There Are Books, And There Are Books

“A book is a present that can be opened again and again.”
I saw this little ditty on a library poster this week while checking out. There are many books that would make my list of “presents”, ones I love to pop open more than once. The Mitford novels, the Little House books, and one recently to add, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The latter I have found so inspiring in the last few years as I try to move toward more local, and home-grown food for our family. Another recent addition is The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Wow! I had never read that before, but what a beautiful story of God’s faithfulness. These books are ones I actually own or hope to own someday, differentiating them from the odd library take-out.
As I think over my good book list, though, I realize how late in my musings the Bible comes to mind. I have been trying, through BSF, reading it through-the-year, and other methods, to make it more of a discipline in my life. But I think what God is hoping for is for me to find it a delight, instead. Hungering and thirsting. Like a deer panting for water. I am just not there. Does that make the rest of my favorite books rather trivial and maybe even sacrilegious, to beat out the Holy Word? Maybe. But He’s on there, and I know He’s climbing to the top of my bestsellers’ list.
BSF Study Question of the week: Put Hezekiah’s prayer of Isaiah 37:15-20 in your own words regarding a situation you are facing right now.
Excellent! I won’t put mine here; it is a bit poisonal. But I loved being challenged to do this. It helped me see that it is God who is ultimately hurt when His people are hurt, and it is God’s glory we should seek when we are asking for help.

Psalm 103

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
         And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
    Bless the LORD, O my soul,
         And forget none of His benefits;
    Who pardons all your iniquities,
         Who heals all your diseases;
    Who redeems your life from the pit,
         Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
    Who satisfies your years with good things,
         So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
    The LORD performs righteous deeds
         And judgments for all who are oppressed.
    He made known His ways to Moses,
         His acts to the sons of Israel.
    The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
         Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
    He will not always strive with us,
         Nor will He keep His anger forever.
    He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
         Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
    For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
         So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
    As far as the east is from the west,
         So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
    Just as a father has compassion on his children,
         So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
    For He Himself knows our frame;
         He is mindful that we are but dust.
    As for man, his days are like grass;
         As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
    When the wind has passed over it, it is no more,
         And its place acknowledges it no longer.
    But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting
to everlasting on those who fear Him,
         And His righteousness to children’s children,
    To those who keep His covenant
         And remember His precepts to do them.
    The LORD has established His throne in the heavens,
         And His sovereignty rules over all.
    Bless the LORD, you His angels,
         Mighty in strength, who perform His word,
         Obeying the voice of His word!
    Bless the LORD, all you His hosts,
         You who serve Him, doing His will.
    Bless the LORD, all you works of His,
         In all places of His dominion;
         Bless the LORD, O my soul!

For Glory And For Beauty

Hey, I have a new motto! I was reading this morning in Exodus, where God was describing the clothing the priests were to wear while ministering in the Tabernacle. He said their robes were “for glory and for beauty”. The work the priest would do, bringing the names of the sons of Israel before the Lord, and offering sacrifices for sin, would glorify God as it would show His compassion and mercy. But I never noticed that word beauty before. There was the beauty of the priestly job to do, but it all was supposed to be beautiful to look at, as well. Scarlet, purple, blue. Pomegranates, bells, gold and precious stones. Wow. I can’t wait to see it.
There is a lady in my church whose house I visited recently. She was one of the first people to welcome me to our church and I noticed her gentle and quiet spirit right away. Her house is a treasure trove of beautiful works of art (many by her) and some of the loveliest quilts I have ever seen. I think now how fitting this all is- a worker who displays beauty inside and out. This needs to be one of my goals in life.

You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. Exodus 28:2

The Friend Dare

Maybe it is in the water. Leigh Ann has been posting lately about what she is calling The Respect Dare, taking inspiration from the popular Love Dare book. I wrote a while ago about how I would love to reverse some of the same sinful habits that I had as a child and that I now see at play in my children’s friendships (jealousy, pride, anger, etc.). I wanted to get my hands on the Love Dare book, to get ideas for how I might begin a daily project with my oldest daughter. We could meet together and discuss the good/ not so good qualities in a friend, and ‘dare’ ourselves to become more mature in the good areas. Our local Christian bookstore was closed, so I couldn’t look at the Love Dare book, but last night, I was able to flesh out some of my ideas on paper. First, I thought of the many friendships in the Bible, and wanted to pick one that would give us a good picture of what it should look like. My initial thought was David and Jonathan, the classic daring duo. When I looked up the passages that talked about the two of them, I noticed all the mentions of Saul’s behavior during this time, as well- not a real friendly guy. Hey- in this story, we have exactly what I originally wanted- examples of how to and how not to be a friend! So basically, I see us proceeding as follows:
-We’ll make a list of friends. Hopefully we can come up with about six or seven, one for each day of the week. We’ll come up with ‘dare’s for the friend on whose day it is, ie. doing something kind to that person without expecting anything in return, etc.
-Each day we’ll read a verse in 1 Samuel, starting in chapter 18, and look at what qualities of a friend are mentioned there. We’ll pray that God increases the good, and prunes out the bad, in us.
I hope to blog every day our thoughts. Who knows? Maybe we can make it into a book. As y’all know, I’m kinda into books right now.

Weekend Thoughts

Oh, what a difference His presence will make,
The slumbering world now awakes…

It doesn’t feel like Jesus’ coming has changed much yet. In fact, every year longer we remain on this planet, the world’s judgment and the destruction of the god of this world is that much more deserved. So heartening, then, to think that the moment Jesus stepped into time, all was startlingly different. God gave us an unspeakable gift, and we never have to be the same again.

