what we will look like as adults. And then, as teenagers, we open up and our colors start to peek through just a bit as we start to show who we will become as adults. A few years later, we are in our twenties and we are immature flowers that are tentatively opening up to the world around us. This stage finds us ready to take on the world and eagerly developing our talents and dreaming our dreams. It is in our thirties that most of us experience pure and stunning fullness. By this time, most of us have a good understanding of ourselves and who we are. We have found our niche and have settled in to our comfort zones. By this time we have acquired some wisdom and we also still have our health. As we hit our forties, our petals open wider and start to fade. Our bodies stop cooperating with us and we feel a bit stiff when we get out of bed in the morning. We are glad for the wisdom that age has taught us, but we are bummed about our bodies starting to let us down. And then as we head into our fifties and sixties, we start losing petals. One by one they start falling off. The things that we have counted on for security — our children, our careers, physical beauty, health, parents– one by one they start falling away. It is in this stage that we realize no one is taking pictures of us anymore. We are the rose that is fading. The one that is on the way out. And then comes the rosehip. This is what develops when all of the petals have fallen off. The rosehip can be used for so many things, just as those in their 70s, 80s, and 90s still have so much to offer a world that has lost interest in them. The older generation may be the least mined treasure in existence in a world that idolizes youth.

There is really no spiritual lesson here. Just an observation about human life. We are like the roses. And this is the way that life goes.

I heard this quote recently: “Sometimes we get so caught up in who we were, that we can’t appreciate who we’ve become.” This is very tempting for those of us who are older. We are tempted to define ourselves by who we were, rather than focusing on who we’ve become and what we can still be doing for the Lord today.

Well, that’s a little philosophizing for you today. Now for the photos. Below you will find a few of my favorite photos of the roses. I used my point and shoot camera, so they aren’t quite as good as usual, but I think they are still worth sharing. Hope you enjoy them!

p.s. I am taking next week off from writing. It’s time for a little break! I’ll be back the week after next. :)

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Says Who?

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As many of us already know, the Ark Encounter— a life-sized Noah’s Ark–recently opened in Williamstown, Kentucky. There has been much news swirling around this opening. As one would expect, there has been positive feedback by Christians and very negative feedback by the rest of the world.

But I have to admit that the article by Paul Bois over at Truth Revolt had me scratching my head. At first, it looks like it will finally be someone standing up for the right of Christians to have some freedom, too. Which I guess he sort of did in the article. Sort of.

Shall I summarize the article for you?

Stop bashing these poor, pathetic idiots who built this attraction. What do we care if they build a completely unscientific ark that is based on completely unscientific data? Shame on you, world.

Okay, so you may want to read it to make sure I had the right take-away, but this is the message I received loud and clear. He basically called Ken Ham a liar and then made sure the whole world knew that even though he wasn’t on the side of CBS, he really did agree with them. So he really did exactly the same thing as CBS. Which he was criticizing them for doing. Funny how that works.

So why am I even bringing this up?

He made a specific statement in that article that I beg to differ with and thought I would unpack a bit here. I am doing this because I am guessing many of you have also heard the derogatory and demeaning statements made about not only this attraction, but also about anyone who would actually believe that Noah’s ark was a historical event.

Here’s the statement–

“Though founder Ken Ham has expressed questionable–and even downright false–scientific views regarding creationism…”

Really? So one has to wonder then: was this author there–at the very beginning– when the earth was formed? He seems to have some inside knowledge the rest of us don’t have.

Sorry, I had to be sarcastic for just a moment.

Seriously, though, who gets to decide whose assumptions are correct? Follow me here–any theory of the earth’s beginnings are based on assumptions. No one on the earth today was there. There are no science or history books that date back that far (aside from the Bible, that is!) And so, with this being the case, we have to look at all the data available to us and then come up with theories. What the scientific community wants to present as facts are not facts. They are theories based on assumptions that they are presenting as facts.

Ken Ham, myself, and other believers, on the other hand, base our views on a Book. Our assumption–which changes everything–is that the Bible is true. If the Bible is true, then the rest falls into place quite nicely.

Of course, the world doesn’t want to believe in a God to whom they are accountable and so they come up with this theory of evolution. It would almost be funny, if it wasn’t just so tragic.

And we have to wonder–which one actually believes in fairy tales? The one who is using a historical book that has been proven to be accurate over and over again or the one who believes that something came from nothing? That life came from a rock? That a living, breathing person with intricately designed body systems evolved from a single cell? A belief which would require millions of transitional fossils on this earth and yet there is NOT ONE–not one, mind you–fossil of any “in between” creatures anywhere. Along with this is the fact that there is no scientific evidence whatsoever, current or historical, of anything ever coming from nothing or of order ever coming from chaos. This is because it could never happen. And yet, we have a theory that has been presented as fact that is based on all of these very unscientific assumptions. Who is unscientific now?

