"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..."
~Psalm 103:15-17a

Encouragement from 2 Thessalonians

I have been encouraged lately by reading through 2 Thessalonians.  It has reminded me of God's great love for me (I am His beloved! He chose me!).  It reminds me that He is the one sanctifying me - I don't need to rely on my own efforts.  What a relief!  It encourages me to keep pushing on - to not grow weary of doing good, even when other people may be taking advantage of me.  It reminds me of the peace, comfort and hope that God provides.

In the hope that one or more of these verse will encourage someone today, I have listed the ones that have been the most helpful to me here.
"We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure...."
"To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ...."
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth....
 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word....
 May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ....
But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good....
Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance.  The Lord be with you all!

In my reading pile...

  • A Chance to Die, by Elisabeth Elliot
  • No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting, by Anne L. Macdonald
  • Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens
  • Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis
  • Philippians, by Paul and God
And today is a great day to admire the snow, cuddle up in front of a nice fire, and read!  What are you reading?

Giving Thanks

During this time set aside to remember our blessings and give thanks for what the Lord has given us, I am thankful for:

...the vast kindnesses of God.
...the grace God showed to me on the cross.
...the grace God daily shows to me as He changes me into the image of His Son.
...the riches of His grace that God is planning to show me in the future (Ephesians 2:7).
...my wonderful family God gave me.
...the freedom I have in this country - to worship, work and live the way I choose to.
...the beautiful creation God made.
...music, cozy fires and good books.
...the knowledge that God is in control and reigns over this world - that He knows what will come in my future, that He will reward the righteous and punish the wicked.
...the little Hoagie-bun!!
...being able to use the creative gifts God has given me.
...my little children's class at church!
...being able to be with family and friends during this holiday time.

And so much more!  It's so easy to forget all that God has done for me, but when I stop and think about it, I am overwhelmed with how much God has given to me.  I am so unworthy of the great kindness He has shown to me.  My simple thanks seems so inadequate, but what else can I say?  Thank You, Lord!

Walk in a Manner Worthy

"Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3)

What if we as believers actually lived this out?  What changes would we see if we all began living in humility - recognizing that we have done nothing to deserve any of the grace God has shown to us?  What if we responded to each person we met with gentleness - realizing that they are people in need of a Savior just like we are?  What if we were patient instead of impatient - showing to others the same grace shown to us?  What if we were tolerant of one another in love - not condoning sin, but overlooking offenses or differences in love?  What if we were really diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit - focused on Christ and His priorities rather than making sure that our personal cause is advanced?  If we actually lived this out in our daily practice, what a difference it would make!  It would be a glimpse of Heaven.

Reflections on Ephesians 1:3-14

How easy it is to grow complacent in considering the gift of salvation God has offered to us.  "Oh, yes, isn't it great that we were enemies of God and now through the cross we can have a good relationship with Him."  But that doesn't even cover all that God in His wondrous grace has done for us!

First of all, yes, we were His enemies - we were in outright rebellion against God, shaking our fists at Him and wanting to follow our own desires and passions rather than humbly seeking after Him.  Then, in His great kindness and mercy, God provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him - and not just to "become friends", although that would be incredible, but to become family.  In love, He adopted us into His family.  And this wasn't some kind of last minute decision - "Oh yeah, I have to do something about those people...".  God planned this before He even created the world.

He didn't do this grudgingly - just doing "the bare minimum" - the least possible amount of help He could give us.  Instead, He lavished (gave without limits) His grace on us.  He freely and unstintingly gave it to us.  He "blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ."  Not just a couple of them, or fifteen of them, but every spiritual blessing.  He didn't just adopt us halfheartedly, either.  He gave us an inheritance - we have the full rights of sons.

How can I view what God has done for me with complacency?  How can I shrug, thinking, "I've heard all this before"?  How can I go through my days, weeks, years, life without having every aspect of my life affected by these truths?


I just finished knitting a pair of socks for Maria.  They are made out of a sweater that I bought at Goodwill and then unraveled to use the yarn.  I think they turned out pretty well - and Maria likes them. :)

Book Review: Choosing Gratitude

How often do we complain rather than give thanks? Whine instead of worship? Nancy Leigh DeMoss, in her book, Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, challenges us to respond to life with a grateful spirit - even during challenging situations. As Christians, we have so much to thank God for: His grace, the gift of salvation, His holiness and faithfulness, His many blessings.  And Nancy also challenged her readers to respond to trials with thanksgiving. As an example, she told about Dr. Helen Roseveare, a medical missionary to the Congo who endured horrible things at the hands of guerrilla soldiers. In her crying out to God, "the question that came to her heart was: 'Can you thank Me for trusting you with this experience, even if I never tell you why?'"

Nancy points out the differences between worshipers and whiners. Here are some of them:
A grateful person is a humble person, while ingratitude reveals a proud heart. A grateful heart is God-centered and others-conscious, while an ungrateful person is self-centered and self-conscious. A grateful heart will be revealed and expressed by thankful words, while an unthankful heart will manifest itself in murmuring and complaining.
At the end of her book, Nancy includes a 30-day devotional guide to help you begin the habit of gratitude. In reading this book, I have begun to realize how many times I choose to complain rather than give thanks. It has challenged me to be thankful and express my gratitude more often - not only to God, but to other people in my life.

Some favorite quotes:
Seek to cultivate a buoyant, joyous sense of the crowded kindnesses of God in your daily life. - Alexander Maclauren

Gratitude is learning to recognize and express appreciation for the benefits we have received from God and from others.

A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves. - Henry Ward Beecher

The grateful heart that springs forth in joy is not acquired in a moment; it is the fruit of a thousand choices.

God's will is not so much a place, a job, or a specific mate, as it is a heart and a lifestyle.

It's Autumn!

Cozy sweaters.
Hot apple cider.
Creamy, frothy hot chocolate.
Yellow, orange, brown and red leaves.
Gourds, pumpkins and corn stalks.
Crisp, clear, cool days.
Spicy pumpkin pie.
Flickering fires.

Book Review: Isobel Kuhn

Determination.  Courage.  Sacrifice.

After reading the biography of Isobel Kuhn, I am left asking myself what sacrifices I have made in serving God.  Born in Canada in 1901, Isobel, also known as Belle, grew up in a Christian home, but rebelled against the thought of simply accepting what her parents said as truth.  After tough break up, she fell into depression and when she was at the end of her rope, called out to God.  Immediately, He answered her prayer, and she began to seek after God.  Soon she understood the Gospel from the Scriptures and put her faith in Christ.  Her early walk with God had its struggles, but she continued to grow.  In 1923, Belle decided to go wherever God would call her.  The next summer she first heard of the Lisu people in China from J. O. Fraser of the China Inland Mission.  Over the next few years she continued her education and God continued to teach her and provide for her.  She met a young man named John Kuhn, who was also going to China and soon they became engaged.

In 1928, Belle sailed for China.  During the 22 years she lived there, she had the joy of seeing many of the Lisu people turn from serving demons to serving the living God.  She continued to grow and mature in Christ.  She saw many prayers answered and many miracles that God performed.  She gave birth to two children who grew up loving God.  She saw the completion of the Lisu New Testament.  She successfully carried on a Bible school program for the Lisu.  And she was able to go in to Thailand later for three years where she also saw many people put their faith in Christ.