1 Thessalonians 5
Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

[Above excerpt from the song “A Thousand Joys” by Wayne Haun and Joel Lindsey]

Turned Back

Our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to [Moses], but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt.
~Stephen in Acts 7:39

During busy times in life I often am drawn away from God, when I should be closer to Him. This is detrimental for a number of reasons, but one is that it draws attention to the reality of my heart.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
~Jeremiah 17:9

I’m coming to realize just how changeable my heart is, and how easy it is to fall away if I am not spiritually disciplined. How dare I put myself in danger of this repeatedly by ignoring what I know are the right things to do. Not only do I suffer from the consequences, but my family as well. Thankfully, there is hope.

Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall through following the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do…Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
~Hebrews 4:11, 12, & 16

He’d Only Just Begun

The kids and I are going through the book of Acts right now. In my personal study I try to stay a chapter ahead of what we do together, and there was something that caught my eye back in the very first verse that I meant to get down here when we were in it, but forgot.

1:1 The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach…

It only lasted three years, but when I think about all that Jesus did during His ministry, the word “began” wouldn’t be the one come to mind. John notes in his gospel the fact that much more went on than was recorded (John 20:30), and that if it all had, the world couldn’t contain all the books written about it (John 21:25). But this was only the beginning.
The plan was for Him to come, but for Him then to go away, too- so that the Holy Spirit could come. When that happened, Jesus said that His disciples would do greater works than His (John 14:12). Incredible!
That word “began” stuck out to me bigtime. It was a fresh call to action, like God saying, “Now it is your turn, because all that I began has its completion in you.” May I be faithful in this work.

He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

Thank You, Peter

For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself. Acts 2:39

This verse brings special encouragement to me today. Many times I feel like one who is “far off”, unsure of just how to get back to where I belong. Thank God for His Holy Spirit, the promise of hope and a future, Who guides me in all truth.

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2

Psalm 90 And Me

The experience of literally being stretched to my body’s limits in pregnancy can often take a toll on me emotionally as well as physically. I usually comfort myself by thinking how I can make things right once the baby’s born- eat less, exercise, do what is needed to regain the form and figure I think I am supposed to have. That is all well and good, but in my reading recently I was hit with another, quite different perspective. The Amy Carmichael biography I finished detailed the many ailments and pains she suffered, especially at the end of her life. Many prayers were lifted for her healing, of course, but it apparently was not God’s plan to restore her health to anything more than that of someone bedridden. Amy had to be at peace with the pain until she died.

Then, the other day, I read Psalm 90, and it felt like it was written for me, which of course it was. Here are some of the verses, and some of my thoughts.

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were born
Or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

I love the imagery of us and all creation being in God’s ‘womb’- dwelling place, born, and gave birth all bring to mind the joyous but intense process of bringing forth life. It quickly got my attention. He had me at “Lord…”

You turn man back into dust
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night.
You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep;
In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew.
In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew;
Toward evening it fades and withers away.

Here’s where I began to think about how maybe, if my body never completely ‘got over’ all these pregnancies, would that really be such an awful thing? Though resilient, this shell is only so durable. I can meet its needs to the best of my abilities, but it is still dust.

We have finished our years like a sigh.
As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years,
Or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow;
For soon it is gone and we fly away.

I’m only 31 364/365 years old, but I can already see what these verses talk about.  Sigh.
So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
Do return, O LORD; how long will it be?
And be sorry for Your servants.
O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness,
That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us,
And the years we have seen evil.
Let Your work appear to Your servants
And Your majesty to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands.

The reality of my frailty would be too depressing, if it were not for the hope of the Lord’s return. Until He does, my goals are outlined above. Live these few, short days wisely, and work for the only thing that lasts- God’s glory.

Final Thoughts on Baucham’s Book

I purposely chose to limit the majority of my sharing on Voddie Baucham’s book, Family Driven Faith, to the topics that would be viewed as controversial. Sports, dating, and education are all hot topics among Christian families today- with many people taking more than one side of the issue. In highlighting Baucham’s thoughts regarding these, I didn’t give a full representation of his book, or his purpose for writing it. Basically, it comes down to the byline of his title: doing what it takes to raise sons and daughters who walk with God. His premise is that the majority of children raised in a Christian home are leaving the faith once they are grown, and something radical needs to be done to prevent that from happening to yours and mine. This ‘radical’ thing isn’t really all that innovative- we simply need to return to the standards set in Deuteronomy 6:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

This only seems radical to us in this modern age where the Christian is not as removed from the world’s cultural norm as they should be. Loving God first needs to be our greatest priority, and leading our families this way may estrange us. For some this means staying out of the kids’ sport scene. For others this may mean homeschooling. For all this will mean sacrificing what the world thinks is of value for what God honors.
I really appreciated Baucham’s bold exhortation. Many of the things he outlined as being important to fostering what he called “multigenerational faithfulness”, we do not do with our children as consistently as I would like. I am praying we improve in the areas of teaching our children and being the best examples we can be, for starters. Just the other day, I was struck at how my five year old did not know about a prominent Bible figure. To fully embrace all that the Bible has to teach us and our children, we literally do have to be talking about the things of God “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up”. The urgency to get the Word into my children before it is too late is felt all the more after reading such a book as Family Driven Faith.

I’ll end with a quote from LaHaye’s Revelation study guide, a picture of the person who has rejected God in the end times. This could describe our children, if we are not careful:

Already we have seen man refuse to repent on two different occasions in the face of these judgments. The last thing to be noted in this passage of Scripture is the hardness of the unsaved, unregenerate heart. “And men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail.” [Rev. 16:21] It is hard to conceive of man so rebellious that he would lift his face in final defiance to God even in the face of such disaster. All hopes and dreams will be ended with the ultimate consummation [God’s final judgment] because man will have chosen to worship Antichrist. ~Tim LaHaye, Revelation (emphasis mine)

My other posts about the book Family Driven Faith can be read here, here, and here.