Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A great work of God?

I'm cozied up under a warm blanket this morning with a cup of Good Hope Vanilla tea sitting beside me, and outside the rain is pounding down with God-directed force. Some people love the rain...I do most of the time...I love taking my kids out in boots and going puddle stomping, or simply being cozy indoors like I am right now listening to it dance on my rooftop. Others consider rain to provide a regular opportunity to moan and whine, especially here in the NW where we see a considerable amount of it. But have many of us thought of rain as being a great work of God? I read this meditation by John Piper years ago and have returned to it a number of is just so good that I want to share it with you this morning:

But as for me, I would seek God, And I would place my cause before God; Who does great and unsearchable things, Wonders without number. He gives rain on the earth, And sends water on the fields. Job 5:8-10
If you said to someone: "My God does great and unsearchable things; He does wonders without number," and they responded, "Really? Like what?" would you say, "Rain"?

When I read these verses recently I felt like I did when I heard the lyrics to a Sonny and Cher song in 1969: "I'd live for you. I'd die for you. I'd even climb the mountain high for you." Even? I would die for you. I would even climb a high mountain for you? The song was good for a joke. Or a good illustration of bad poetry. Not much else.

But Job is not joking. "God does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number." He gives rain on the earth." In Job's mind, rain really is one of the great, unsearchable wonders that God does. So when I read this a few weeks ago, I resolved not to treat it as meaningless pop musical lyrics. I decided to have a conversation with myself (= meditation).

Is rain a great and unsearchable wonder wrought by God? Picture yourself as a farmer in the Near East, far from any lake or stream. A few wells keep the family and animals supplied with water. But if the crops are to grow and the family is to be fed from month to month, water has to come on the fields from another source. From where?

Well, the sky. The sky? Water will come out of the clear blue sky? Well, not exactly. Water will have to be carried in the sky from the Mediterranean Sea, over several hundred miles and then be poured out from the sky onto the fields. Carried? How much does it weigh? Well, if one inch of rain falls on one square mile of farmland during the night, that would be 27,878,400 cubic feet of water, which is 206,300,160 gallons, which is 1,650,501,280 pounds of water.

That's heavy. So how does it get up in the sky and stay up there if it's so heavy? Well, it gets up there by evaporation. Really? That's a nice word. What's it mean? It means that the water sort of stops being water for a while so it can go up and not down. I see. Then how does it get down? Well, condensation happens. What's that? The water starts becoming water again by gathering around little dust particles between .00001 and .0001 centimeters wide. That's small.

What about the salt? Salt? Yes, the Mediterranean Sea is salt water. That would kill the crops. What about the salt? Well, the salt has to be taken out. Oh. So the sky picks up a billion pounds of water from the sea and takes out the salt and then carries it for three hundred miles and then dumps it on the farm?

Well it doesn't dump it. If it dumped a billion pounds of water on the farm, the wheat would be crushed. So the sky dribbles the billion pounds water down in little drops. And they have to be big enough to fall for one mile or so without evaporating, and small enough to keep from crushing the wheat stalks.

How do all these microscopic specks of water that weigh a billion pounds get heavy enough to fall (if that's the way to ask the question)? Well, it's called coalescence. What's that? It means the specks of water start bumping into each other and join up and get bigger. And when they are big enough, they fall. Just like that? Well, not exactly, because they would just bounce off each other instead of joining up, if there were no electric field present. What? Never mind. Take my word for it.

I think, instead, I will just take Job's word for it. I still don't see why drops ever get to the ground, because if they start falling as soon as they are heavier than air, they would be too small not to evaporate on the way down, but if they wait to come down, what holds them up till they are big enough not to evaporate? Yes, I am sure there is a name for that too. But I am satisfied now that, by any name, this is a great and unsearchable thing that God has done. I think I should be thankful - lots more thankful than I am.