But all this didn't come without discouragement and pain.  She struggled with the primitive living - bed bugs, no plumbing, filth.  She was often very sick - sometimes on the verge of death.  Traveling was dangerous - not just from robbers, but from nature - landslides, steep drop offs.  She had to send her daughter to boarding school a long ways away.  While she was there, Japan attacked China, and Communism began to take over.  She had to deal with soldiers and rebels.  The Japanese captured the school her daughter was in - and it would be six years before Belle would ever see her again.  Her young son was sick - and almost died.  She was often separated from her husband for months at a time as they both ministered to the Lisu.

But Belle wasn't the only one with trials.  The Lisu who became Christians were also willing to sacrifice their desires in order to serve God.  One man, after being away from his fiancĂ© for two years evangelizing, came back only to be asked to go on a six month mission to another tribe.  Unhesitatingly, he agreed.  God came first.  Another man was needed to go help a missionary couple.  He promptly agreed to go - even though his first child had just been born.  Others died - sharing their faith with their family and friends right up to the end.

Despite all the trials, Belle pushed on, determined to obey God no matter the cost.  Her story is a challenge to me.  Am I willing to follow God no matter what it will cost me?  Even if it means sickness, threats, separation from my loved ones?  I'm thankful for the stories of those who have gone before us, who were faithful to their God.  Who put His desires above their own.  They are an example to us.

"Few, without the hope of another life, 
would think it worth their while to live above the allurements of the senses."
 ~ Francis Atterbury, 17th century

"What are men to rocks and mountains?"

"'My dear, dear aunt,' she rapturously cried, 'what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers, without being able to give one accurate idea of anything. We will know where we have gone - we will recollect what we have seen. Lakes, mountains, and rivers, shall not be jumbled together in our imaginations; nor, when we attempt to describe any particular scene, will we begin quarrelling about its relative situation. Let our first effusions be less insupportable than those of the generality of travellers.'" ~Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice

Mini-Lessons from Counseling

(No, not actual counseling that I received, but from the counseling training I had over the summer.)

Just some short snippets of things I learned over the summer:
  1. Idols of the heart: When does a desire (that could be perfectly good in and of itself) become an idol and sin?  When you are willing to sin in order to get what you want or when you are willing to sin if you don't get what you want.
  2. Don't minimize someone's problems.  If they say, "I'm the worst mother in the world," don't immediately tell them they're not and show them why you think they're great.  They have some reason for saying that, so ask them about it.  It won't give them hope if you just gloss over their problem.  This also includes people who feel guilty about something when what they did is not wrong according to the Bible.  If they feel guilty, even if Scripture hasn't been violated, they have disobeyed what they thought God said, and should repent in the same way as if it was actually sin.  (Of course afterwards, there needs to be teaching about that issue so they can understand what the Bible says.)
  3. The goal of counseling is not to change behavior, but to change the heart - "to glorify God by becoming like Christ and learning to apply biblical principles to the circumstances and challenges of everyday life."
  4. Good relationships will still have problems, but it's in how you deal with it that determines if it's a good relationship.  So here are four rules of communication:
    1. Be Honest (Eph. 4:25)
    2. Keep Current (Eph. 4:26-27)
    3. Attack the Problem, not the Person (Eph. 4:29-30)
    4. Act, Don't React (Eph. 4:31-32)
  5. Marriage involves weaving - two unique people with two unique backgrounds becoming one.
  6. If the parents are too busy to explain things to their children or think that they can't understand, why be surprised when teenagers don't want to talk or think their parents won't understand.  They are simply following their parents' example.
  7. Ultimately, self esteem is a prideful stance toward God and others - when you don't feel good about yourself because you think you deserve better.
  8. Don't make assumptions!  Don't assume you know how they are thinking or feeling.  Don't assume you know the facts.  Ask questions!
  9. Deception -> Doubt -> Desires -> Disobedience -> Disgrace/Shame -> Disguise -> Death
  10. God is still sovereign, even in suffering.  He knows about it and allowed the suffering.  He controls the amount of suffering.  He is actively involved in your life when you're suffering.
  11. Forgiveness is a promise not to bring up the offense again to the person sinned against or other people or to dwell on it yourself.  Feelings are not required in extending forgiveness - it'a choice you have to make.
  12. In responding to the pain and illness someone is going through, your goal should be to turn the attention from the pain and discomfort of the illness to what God is doing through it.  God could have prevented  it, but He chose to allow it for their good.
Good quotes:
  • On the importance of clarity in assignments and teaching: "People cannot change in fuzzy land."
  • "Questions convict the conscience; accusations harden the heart."
  • "It's easy to be busy; it's hard to be effective."
  • "You are not the Holy Spirit."  (I.e. You can't change a person on your own.)
  • "Hard is not bad - hard is just hard."
  • "We're just animated dust."
1.  When is a liar not a liar?
     (When he stops lying and starts telling the truth.)

2.  When is a thief not a thief?
     (When he stops stealing and starts working and giving.)

And finally, just some of my own thoughts: Are we setting an example for the people around us where it's okay to admit that you were wrong?  Where it's okay to talk about your sin and ... *gasp* ... admit that you're not perfect?  Not just in a general - "Yeah, well, we all sin, you know!" but in specific terms - "I've really been struggling this week with impatience toward my family.  Would you please pray for me?"  If we in our churches were more open and honest with people, would there be so many people in the counseling room, or would we find out about problems sooner and be able to help people when the problems are small?

New from Old

In cleaning up my room in preparation for a new house guest who will be staying with us while she attends Purdue, I came across this gem:

Sally, do you remember making that?  :)  Well, I decided that while I needed it for hanging up hats and such, it needed a bit of work first.  So I took out the pegs (which were originally blue, by the way...and also glued in...) and spray painted them with some leftover spray paint (from VBS last year maybe?).  Then I took some scrap fabric and stapled it on the board.  Once the pegs were dried, I cut little notches in the fabric where the original holes were and stuck the pegs back in.  Result?  A cute little coat/hat rack that cost me nothing but time and energy. :)

(Sorry about the last picture, but I'm not sure how to rotate it...)


Yes, it's summertime here in Indiana.  Heat.  Humidity.  Thunderstorms.  Lots of garden produce.  Extra time to spend with family and friends.  Fireflies.  Grilling.  (Of course, sometimes we do that in the winter, too...)  The almost constant buzz of cicadas.  Sunshine.  What more could you want?

The Latest in the Craft Department

I've been keeping busy so far this summer with cooking and cleaning at home and completing various crafts that I had started but hadn't had time to finish.  One thing I recently finished was a sock.  (Yes, just one.)  I started it several months ago, and just finished it this past week.  Why did it take so long?  Here's why:

The next thing I worked on was to finish up some aprons I had started.  My aunt Katie designs patterns (you can see her website here), and for Christmas one year, she gave all of us girls patterns for an apron plus material to make it!  Sally made hers already, but I hadn't done too much to the rest of them - just cut out the material and done a bit of prep work.  But, I have them all finished up, now!  Here are some pictures:

If you like these aprons and just happen to want your own...they're called "Short Stack Aprons" ... and you can buy the pattern here. :)

Day One!

It's Day One of the time of prayer for human trafficking!  Keep up with the suggestions for how to pray on the Hear the Call blog.