This theory is taught in our schools, displayed in our museums, and assumed anywhere you go. Most of the world has bought into this even though it makes no sense at all.

Look, I am no scientist. And I don’t care if someone wants to call me names because of what I believe, but let’s be clear here–anyone who believes anything about the earth’s beginnings is making assumptions. No one truly knows. We can base it on a Book or we can base it on something else, but all–in the end–are theories which require faith to believe in.

I admire Ken Ham for what he is doing and I thank the Lord for a man that will stand in the face of such accusations and threats. He knows the truth of God’s Word and he is standing firm on the truth no matter what the world says. We need more men and women like him! And we should be praying for him and for others who are in the heat of such fierce battles.

At first, when I heard about the ark, I wasn’t sure that it was a good idea. But as I have followed the progress of it all, I am starting to understand how God will use this to further His Kingdom. People are curious and Ken Ham and his staff are very knowledgeable. I am sure they will have some wonderful conversations with the media and with folks who are just passing through, plantings seeds of the Gospel that will flourish throughout this country. And, as believers, this is our main calling, isn’t it?

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)

 

 

Consider the Blossoms

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Sometimes–with everything that’s going on in the world and within the church and, perhaps, even in our own lives– we can start to feel a little anxious, overwhelmed, or fearful. We lose sight of perspective and take our eyes off the Lord and turn them to earthly things. This is so easy to do, isn’t it? How quickly we forget that we serve an almighty God who will be the victor in this fierce battle for the world! I Chronicles 29:11 puts it this way–

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness,
The power and the glory,
The victory and the majesty;
For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours;
Yours is the kingdom, O Lord,
And You are exalted as head over all.

I thought it might be a welcome break to take our eyes off of the problems, battles, and sadness of this world and turn them to the wonder of God’s breathtaking creation this morning. I had the wonderful opportunity to visit a nearby gardens with my camera yesterday. I just wanted to share a few of my favorite shots from that trip plus a few from my own backyard. God has clothed the flowers, which are here today and gone tomorrow, and yet He has done it so marvelously! O, How much more He cares for us! What a wonderful reminder (Luke 12:27-28).

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Why Does It Matter What I Believe About Creation?

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I have not really addressed the topic of creation on this blog before. Or at least I don’t remember having done so. But as I have been reading through Jeremiah I have been struck by a few of the statements this prophet makes that absolutely discount evolution. I wonder– if you are still with me in our G4L Bible Reading Challenge— if you caught them, too?

Jeremiah 10:12  It is He who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.

Jeremiah 27:5  It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me.

When I read these verses, I am reminded once again that scripture unapologetically confirms that God is the powerful Creator– creating all that is in the world from absolutely nothing and doing so completely in six 24-hour days. For my theist evolutionist friends, I ask you: What power is shown by an outstretched arm that creates a tiny cell? That statement seems completely incongruous, does it not?

There are many passages in scripture that would also confirm a six-day creation–

Deuteronomy 4:32  For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of.

Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

Psalm 148:3-6

Praise him, sun and moon,
    praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
    and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the Lord!
    For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever;
    he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

Mark 10:6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’

These are just a few of the verses that confirm God’s creation of the world. You can choose to believe it or you can choose to not believe it. But melting two totally opposing world views together is just not a logical possibility.

But why does our viewpoint on creation even matter? What is really the big deal?

I learned a really key point several years ago from Ken Ham, whom I was privileged to hear at a conference for homeschoolers. Many people haven’t given this a lot of thought but it is critical to this argument of theistic creation. And that is the subject of death. If the world was only started by God and then left to develop on its own, as many Christians proclaim, then death would have entered the world before sin. Do you see how this changes everything? Millions of creatures would have had to die before Adam and Eve came upon the scene. And yet, we are taught all through scripture that death is the result of sin. If death came before sin, then what exactly is the punishment for sin? And if the gospel doesn’t save us from death, then what does it save us from? I turn your attention to the following verses–

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

James 1:15  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—

 I Corinthians 15:21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.

 

These are verses from the New Testament confirming that death is a result of sin–that death came by man. Can you see how believing in any form of evolution systematically destroys the inerrancy of the Word of God? If death isn’t the result of sin and the world’s theory of evolution is correct, then not only do we need to conclude that the Genesis account is allegorical, but we also are forced to believe that the New Testament authors lied, therefore concluding that we can’t trust any of  the Bible. Believing in theistic evolution doesn’t only destroy Genesis, it destroys the whole Word of God!