Grateful to God for the wonder of rain,
Pastor John

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Saturday, February 25, 2012


"And we urge you, brethren, to 
      recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. 
     Be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, 
     warn those who are unruly, 
     comfort the fainthearted, 
     uphold the weak, 
     be patient with all. 
     See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. 
     Rejoice always, 
     pray without ceasing, 
     in everything give thanks; 
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18
 There are many places in God's Word that explicitly tell us what His will is ~ what we should and should not believe, do, trust in, hope for, feel, etc.  Yesterday as I was reading 1 and 2 Thessalonians, this short passage jumped out at me.  I returned to it again this morning, thanking the Lord that it is because of Christ's perfection and His sacrifice that I am redeemed and not by my own works, because this list alone would condemn me.  
Sometimes I highly esteem those who are over me in the Lord; sometimes I am critical.
Sometimes I am at peace with others; sometimes I plainly am not.
Warn the unruly?  again, sometimes. 
By His grace, I comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak and am patient with some sometimes.  I rejoice, but always?  I pray, but without ceasing?  I give thanks, but in everything?  
But THIS IS THE WILL OF GOD in Christ Jesus for me (and for you).  I sat here this morning thinking that if this were a test and the teacher grading me was just, I'd be sunk.  BUT, God is just AND merciful, and He is mighty to save.  Just a few verses later in chapter five (vs 23-34), the apostle Paul wrote: "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it."  THAT, my friends, is where my hope God Himself who is faithful and who will complete the good work He has begun.  In God who is "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:26b).
Thankfully this is not a test.  But it is can be thought of as goal.  So today as we make up our list of goals, let's make sure our goals match up with those of our Father.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Dinner filled with love

This morning, my son Paul prayed and asked God to help us have a good Thanksgiving.  Though he was confusing his holidays, I said a hearty amen...every day is a good day to give thanks because God has poured His grace out on us!  And, truth be told, every day is a good day to love for the same reason, be it Valentine's Day or any other.  And today was filled with both at our house.   Love and Thanksgiving ~ this is resurrection living! To God be all glory!!!

Check out these decorations (a few of the many that are all over our house) that our kiddos made:

MJ setting our dinner table:

Bekah preparing heart shaped garlic cheese rolls and an apple crisp:

Mike brought each of his ladies a rose, which helped to adorn the table:

MJ made up menus for Mike and I:

Meet Paul, our very handsome server:

And the two most beautiful hostess's on the planet:

We were called to the table...

 Here we come...

Dinner is served:

The kids had a blast decorating and preparing all the food, and we felt totally blessed to receive their outpouring of love and labors.  They also cheerfully cleaned everything up before we all snuggled up together to watch Ice Station Zebra.  What a wonderful day, and now I hope to go enjoy a bit of the night before sleep calls my name.  

Days like this just make me fall on my knees in thanks to the God who rescues and redeems.  God answered Paul's has indeed been a good day of thanksgiving.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Wanna join the GNW club?

What is the GNW club anyway?  GNW stands for Grow Not Weary!  And truth be told, I haven't organized an official club, but the thought has occurred to me.  People grow tired of working at their marriages, tired of parenting without seeing the kind of fruit they desire, tired of trying to lose weight, tired of living with disability or chronic illness, tired of looking for employment, tired of missing a loved one, tired of waiting for an adoption referral or waiting to be united, and tired of so many things.  This theme seems to enter many a conversation and I wonder if I could be doing more to encourage myself and others to GROW NOT WEARY.  I think it is a challenge common to mankind.

I saw this message on facebook the other day:
That isn't a bad helpful hint, so long as you have solid reasons for holding on in the first place.  I wrote a post a few days ago called A Solid Rock.  Christ is always a good reason for persevering!  He needs to be my ultimate reason for everything I think, do and say.  When I start constructing my own agenda and goals, even if I have a list a mile long of what I think are good reasons for pursuing them, I'll end frustrated and grow weary every time because God is faithful to draw me back to Himself and expose my idols. Thank you, Jesus.

So as I think about this, I am pretty sure that the way to encourage myself and others to not grow weary is to help us focus on Christ, His ways, His heart, His promises, His ever-sufficient grace.

God tells us in 2 Peter 1:5-7 that " all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,  to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love."  That is a high call!  That is a hefty to-do list in a broken world.  And guess what?  If our focus is the to-do list alone, I can pretty near guarantee that you and I will grow weary.  The load will feel too heavy to our saved-but-not-fully-sanctified selves.

You see, verse 5 begins with this phrase: "But also for this very reason...".  Ah!  What reason?  Let's look.  In verses 1-2, we're told Peter is writing to those "who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.  He opens with the blessing of grace and peace being multiplied to them (and us) in the knowledge of God.  Then in verse 3-4, Peter assures those of us who have been granted faith that "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."

In other words, the only way we are ever going to tackle God's "to do" list is to remember His reason.  God has given us everything we need for life and godliness and also given us exceedingly great and precious promises.  It is through the knowledge of Him who has called us, through His promises that we're going to grow not weary.  His calling is sure, His provision is sure, His promises are sure...we can bank on it!