"O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear to vindicate the orphan and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth will no longer cause terror."  ~ Psalm 10:17-18


Over 27 million men, women and children worldwide suffer as slaves today. The problem seems overwhelming at times, but as Christians, we know that our God is all-powerful and is able to do something, even if we cannot. So, I am calling on you to join me in praying daily for two weeks about this issue of human trafficking. Whether it's for an hour or only a couple minutes, will you pray with me? I will be posting specific things to pray for each day on the "Hear the Call" blog to help you as you think of what to pray for and how to pray. If you are interested, this is also an event on Facebook (click here to see).


Well, it's time.  I am moving my blog over to Blogger.  I was planning to keep it on Wordpress, as there's a lot I like about Wordpress.  But, I decided that it would just be easier to have everything (email, blog, etc.) under one thing, so I'm moving.  You can see my new blog here: http://bethwilson90.blogspot.com/.

Special thanks to Sally and Adam for helping me figure out how to move all my old posts over! :)

Bits and Pieces 12: 1 Corinthians and Christian Worldview

This past week, we had two classes: 1 Corinthians and Christian World View.  Both were challenging.  Challenging is good, but it can also get overwhelming when you have 18+ hours of challenging per week.  That doesn't leave much time for processing and putting into practice.  :)  But hopefully the lessons are getting tucked into my head somewhere so they can come out when I need them and have time to process them.  And that's partly what these posts are for.  So, onto the bits of wisdom from this week:

John MacMurray taught on 1st Corinthians.  I thought he did an excellent job.  It almost seemed like a continuation from Galatians the week before.

  • Be teachable: take new ideas and allow them to examine your grid - don't simply assume your grid is correct and allow that to examine the new ideas.

  • The fundamental truth about God is that He is a relational Being.  He is one God in three Persons.  He is, at a fundamental level, a Being in relationship, and He has invited us to join in that relationship.

  • Eternal life is to know the only true God and Jesus Christ.  We don't know the Father - unless Jesus gives us that knowledge.  That's our fundamental problem.  So we need to help people get into a relationship with God by showing them who God is through our lives.

  • 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 - Paul doesn't thank them for what they've done, but for what God has done in them.  He thanks God for what He has done.  The foundational problem the Corinthians had is pride and arrogance.

  • Today in America, the most important thing to Christians is being right.  What happened to loving your neighbor?

  • We think that we can earn our way back to God because our thinking about God is wrong.   When we sinned, we turned and walked away from God, but God hadn't changed.  What changed?  Our perception of God changed.  There's no way for us to able to get back to God - God is the one who has to initiate it, because we are blind and lost.

  • The problem of sin is organic.  Our very nature is 'rotten' - it's not just something external that we can fix.  Sin isn't just something we do, but who we are.  Jesus didn't come just to forgive our sins, but to change us - to give us a new nature.

  • 1:31 - Paul's quote assumes we know the whole section of that text.  Taken from Jeremiah 9:23-24: "...let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me..."

  • The true Judge is judged by broken humanity (speaking of Christ's crucifixion).

  • "The wrath poured out on Calvary didn't originate in God's heart, but in ours. ... What sin could be more heinous than hating and then murdering God?"

  • Read the Gospels over and over so you can get to know God in Jesus.  See what God is like in how Jesus treats people.  He spent 30 years in a neighborhood and no one knew God was there - He didn't come with fireworks, parades, etc, but lived as one of them.  He shows most prominently what God is like in how He interacts with people.  When Jesus came, He didn't go to the middle class of Israel, but to the people on the fringes - lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes.  You aren't better than anyone else, so stop boasting and care for others.  What are we doing to reach people not like us?

  • 3:10ff - It's not a doctrinal statement, a creed, or even the Bible that is your foundation; it's not information, but a person: Jesus.

  • On a side note: Why is so much of nature so unnecessarily beautiful?  Why does everyone see it as beautiful if we just evolved?  It's not just that nature is beautiful, but that we have the ability to perceive it as beautiful.  This is evidence for a Creator.

  • Pride is the attitude the Corinthians had; reliance on human thinking was their thinking process, and the result is division.

  • God's wisdom is the way of humility, the way of stooping.

  • Do you want to be humble?  Why?  So people will see that you're humble?  Humility is when you say, "Lord, I'll take the low seat - and I'll stay there."  Are you staying in the low seat until Jesus calls you up higher?  Or are you trying to manipulate your way into something?  We've bought into this idea that we need to 'be all that we can be' - grab as much as we can.  But everything we need we already have because God has given it to us.

  • 6:7 - "why not rather be wronged?"  It's the way of the cross.  What causes conflict?  You think you have been wronged and fight for your rights.  Do you want the conflict to be resolved?  Why not rather be wronged and cheated - follow the way of the cross.

  • 6:12 - "all things are lawful for me..." the slogan of the Corinthians.  This isn't wrong, but they were abusing that freedom.  Don't let your freedom become your master.  And don't let things you can do in your freedom become your master.   Christ is to be Lord over everything you have.  Paul's freedom is governed by: is it beneficial?  Does it build others up?  Will it master you?

  • A disciple is a learner - one who follows the way of the master.  Jesus' way is servanthood and sacrifice.  So, our way should be the same: servanthood and sacrifice.

  • The picture he gave for the Trinity is three people facing each other in a circle.  When a person becomes a Christian, he is brought into that circle and loves them (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) like they love each other, and they love him like they love each other.  When another person becomes a Christian, she joins the circle and so loves him and them like they love each other.  So we love other believers like the Trinity loves each other (see John 17:20-23).  God loves us like He loves Jesus.  There is no love in the universe like the love God has for Himself - and He invited you to join them!

  • If people knew the way God loves them, wouldn't they want a relationship with Him?  Most probably would.  So why am I not spending my energies entering into their darkness and problems and loving them like Christ does so they see His love through me?  Instead we often try to put on a big show so people will be impressed with Jesus.  That's irrelevant to people.  What would happen if we got into their messes and started to really love them?

The second class this week was on Christian World View.  Mostly, this class opened up my eyes to the people around me - their problems and fears.  How the promises of modernism have failed, and people are much more depressed, suspicious, apathetic, uncertain, etc.  So, anyways, I just wanted to share two videos that they showed in class:

  • "United States of Whatever" - be careful with this song...it just might get stuck in your head!  It's a kind of funny song...until you realize that it really is representative of what people think today - that nothing really matters.  "Whatever."

  • "Happy Birthday" - a song written by a rapper to his child that was aborted.

Bits and Pieces 11

The first two weeks of spring term have just flown by!  The first week back, Brian Reese taught the class on Galatians.  It really challenged my thinking in what it means to have freedom in Christ.  There's a lot here, but it was all so good I didn't know what to cut out. :)  On to the lessons from Galatians:

  • If your focus is trying to obey or trying not to do certain things, you will be hypocritical - because it's all about the outward things, sooner or later, you're going to fake it.  Man cannot be made good by law.  Our mistake is in thinking that what God wants from us is obedience.  He wants to change us into the kind of person who would obey Him.  He wants to change the kind of person I am.