I find it more than a little interesting that we Christians find ourselves caving so easily to the brainwashing of society. If you do any studying at all, you will realize that there is no possible way that such a vast and wonderful creation could have ever happened by chance. There is NO scientific evidence for an intricately designed organ developing from a simple cell. Not even one shred. And, in fact, do a quick google search of intelligent design and you will find that even many non-Christian scientists are coming to the conclusion that there must be a designer–although they will certainly not admit to God as Creator. In fact, some of them even suggest that aliens on another planet created the world here before they will admit that there is a God. (Romans 1:22)

Did you know that even Darwin himself admitted the implausibility of his theory? John MacArthur puts it this way–

“It was a hard sell.  Even Darwin had a hard time with it.  If you read anything of Darwin’s you find he’s continually filling all his writings with tremendous doubts.  For example, he says in the sixth chapter of his Origin of Species, “Long before having arrived at this part of my work, a crowd of difficulties will have occurred to the reader.  Some of them are so grave that to this day I can never reflect on them without being staggered.”  In his chapter on instinct he conceded, “Such simple instincts as bees making a beehive could be sufficient to overthrow my whole theory.”  And to think, he said, that the eye could evolve “by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.”  In his chapter on imperfections in the geological record he complained that the complete lack of fossil intermediates in all geological records was perhaps, quote, “the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.”  In other words, he was at least honest enough to admit that the thing didn’t make any sense.”**

So why this elaborate theory to remove God from the picture? A look at Darwin’s life may help us gain at least a bit of understanding. Charles Darwin lost his precious daughter, Anne, to illness when she was only ten. She was the light of his life and he was absolutely crushed when she died.

Wikipedia says this about Anne Darwin

According to biographers, she was a delightful child who brought much happiness to her parents. Eminent Darwin scholar E. Janet Browne writes of her:

Anne was… the apple of her proud father’s eye, his favourite child, he confessed to” [his friend and cousin William Darwin] Fox. “More than any of the other children she treated him with a spontaneous affection that touched him deeply; she liked to smooth his hair and pat his clothes into shape, and was by nature self-absorbedly neat and tidy, cutting out delicate bits of paper to put away in her workbox, threading ribbons, and sewing small things for her dolls and make-believe worlds.”[1]

In 1849, Anne caught scarlet fever along with her two sisters,[2] and her health thereafter declined; some authorities believe that she suffered from tuberculosis. In vain pursuit of help from Gully‘s water cure, Charles Darwin took his daughter to the Worcestershirespa town, Great Malvern. She died in Montreal House on the Worcester Road, aged ten, and was buried in the Great Malvern Priory churchyard.

Annie’s death was a terrible blow for her parents.[3] Charles wrote in a personal memoir “We have lost the joy of the household, and the solace of our old age…. Oh that she could now know how deeply, how tenderly we do still & and shall ever love her dear joyous face.”[4]

 

Here was a man greatly distressed at the hand he had been dealt in life. Instead of shaking his fist at the Heavens and cursing God, he chose to write Him completely out of history. Perhaps that was an easier explanation for the tragic events of his life than believing in a God who would allow such a thing? I don’t really know this, of course, having never met the man nor studied him at great length, but grief is a very powerful thing. And so it does make one consider the possibility.

I wonder if Darwin had any inkling that the ridiculous and illogical theory he concocted would become a giant, hard ball of snow, hurtling down the hill that is the world, destroying all in its path?

Even if the majority of the scientific community changed their viewpoint to intelligent design right now at this moment, the damage of Darwin’s theory has been done. There is no going back. We have an entire country– or perhaps a whole world–who believe they are nothing more than a bunch of cells and that there are no moral absolutes. Ah, yes, enormous damage has been done. The God of the Bible has been effectively removed from the picture and man feels free to do whatever he wants without fear of consequences. The world will never be the same.

As believers, we need to continue to stand strong and firm on the Word of God. I leave you with this statement by John MacArthur–

And there are only two options when it comes to origins.  The two options are: there is a Creator God, or there is not. Those are the only two options. There either is a Creator God or there is not. If there is not, then everything is an impossible, implausible, irrational result of chance. And the equation that I gave you last week is “nobody times nothing equals everything.” If on the other hand there is a creative intelligence, if there is a Creator God, then creation is understandable. It is possible, it is plausible, it is rational. And even the scientists who have left their mark on the scientific world, those who think honestly and make honest confessions about origins, will tell you that there must be a creative intelligence. Even Einstein said that.**

Be strong and courageous, my friends! Keep the Bible as the fixed and solid ground beneath your feet and you will stand firm. Let the scientific world sway you and you will become like the wind, shifting and lurching with every new “theory” that comes along.

 

**John MacArthur quotes are from his excellent series “The Battle for the Beginning”, which I highly recommend and is available for download, free of charge.

 

A Walk Through the Lilies

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I have this fascination with flowers. And my two favorites are lilies and hydrangeas. I tuck varieties of these two plants in any empty space and corner I can find in my backyard. When I took a walk out back the other evening I realized that the lilies are in full bloom. They are just so beautiful that I had to share a few photos of them here. God’s creation never ceases to amaze me! The lilies are such a wondrous display of our Creator.

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