Sometimes weariness is used by God to expose our idols, sometimes it is a call to lean harder into Jesus and to trust His call and His promises.  Ask yourself if you are constructing your own agenda or if you are following God's.  We use the phrase "Get on the Jesus train" at our house to redirect any who seem to be holding to their own agenda...the Jesus train is for all those who (like Peter said so well) "have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ."  He is the Conductor and He will surely get us all to our destination.   Do you wanna join the GNW club?  Get on board!

Gal 6:9 "And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ready learners?

I am a home schooling mom.  I work hard to prepare lessons for my kids.  I think through what they know presently and what they still need to learn.  All you moms (and dads) out there, whether you home school or not, have hopes for your kids and their futures and you give of yourselves daily to equip them and bless them, don't you?  So how maddening is it to you when you attempt to teach something of value and are met with disinterest?  They have a zillion things on their mind but not one of them includes learning what you want to teach them.  Frustrating isn't it?

This morning I was reading in Ephesians.  When I came to 1:17-19, I read one of Paul's prayers.  He prayed  "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe..."

He has given and He continues to give!  And He is patient.  But how often do we act like distracted children before Him, having a zillion things on our minds but not one of them including learning from Him.  Surely if you asked me, I would tell you that I want Him to give the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.  Surely I want the eyes of my understanding to be enlightened.  Surely I want to know the hope of His calling and the riches and the greatness, etc.  But when I act like I want Him to just dump it into me as if I were a bottle and all this could just be funneled in, do I really think I'm going to learn what He wants to teach?  Do I really think my disinterest pleases Him?

I am thankful that much of the time my children are ready learners, cheerfully working the lessons I give.  But I am also thankful for the times they frustrate me because they are like a mirror God holds up before my eyes to show me that I am like that sometimes too.  It gives us an opportunity to all repent together.

Psalm 119:11-16 is one passage among many that instructs us how to receive:

11 Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.
12 Blessed are You, O Lord!
Teach me Your statutes.

13 With my lips I have declared
All the judgments of Your mouth
14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on Your precepts,
And contemplate Your ways.
16 I will delight myself in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word.

Are we hiding His word in our hearts; are we declaring it with our mouths; are we rejoicing in His ways; are we meditating on His precepts; are we contemplating His ways; are we delighting in His statutes and laboring to remember His word?  

He has given and He continues to give!  Our Lord does teach. The question is whether we will learn? Are we ready learners, loving His Word, cheerfully working the lessons He gives?

Friday, February 10, 2012

For Fun on Friday

We've been playing a memory game at our snack times for the past few days...together, as we're munching and crunching on yummy apples or pistachios, we have been brainstorming happy memories (fun times and funny times, which are not always the same thing at the moment they are lived out, but after the fact bring a smile to all our the time Mommy was filming Paul swinging all by himself when he was 11 months old and he fell off.  It wasn't funny at the time, trust me, but the video is hilarious and enjoyed by all NOW that the tenderness of the fall is past).  I wholeheartedly recommend this memory game because remembering happiness promotes more happiness. 

This morning I downloaded oodles of pictures that have been accumulating since the first of the year so for a little more fun this Friday, I'll share a few...they capture some recent happy memories!

MJ refers to this wee pup as the "most wonderful doggie in the whole wide world" and tells him daily how much she loves him.  Bringing Sprocket home has been a huge blessing for all of us!  Sure he is a lot of work and he makes messes and needs training galore, but we're all pitching in and learning a lot and mixed in is so much laughter that it makes it all worthwhile. 

He is even incorporated into school...he's Paul's reading buddy!

Socialization?  We're for it!  Even for Sprocket...
he is having fun meeting all the people
that my homeschooled kids are undersocialized by :-)

The girls have been having fun baking...
This is a pan of pear/cinnamon rolls Bekah made.
The were SOOOOOOO delicious I had two!

Coloring is still fun, 
especially when your brother shares super-sized Cars pictures!

Painting -- love it!

Some of the best fun comes from being creative 
with what would otherwise be thrown away.  
We received a package this week
and Paul immediately wanted the box.  
He turned it into his "super alien flying boat" 
complete with his personalized control panel.  
Hours of fun, I kid you not!  
Thank the Lord for empty boxes :-)

Even Sprocket enjoys recyclables...we gave him an empty vitamin jar which he chased around for awhile, then chewed on even longer.  When we realized he figured out how to open the lid, we popped a couple of doggie treats inside, resealed it and gave it back to him.  It wasn't long before he got it open again.  We did that over and over until he demolished the bottle with teeth marks, but oh what fun he had (and us too, watching him and cheering him on) in the meantime.