  • There are three "gospels" that are prevalent today:

  • Social gospel: we're free to do whatever we want; the focus is on poverty and problems in society

  • Ecclesiastical gospel: stay in good standing with your church and you'll be okay

  • Forgiveness gospel: sin management; a gospel entirely about forgiveness.  If you profess to believe, you won't get the punishment you deserve, so you'll get to go to Heaven.  Since this has happened, you should want to obey God - if you don't, you haven't proved by your life that you were forgiven.

  • In these three "gospels", the Gospel becomes simply about justification - it's all about what you are going to do with your sin and how you are going to get to Heaven.  The Gospel is: Trust Christ.  Trust that He will pay for your sins - you can't do anything about it.  Trust that He'll live His life in you now.  Trust Him to teach you how you can live.

  • The Great Commission: to make disciples and immerse them in the reality of the Trinitarian God and teach them to put into practice what Jesus taught.

  • What you really think of Jesus is going to show when you find out you don't have to do anything to earn His favor.

  • Why is doctrine important?  Because if you know that the Virgin birth took place (for example), it changes your view of the world.  It's understanding that if you believe miracles can happen, your life is no longer just secular.

  • Christ didn't die on the cross so you wouldn't have to.  He died on the cross so you could join Him there.  He wants to change us into the kind of people that want to do what's right.  He likes us and wants to teach us the best and most exciting way to live.

  • The reason most people haven't changed is because they don't see the use of it since they are going to Heaven.  What is your intent?  Are you choosing to become like Christ?  We default to the easy choice of following our high moral rules instead of being transformed inwardly.

  • Does the literal, glorified body of Christ live in me?  We become the hands of Jesus to do what He would do.  We become the mind of Christ to think the thoughts He would think.  What He did and taught while living on the earth, He wants to continue doing and teaching through us (2 Corinthians 4:6,11; Galatians 2:20, 4:19).  He wants to make us into the kind of beings that spontaneously live out His life.

  • You don't start with Jesus and then graduate to your own efforts - it's all of Him.

  • What is the evidence of salvation?  To give to the poor (Galatians 2:10; Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 4:17-21).  Ironically, the one thing we most often neglect.  Remembering the poor - practical, financial compassion to the poor right where they are.  It should be the number one commitment of the church.  We are not more like Christ because we do this, but we do this because of His life manifested in us.

  • Legalism produces an attitude of pride.  Grace produces an attitude of humility.  When you serve the poor, you are serving people who can't do anything in return.

  • We forget who we once were; we think we deserve Jesus and forget where we would be without Him.  Review the Gospels.  He served the poor, outcasts, sinners, the losers and misfits, those entrapped by sin.

  • God has never once bestowed His grace and mercy on anyone who deserved it.

  • Christians are not those without failure, but those with the understanding of how often we fail.  We refuse to let those failures keep us from trying again, and our failures make us more compassionate toward others.

  • We need to pick up our cross and follow Him.  The cross is for death.  Death to my dreams, desires, ambitions, myself.  But knowing what I'm like, it's a good trade - to die myself and live Christ's life.

  • Now Christ lives in me.  So embrace the truth (no longer I, but Christ lives in me).  Abide in Him.  We are undertaking to do what we have the power to do so He can do in and through us what we can't do on our own.  You're not aiming at obedience; you're trying to become the kind of person who would obey.  What did you do to be saved?  Nothing.  It's all of Christ.  The fruits of the Spirit are just that - of the Spirit.  It's not your fruit that you have to produce.

  • The reason we don't take on the character of Jesus is simply because we don't intend to.

  • We need more than simply a list of rules to keep us above the amoral world we live in; do we just need to work harder at it? No.  Do we need to exhort Christians to obey?  Tell them that it's better to strive to obey out of fear than to not obey at all?  The assumption of legalists is they forget the indelible mark of a Christian: believers love to obey God's commands because they are not burdensome.  We are literally indwelt with the person of Christ.  Instead of me proving myself to God, God wants to prove Himself to me.  He wants me to love Him and delight in Him and be satisfied with Him.  Because that's when He is most glorified.  He will perform in you everything that He has demanded of you.

  • We should be the kind of people where others see our lives and thank God for God.

  • You never live contrary to your beliefs, though you may live contrary to your professed beliefs.

  • Christ did not come and die to keep you from having a bad conscience, or to simply wipe out past sins, but to also clear the deck for Divine action.

  • Are we so foolish as to think we can change ourselves by ourselves?  Can we go on to maturity in a different way than we came to Christ?

  • God could have given very clear proofs that He exists and that Jesus is God - He gave sufficient proof, but the Bible never seeks to prove the existence of God, because God is concerned about whenter or not we believe Him, not whether or not we believe in Him.

  • The teachers coming in to the Galatian church taught that trusting Christ wasn't enough.  If you wanted to stay in a good relationship with God, you needed to obey the Law - or at least the parts they thought were more important.  If you keep the Law by trying to keep the Law, you focus on only outward performance, rather than transforming the kind of person you are.  Trying not to kill anyone isn't a way to become Christ-like.  Becoming Christ-like makes it so you don't have to worry about trying to not kill anymore.  If you are striving to become more like Christ and to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, you will do these good things naturally.

  • It's His promise, not my performance.  When we believe Him, we find that not only are His promises good, but they are the only things that satisfy us.  We begin to see sin as the absolutely foolish choice that it is.

  • So how can we become like Christ?

    1. Get a vision that what God has planned for you is a good thing; form a vision that the life that God has created for you is the absolute best thing that is out there for you.  This is the best bargain ever - giving up yourself in exchange for the wonderful life of Jesus in you.

    2. Have an intention, a decision to do so.  If you don't have the intention, nothing will happen.

    3. Implement the means.  God's grace is what helps you to become like Christ.  What are the means to becoming Christ-like?  (We don't have the means to be patient, but we do have the means to do some things.  Also, we're not being legalistic about this.  You're simply attempting to do what is in your power.  If it doesn't work, that's fine - that's the freedom we have.)  The means - some things we can do: memorize Scripture, pray, fast, celebrate and remember what God has done for you, serve others without recognition or return, read the Bible, find a mentor/discipler.  Do the things you are able to do so that He can do in you what you can't do by your own direct effort.

  • Grace isn't opposed to your efforts - it's opposed to your earning (an attitude).

  • The church is not here to teach people how to die.  The church is here to teach people how to live.

  • People won't remember what you teach, but they will remember how you live.

  • Paul is not saying obedience is legalism.  But just not murdering someone isn't indicative of what's in your heart.  It's a freedom to actively engage with the living Christ in me.  I should actively seek righteousness, not actively seek not to sin. I  begin to see the foolhardiness of sin.

  • You will not drift into spiritual maturity - methodical practice and training is required.

  • Discern between what you do and who you are.  You are His child and He is the one who produces fruit in you.  The genuine fruit in your life is a result of the Spirit - but it comes because of direct effort on your part - but it's not your effort that produces it.  (In other words, you can't just do nothing and expect God to give it to you, but you can't earn it, either.)

  • What Jesus found necessary in His life, you will probably find necessary in your life.  For example, rising early to spend time alone with His Father.

  • If we saw the truth, we would see that sin is like sticking a pencil in your eye.  There's no need to have a rule about it because no one wants to do it.

Fighting Slavery

For anyone who reads this and doesn't know yet, I have started up a blog for our group at school that is involved in raising awareness of modern day slavery.  You can view it here.

Bits and Pieces 10

*Note: I wrote this up yesterday, and it was a really nice, long post - including almost everything from the class.   But, somehow when I posted it, only the first paragraph showed up (and not even all of that)!  I was not able to retrieve any of it, and I didn't want to spend that much time typing it all out again, so I'm only doing part of what I had before.  But it's still good material. :)

The last class for Winter Term was Apologetics.  This was a kind of crazy week, since it was the last week of school and we finished Thursday morning, with a test at noon on Thursday.  Plus, I had my usual outreach on Tuesday morning (helping with a Good News Club), we had our once a term banquet Tuesday evening with a Film Festival directly following, and a time of Communion and Prayer on Wednesday afternoon.  In addition to all that, we had to get our homework (a 2-3 page essay critiquing the statement: That may well be true for you, but it is not true for me) done by Wednesday morning.  And, we didn't find out about that till our first class Monday evening!  So basically, I had two chunks of time to work on the homework: after dorm meetings (which end around 9:30 PM) on Monday till whenever I decided to call it quits for the night, and after the Film Festival Tuesday night (which ended around 9 or 9:30 PM).  Well, the paper got done, but it wasn't one of my best.  Anyways, this was a pretty intense class; the teacher was Dr. Robert W. Evans.  He is a very intelligent man (which also added to the pressure of the paper) and has two Ph.D.s!!  This page lists all his many accomplishments.  Now on to some of the main topics of the class:

  • Principles of Reality.  (This is pretty deep...get your thinking caps on!)  There are twelve basic first principles:

    1. Being is: The principle of existence.

      • To deny this establishes my own existence.

    2. Being is Being: The principle of identity.

      • A thing must be identical to itself.  If not, it's something else.

    3. Being is not Nonbeing: The principle of noncontradiction

      • Because those are opposites - it either is or it isn't - it can't be both.

      • Opposite statements cannot both be true.  If you say they can, you can't say that the statement you just made is true.  You can't have two mutually exclusive things both be true.

    4. Either Being or Non Being: The principle of the excluded middle.

      • If opposites can't both be true, only one can be true.

    5. Nonbeing cannot cause Being: The principle of causality

      • If something doesn't exist, it can't make something else.

      • If the universe always was, we wouldn't be here (infinite regression), so at one point there was nothing (this means the universe is a contingent being), which means at some point there had to be an eternal being to create us.

    6. Contingent Being cannot cause Contingent Being: The principle of contingency or dependence

      • Something that could not be anything can not create something else that could not have been.  (A contingent being is something that doesn't need to exist.)

    7. Only Necessary Being can cause a Contingent Being: The positive principle of modality

      • Only something that must necessarily be can create everything that could not have been.

    8. Necessary Being cannot cause a Necessary Being: The negative principle of modality

      • A necessary being must be, so it can't be caused, or it would have not been needed, so it would be a contingent being.

      • (Thus God is the only necessary being and you can't have more than one God.)

    9. Every Contingent Being is caused by a Necessary Being: The principle of existential causality

      • All contingent beings need a reason for existing.

    10. Necessary Being Exists: The principle of existential necessity

      • Because of (9), a necessary being must exist.  Because contingent being exist, thus a necessary being (God) must exist to create all the contingent beings.

      • "I think, therefore God is."

    11. Contingent Being Exists: The principle of existential contingency

      • If there wasn't a God, we wouldn't be here.

    12. Necessary Being is similar to similar Contingent Being(s) it causes: The principle of analogy

      • A necessary being must itself possess what it creates. (E.g. It must have the capacity for love in order to create love.)

      • So does God have sin?  No.  We share the freedom to choose.  God chooses not to sin; we have freedom to choose to love Him (coerced love is not love).

      • Argument for the Trinity: God would have to have the capacity for relationship in order to make humans with that capacity, but it has to be contained in Himself or else He would be dependent on something else and thus not God.

  • Reliability of the New Testament:

    • Julius Caesar's Gallic War has 9-10 copies; the most documented piece of ancient literature (other than the Bible) is the Iliad which has 643 manuscripts.  No one calls their fidelity into question.  The New Testament (Greek copies alone) has 5,686 partial and complete manuscripts copied by hand.  If you include manuscripts from other languages, there are more than 14,000 copies.  And if you include all quotations of the New Testament there are 36,000 in the first 200 years.  You could reconstruct the entire New Testament (except for eleven verses) from these quotes.

    • Older manuscripts are better because they are closer to the original.  A distance of 1000 years is considered good in ancient literature.  It's rare that there would be a copy within 500 year (for example, Homer's Odyssey).  Most of the New Testament (NT) manuscripts were within 200 years - some within the first 100 years, and some within 40 years!  The entire NT in book form is found within 100 years of the original!

    • The NT is also the most accurate of ancient literature.  Homer's Iliad is 95% accurate, while the NT is 99.9% accurate.  Most of the errors are variants in readings that get perpetuated by copies (each copy is counted as an error instead of one error faithfully and accurately copied).  Nearly all these mistakes are grammatical errors.  According to Philip Schaff, of about 150,000 variants, only 400 actually changed the meaning of the passage.  Only 50 of those were significant, and of those, not even one has any doctrinal importance.

  • Miscellaneous Items for Your Consideration:

    • "Far more people are going to be loved into the kingdom of God than will be argued in."

    • When you get into a debate with someone, first restate their argument to ensure you correctly understand their position.

    • The statement: "There's no such thing as truth" is a self-defeating statement.  You have to exclude that statement from your claim.

    • The naturalistic explanation for the universe is that given enough time it could happen.  But the problems with that: where did the original elements come from?  Where did matter, space and energy come from?  Even granted those, with more time (unless there's design), there's just more chaos.  It gives more time for things to go wrong.

    • We have to give science a break.  It is trying to get the most plausible, naturalistic explanations to explain observable events.  They can't do naturalistic investigations and end up with a supernatural explanation.  They are trying to explain how the universe began without being allowed to say that God created it.  It's kind of like asking someone to tell you what 2+2 is if there is no such number as 4.

    • There are two central tenants of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:3-5): Christ died (Scriptural evidence: the Bible; scientific evidence: he was buried); and Christ was raised (Scriptural evidence: the Bible; scientific evidence: he was seen by many people).

    • In the last class, he referred to the multiple choice exam as a "multiple guess" exam. :)

Well even this turned out pretty long, so you can imagine how much I left out!  Now that I'm finally caught up, I get to finish up my taxes and enjoy the last few days of spring break, while looking forward to learning more from God's Word starting Monday!

Bits and Pieces 9

John and Hebrews both in one week!  How exciting!!  Before the week even started, my roommates and I agreed that this would probably be the best week of classes, and for the most part, we weren't disappointed.  So, here are some tidbits from those classes.  (By the way, just to be clear, I am not writing this all down from memory,  but looking back through my notes to find what caught/catches my eye. :) )

  • Dr. Rich Hall taught the Gospel of John.

    • John can give us the clues of how to have a close, intimate relationship with God - he knows from experience, and it shows in his writings.

    • "Martin Luther once said, 'This is the unique, tender, genuine chief Gospel... Should a tyrant succeed in destroying the Holy Scriptures and only a single copy of the Epistle to the Romans and the Gospel According to John escape him, Christianity would be saved.'"

    • "Augustine said, 'Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.'"