This Friday, I hope you have some fun.  And take some time to play the memory game with your kids if you can...there is a wonderful pay off (more smiles, less complaints).  Kids can have the tendency to remember the times you said no, the things they didn't get to do that they wanted to do...whine, whine, whine...BUT, brainstorming happy times can help them focus on the good gifts of God to them and shape the story they tell themselves.  Just sayin'...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A solid Rock

He has delivered us 
from the power of darkness 
and conveyed us 
into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 
in whom we have redemption through His blood, 
the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, 
the firstborn over all creation. 
For by Him all things were created 
that are in heaven 
and that are on earth, 
visible and invisible, 
whether thrones 
or dominions 
or principalities 
or powers. 
All things were created 
through Him 
and for Him. 
And He is before all things, 
and in Him all things consist. 
And He is the head of the body, 
the church, 
who is the beginning, 
the firstborn from the dead, 
that in all things 
He may have the preeminence. 
~ Colossians 1:13-18

Last night I was talking with a friend who is going through a challenging time that confronts every dimension (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual).  We talked about how precious it is to know our God is sovereign and good.  There are storms that rage in the lives of Christians.  I think of Job and how in the midst of his incredible pain he proclaimed that he knows his Redeemer lives.  Now there is a Rock to stand on!  When everything seems to be stripped away (plans, health, fill in the blank), we have a Savior who is not stripped away...a Savior who is our ever present Help in time of need...a Savior who will never leave us nor forsake us.

This morning I read this passage from Colossians.  And I broke it down to read it slow.  He is writing our story...we were created through Him and for Him.  And all that He creates, including us and the storms of life we face in His providence are so THAT in all things HE MAY HAVE THE PREEMINENCE.  My friend voiced her desire to know what it is she is supposed to be learning through all this.  I suggested (whether rightly or wrongly I'm not sure) that perhaps this isn't about learning as much as it is about praising.  When we can walk through trials, be they huge or small, with child-like trust and praise on our lips for the One who is our Redeemer, it is like a megaphone shouting out to all that He indeed does have the preeminence! 

He has delivered us from the power of darkness.  We have redemption through His blood.  He has conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love...we are not about ourselves, our plans, our health, our fame, our wealth, our "fill in the blank" anymore.  He has delivered us, redeemed us, brought us into a far more glorious kingdom (His).  Whatever we face today, it is no surprise to Him...He is writing our story, handpicking the scenes and circumstances in love so that as part of His body we can share in the privilege of making much of Him and advancing His kingdom.

It is pretty easy to think you believe this on sunny days.  But when cancer strikes, or the fruit of your womb dies, or your family is suffering from an ongoing lack of employment,  etc. --  it can rock you to your core and it is then that you really realize what a ROCK our Savior is.  He is our Refuge!  He is our ever present Help in time of need!  We can count on Him, rest in Him, praise Him even in the dark because He is always with us, giving us His grace, strengthening us with His joy, granting us His peace which passes understanding, and assuring us that He is in control and that He is good.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


In our family worship times for the past week or so, we've been reading the book of Philemon.  What a delight!  My husband printed the book so each of us could have a copy to mark up and and to take notes on.  Each night he gives us an assignment for the following morning [tasks like "underline all the verbs," and "color code repeated themes using colored pencils," and "circle the names of all the main characters," and "write a summary statement for each paragraph," etc].  The idea is to help our children (and ourselves) read observantly and meditatively, to slow down enough to absorb and apply.  You should see their papers...oh the fun of color coding and marking the text up and all the discussions that have ensued. 

This morning as we were reading Philemon together after breakfast the word "peace" jumped out at us.  How many times have we zipped through Paul's various letters and breezed right over his introductory greetings of grace and peace?  Maybe you don't do that, but I'm guilty all too often to my own shame and detriment.  But by slowing down, by taking time to look at each word, peace gripped us today and oh what a blessing.  Just think: we were enemies of God, under His wrath and rightly so.  We were completely unable to do a lick on our own behalf to restore the relationship and frankly we were so dead in our sins we didn't even care to.  But God, in His mercy, provided the way of peace...He paid the price to reconcile us to Himself.   We are no longer dead bones a-walking and awaiting our final condemnation.  We ARE new creations (2 Cor. 5:17), created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph. 2:10), at peace with God and filled with hope of a glorious future with Him.  THAT makes a gargantuan difference to how we proceed to live.

Paul expands the idea of peace in this way in Colossians 1:20-22 (yes, we're a cross-referencing sort of family!): "...having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight..."

No wonder thanksgiving follows in Paul's letter!  How can we be the recipients of His grace and not give thanks?  How can we go from guilt-laden, condemnation-awaiting lives to peace with God and not be overflowing with gratitude?