    • "John R. W. Stott says that unbelievers need to be confronted with authentic Christianity: 'Authentic Christianity - the Christianity of Christ and the apostles - is supernatural Christianity.  It is not a tame and harmless ethic, consisting of a few moral platitudes, spiced with a dash of religion.  It is rather a resurrection religion, a life by the power of God.'"

    • We need to be "restfully available, instantly obedient."

    • There's no impact on others without contact.

    • God knows the kind of test you need and what the best time for that test is.

    • Notice how Jesus accepted Judas and loved him, even though he know - for three years - what he would do.

    • "William Barclay has some fine insight: 'It is the place of Judas at the table that is of special interest to the reader. ... He must have been sitting on Jesus' left... And the most revealing thing about all this is that the place on the left of the host was the place of highest honor, kept for the most intimate friend.  For the host to offer the guest a special tidbit or morsel from the dish, was again a sign of special friendship.'"

    • "Ray Stedman: 'When our Lord says, "abide in Me," He is talking about the will, about the choices, the decisions we make.  We must decide to do the things which expose ourselves to Him and keep ourselves in contact with Him.'"

    • "If my life is fruitful, it doesn't matter who criticizes me; if my life is fruitless, it doesn't matter who praises me."

  • Bryan Hurlbutt (as he said, "Yes, that is my name") taught the book of Hebrews.  He did a wonderful job, and is probably one of the teachers that I will want CDs of his classes.  He didn't try to edge around the truth, but spoke it out clearly and boldly - kind of like Pastor Whipple. :)

    • The only place in the Bible we have a definition of eternal life is in John 17:3, where it says that eternal life is to know God.  This knowledge is not just a mental ability to recite facts, but an interactive relationship, interacting on an appropriate level of thought and experience.  Knowing God involves living out the 'facts' you know.  Knowledge and belief are degreed properties - you don't just know it or not know it - you can keep growing in these areas.  In fact, discipleship is growing in degrees of belief and knowledge.

    • Hebrews is about the supremacy of Christ.

    • This letter "serves as a call not merely to make a decision for Christ (i.e. receive Him as your savior, receive the gift of eternal life, etc...) but to subjugate your life to His supremacy and align your purpose and plans with His person and principles."

    • If you're coming to God for something (i.e. for peace), you're misunderstanding it.  God should be ultimate, not a means to an end.

    • The recipients of the letter were "Jewish Christians or at least perceived Christians.... I call them [this] because as a good preacher, the author operates on the assumption that they are what they say they are, namely Christians.  But really he is not certain, and so the point of the letter is really to press them to live out that faith and so authenticate it."

    • Hebrews is a letter, but it's form is really a written sermon.

    • The warnings in the book of Hebrews are like a parent's warning of danger to their child.  They are not intended to be assessments, but "rhetorical devices that serve as a means of perseverance and obedience."  If they ignore the warnings, they are showing the state of their souls, not changing the state of their souls.

    • The Bible was not written to me, although it was written for me.

    • God is in control - He has His best in mind, which sometimes/often results in our felt needs being met, but not always - that's not His main goal.

    • The Puritans had a saying: "God loveth adverbs."  Why?  Because we are a people consumed with verbs - what we do.  God cares about how and why we do what we do.  Adverbs give meaning to verbs.  Do things for God's glory and to enjoy Him forever.

    • 2:9 - He died for everyone - "for" implies substitutionary atonement.  He bore my sin in my place (see Romans 3:21-27 also).  One of the problems of the Emergent Church is the idea that substitutionary atonement is divine child abuse.  If you reject this, you reject the whole gospel and it is reduced to morality, which doesn't save you.

    • 2:14 - "...destroy the one..." - destroy -> rendered useless - not completely annihilated.  Its power over you is not now what it once was because of Christ's death.

    • 2:15 - now that we are no longer slaves to sin, we are free to please God - we are free to do what we ought.  It's impossible to exult in this if we don't understand the chains we were in before.  How should you respond to your sin?  "God, thank You for showing me the sin, and thank You that You still accept me and love me.  Please give me the grace to live.  Help me see what I need to do with Your strength."   Sin is a diagnostic tool to show what is hidden in your deep.

    • What are the implications of Jesus' supremacy in your life?  1) Renewal - a change from the inside out (one of the unique things about Christianity) 2) Resources - He has all the resources you need to please Him. 3) Responsibility.

    • "Reading romance novels is emotional porn."

    • "The New Testament knows nothing of believers who are not involved in community - in a local church."  Communal life is a life of accountability with transparent, even brutal honesty.  You can't fulfill all of the New Testament commands without being in a local church

    • Are you going to hold firmly to what you profess?  (Not what you possess - implying that you can lose your salvation.)

    • Grace is God's power working in your life.  What does it show up as?  As a sinner, to rescue me from punishment; as a believer, to change my life.  So we are always in need of grace. "I come to Jesus Christ by grace, and I live the Christian life by grace."

    • We run into the danger of getting distracted from the focus on glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.  Are you spending your life pursuing things other than the Gospel?  Turn your life to the Gospel - everything else will burn.

    • 5:14 - the mature have formed habits.  We need to form healthy habits - they affect our soul.  "Trained" is used of athletes who were focused on the goal and stripped of any encumbrances.  The mature lay aside encumbrances or distractions in a singular focus on God.

    • God should not be your "number one priority" (a linear list with God at the top) - this makes it seem like you can "do God" and then "do family."  Instead, your whole life should be focused on God (a circle with God at the center).

    • The Hebrews weren't ready for this discussion because they had been lazy with their souls.  If we aren't training our souls, there are things we won't have the capacity to understand.  You must do the spiritual disciplines today so that you can one day accomplish by direct effort what you cannot now accomplish by direct effort.

    • God's will is a moral question, not merely a directional question.  Form your soul before you ask what God wants you to do with your life so that you will be ready to hear.

    • 6:4-12 - The question is not, "If you're in Jesus, will you stay in Jesus?"  because it doesn't depend on you, but on God and His power.  Instead, the question is, "Are you really in Jesus?"  If you can lose your salvation, then you have to work to keep your salvation.  It's all a gift.  In this passage, the writer is saying that it looks like they have all these things, so he's encouraging them to make their profession their possession.  Some important observations:

      • Your salvation is secure (John 6:39; Romans 8:30, 35-39 etc.)

      • Your practice says something about your profession (John 14:15).

      • True Christians will not completely abandon the faith by rejecting Christ (1 John 2:19).

      • Those who do not press on in faith evidence the fact that they were never true Christians (the whole point of Hebrews).

      • The author's warning is from a pastor who is assuming that their profession is true but is using the warning as a rhetorical device of the strongest means to urge them to press on in their faith.

    • Hebrews 7:4-10 - Bryan brought up the interesting idea that the soul is descended from our ancestors - similar to how physical attributes come from our ancestors.  In this case, the 'soulishness' of Levi is descended from Abraham.

    • The Law was set aside because it couldn't rejuvenate the soul - it can't make perfect.  The Law can't renovate the heart, but Christ can.

    • 7:22-25 - Because Jesus lives forever, all our sins are forgiven - past, present and future.  If we could lose our salvation, then our future sins aren't forgiven.  Also, since Jesus lives forever, we are assured of eternal security.

    • Work from our theology down to our life, not vice versa.

    • We must ask for forgiveness because the quality - not the existence - of our relationship with God is affected.

    • The Old Covenant was a bilateral agreement.  The New Covenant is a unilateral agreement; it is simply granted without any requirement from the other party.  All of it is contingent on and comes from God.

    • "The chief end of man is not to save his own skin and do the best he can."

    • It's important to note what we are being saved to (serving God) and not just what we are being saved from.

    • "True love doesn't let people swim in sin."

    • 12:1-2 - The crowd of witnesses are not watching us - their eyes are on turned to Christ.  Why would we run better for them anyway?  We run for Jesus.

    • A lot of times in our lives, we're ready to do the "big" things for Christ, but we aren't serving Him in the little things.

    • Whatever is in your life, God allowed to come into it - so we should ask ourselves and God why He allowed it in.

    • Conclusion: Keep the supremacy of Christ constantly before you.  Don't take your eyes off of Jesus.  He's the only reason you should do anything in your life.

As you can see, there was a lot in the Hebrews class.  Really, too much to grasp well in one week...which is why I want to get the CDs for that class. :)  Okay, just one class left from Winter Term.

Bits and Pieces 8

Week six of Winter Term was 1 Peter and Joshua, Judges, Ruth.  (Yes, it was a lot to cover.)  Here are a few bits and pieces from those classes:

  • Chris Thomas, international director of Torchbearers, Int'l, taught 1 Peter.  He had a tendency to take lots of long rabbit trails, and he also had a nice, British accent. :)

    • "I can't, He can; He never said I could, He always said He would, so let Him."

    • Prayer is a miracle - that God listens to us and responds.

    • An ambassador (which is what we are - representing God) has no innate authority - it's all derived from the ruler; our authority and our message is His.

    • Be careful in systematic theology not to systematize it to death; there is mystery involved in Christianity.

    • Mercy is the attitude of God toward mankind; grace is the action of God toward mankind; peace is the atmosphere of those who have accepted God's grace and mercy.

    • Our old life was hopeless and condemned: "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die."  Our new life has hope in the future: "Stop, think and act wisely, for tomorrow we live."

    • Before our new life in Christ, we were trying to appease God; now we do what's right in order to please Him; grace overcomes condemnation.

    • Consider suffering pure joy: because you can see it from God's perspective - that it develops character.

    • We need to have convictions and passion.  (The current generation seems to be all passion but no conviction, while the generation before was the opposite.)

    • Loving God is not conjuring up emotion, but it's an act of the will (John 14:21).

    • As you get to know God, you grow to love Him; and to love Him is to increasingly desire to serve Him.

    • Five qualities God expects of a Christian wife:

      • Be submissive to her own husband.  If a woman takes over his position because the man left it, it's very difficult for her to leave it again.

      • Faithful to her own husband.  Physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially.  Lift up her husband in his spiritual leadership.  If she humiliates him in the hope he'll respond, he'll become hostile.

      • Without talk. Don't nag or tell him what to do; it undermines his confidence.  A man's greatest weapon is silence.  A man's identity is in his position (a woman's is in her person).

      • Quality of Behavior.  Purity and reverence.  Focus on making her soul attractive.

      • Inner Beauty

    • Three qualities God expects of a Christian husband:

      • Think.  What can he do to lift up his wife's person and be considerate?

      • ...there must have been more, but either I didn't get a chance to write them down or else he had to skip it in order to finish as much of the book as possible.

  • Wendall Grout, who has taught at Ecola since the school began, I believe, taught us the books of Joshua, Judges and Ruth.  (Interestingly enough, we finished everything on the syllabus for these three books, while we weren't able to finish the book of 1st Peter.)  Pastor Grout was very gentle and gracious, and you could tell he really knew the Word well.

    • Joshua:

      • Joshua was a soldier and a servant - he learned to be a good follower before he ever became a great leader.  He learned the importance of role-filling - we all have unique roles to fill - we shouldn't compete with each other, but complement each other.

      • Joshua was 85 years old when he took leadership of the people of Israel.  God is not in a hurry.  Hurry, rush and stress don't characterize a life filled with the Spirit.  He served for 25 years.

      • When God writes history, it isn't revised - it's all in written - warts and all.

      • The delays of God are not His denials.

      • Unbelief exaggerates the problems and minimizes God's power.

      • Egypt: bondage; Desert: boredom; Israel: blessing

      • Every spiritual battle must begin at the feet of our all-conquering God.

      • Faith in God does not relieve us of personal responsibility to take action.  The way to victory and success is faith and obedience.

      • Hard situations are easy when we are right; easy situations are hard when we are wrong.

      • You're not strong enough to stand on your own; thinking you can do it on your own is the first step to failure.

      • "The greatest heresy is 'Jesus plus'..." (I'm not sure if this was a quote from the teacher or someone else.)

    • Judges:

      • All the judges were raised up in response to the prayers of the people - God responded when they called out to Him.

      • More is said about the Holy Spirit in this book than in any other historical book.

      • Israel was delinquent in parental discipline (Judges 2:8-12).  A generation grew up who didn't know the Lord - because their parents didn't teach them about the Lord.  What the parents tolerated, the children admired.

      • God blesses people to bless people.

      • God has a way of matching people with need.  There's a need somewhere in the world today where your gifts and abilities are a perfect match.

      • People's true character comes out in a crisis.

      • God's power is always equal to His promises.  What He promises, He is able to perform.

      • God's call is always elevating.  We are being called from a life that would not have mattered at all to one with eternal consequences.

    • Ruth:

      • We can see God's grace in people's lives

      • We can't redeem ourselves but must depend on Jesus.

      • Just as Boaz paid the full price, we have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19)

      • God has blessings for our lives that we can't even imagine - that we aren't planning for.

Bits and Pieces 7

My second of three terms at Ecola is completed.  It's hard to believe that this year is almost over.  Here are some bits and pieces from my classes on 1st Thessalonians and Christology.

  • Bill Sherman taught on the book of 1st Thessalonians.

    • Two ways to be like Paul: Make a lifetime commitment, and step out of your comfort zone and take more risks.

    • If you are following God, what is the risk?  Isn't God big enough to take care of you?

    • If you are growing in your relationship with Christ, God can and will use you.

    • "Come as you are, but God loves you too much to leave you that way." (the motto at his church)

    • Humility is a proper understanding of how you relate to God and others.

    • In ministry, you experience hindrances and defeat, as well as victory.

    • "Adversity doesn't build character, it reveals character."

    • "I'm not called to be successful, I'm called to be faithful." - Mother Theresa

    • The idea that "it's alright to do this, because God will forgive me," is not the point - God has called us to a holy life, and if we disregard this, we are disregarding God, who gave us His Holy Spirit.

    • "I know I have holes in my doctrine, I just don't know where they are." - John MacAurthur

      • If you have all the answers, God is a small god.

      • Our whole life should be a life of learning

    • Why do we accept some sins as "less sinful" than others?  Sins such as apathy, laziness and gossip, we see as "okay" instead of as sin against a holy God.

    • A sign of how well you are walking with the Spirit is how patient you are with everyone.

  • A man from northern Ireland, Ken Needham, taught on Christology.  This was one of my favorite classes - our whole focus was on Christ - magnifying and exalting Him.  What an encouragement!  And to top it off, Mr. Needham had a wonderful accent! :)  Here are some of the highlights, and if you want all my notes, click here.

    • Satan is in the business of representing a distorted and wrong view of God - ignoring the good things God has given us, and focusing on what we don't have.

    • The Old Testament is an amazing book: it is accepted by three major religions.  It has no influence from Christians, but it's all about Jesus.  He's the only one who can pull together all the parts.

    • "Yes, I have never been able to change water into wine, but that is one reason I believe in Jesus.  Since He is able to do it, He is at the least, supreme in this area.  He is unique.

    • Real suffering happens to Christians.  God would not be good if He allowed His followers to go through suffering and not experience it Himself.

    • Wherever you go, you are representing Christ.  Are there people who think that Jesus doesn't care about them because you don't care about them?

    • Jesus cared for the leper.  He went against His culture and upbringing and touched the leper.  Do you just go with the culture or are you radically different like Jesus?

    • "A kingdom is not a democracy."

    • Jesus was a carpenter for 30  years in the "nasty little town" of Nazareth.  Most of what Jesus did was probably repair work and simple, basic items - hard, monotonous work.  It didn't use His intellect or leadership skills or benefit society.  But what was His attitude about it?  Every bit of work He did was an opportunity to worship the Father by presenting to Him a job well done.

    • Jesus spent three years trying to teach His disciples two things: "I will die" and "three days after I die, I will rise."  None of them learned it.  But what was Jesus' response?  "...having loved His own ... He loved them to the end..."  It's not your job to remodel the people we live/work with.  That's Gods' job.  Jesus loves "that person" as much as He loves me, and He wants to love them through me.  If I don't, it stifles my spiritual growth.  Ask: what is it in me that gets annoyed?  Then they become a great blessing, because you grow because of them.

    • Why are we so tired?  It's not that we are working so hard, but that instead of depending on Jesus, we depend on our training.  We are pouring out ourselves from our soul - just draining the soul and getting exhausted.  But all the time, we have an infinite resource that we are not drawing upon.  Ministry done in the power of the Spirit doesn't drain you - it energizes you.

    • Rest from your own work, and rest in His sufficiency

    • You can't walk on the water unless you leave the boat.  To walk on water, you must: leave the boat (all material things), leave the oars (all control), leave the other disciples (other relationships).

    • And finally, a good quote from Mr. Needham: "There's light at the end of the tunnel - and it's not a train coming the other way." :)

Spring Break

It's hard to believe that two terms of school are done and there is less than two months left till the end!  Currently I am midway through my spring break, enjoying some time out in the country at my aunt and uncle's home.  I have been keeping busy, though, too, by baking, knitting, researching slavery and reading some books I wouldn't normally have time for.  I also have plans for updating my blog with some summaries of what I have been learning in my last few classes.  I have a lot to catch up on, so we'll see how much of that happens.  Click here to see pictures of my break so far.

It's Springtime!...Wait, what?

Yes, I know it's early February, but flowers have been popping up all over the place, trees are budding, and I have even seen a dandelion or two. Crazy! I am not used to this! It shouldn't be spring until April! I have to admit, it's kind of nice to have warmer weather...but at the same time, I've missed the snow. I only saw a couple inches while I was at home...and that wasn't even the full time I was home, since I was in Tennessee for about a week. I am a bit jealous of Sally and Adam, as they have a huge snowstorm in the forecast for this weekend.

But, I'll take the flowers, and be content. :) Here are some pictures I took today of Spring showing her face in Cannon Beach, OR.


Bits and Pieces 6

Well, there have been six classes since I last posted about what I've learned in class.  So, here are some of the highlights from those six classes:

  • Jim Amandus taught the book of Psalms.  He did a great job teaching the "intellectual" aspect of the psalms as well as emphasizing the poetry and the artistic aspects.  At the beginning of each class (except for the first two), a group of students got up to lead us in meditating on a psalm.  There were a lot of creative ideas.  Most of them involved power point presentations, reading the psalm or singing a song.  One presentation, though, really did an amazing job.  They acted out the skit "Everything" (you can see one version here) and they did a superb job of acting it out.  I think it was at least as good if not better than the original one.  Anyway, here are some things I learned from that class:

    • To encounter a psalm, you must take time in reading it to feel what the author is feeling - to understand the emotion - and to appreciate its beauty and message.

    • In reading through the Psalms (and other of the wisdom literature in the Bible), it's important to understand that the ancient wise man reasoned from life to show people why it makes sense to follow God - they operate in the realm of natural revelation.  In addition, it's also important to note that ancient wise men have no problem with generalizations or with emotions.  In other words, while Psalm 22:1 asks why God has forsaken the psalmist, the psalmist knows that in reality God has not forsaken him and is indeed with him during his trial.  However, he is writing about how he was feeling at the time, and thus does accurately reflect his emotions.

    • The importance of confessing your sin: be honest about it, confess to those you have offended, and confess the root causes of your sin to God.

  • During the same week, Dave Childers taught a class on World Religions.  It was helpful to learn more about Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Chinese Religions.  I appreciated the perspective of the class.  The "theme" of the class was "A vision of the heart of God breaking for the lost."  The purpose for our study was to gain an understanding to provoke informed prayer, and to prepare us to share Christ.  In addition, he pointed out that "we desire to study without being overly critical and yet recognize that there is truth."

  • "Marriage and Dating" was taught by Dave Duff, the director of Ecola.  There was a lot of information in this class.  A lot about marriage, how God designed marriage, roles in marriage, the differences between men and women, dating, and even children!  I particularly enjoyed hearing about the differences between men and women...some of it fit in with what I already knew, and some of it was new to me.  I found it fascinating how the differences that we have complement each other and how a husband and wife can really work well together because of those differences.

  • Chris Adsit (who, by the way, worked at Cannon Beach Conference Center with my mom in the summer of '76) taught a class on Personal Disciplemaking:

    • "Christianity is perceived by most Americans as...irrelevant.  It's losing influence because we don't merge faith and life outside of church" ~George Barna

    • "Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ." ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    • We can' t just convert people and leave it at that.  We must help them mature - disciple them.

    • Definition of a disciple: "A person-in-process eager to learn and apply the truths that Jesus Christ teaches him/her, resulting in ever-deepening commitments to Christ and to a Christ-like lifestyle."

    • "A disciple is a 'person-in-process' moving toward ever-deepening commitments to Christ.  The state of being a disciple is an attitude that involves a growth process.  If you are not learning and growing, you are not a disciple."

    • Disciplemaking is "any time one person intentionally helps another person learn a little more about or become a little more like Jesus Christ."

    • Discipleship can happen in a large group context, a small group context or in one-to-one context.  Or in all three.  Each have different strengths and weaknesses, and it would probably be best if a disciple was involved in all three.

    • "Never attempt to make anyone become like yourself.  God knows and you know that one of you is enough." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

    • Prayer is vitally important in the process of making disciples.  As Chris Adsit said, "Partner with the One who can control the hearts of men."

    • "We are no more able to cause growth than we are able to cause conversion.  Pray early, often, long and late.  Prayer isn't part of the ministry, it is the ministry; everything else is mop-up.  Most of the actual, effectual work of the ministry will be accomplished on your knees."

    • The relationship between disciple and discipler is also important: "Most things of importance are better caught than taught."

    • But, "many other important things must be taught before they can be caught."  Content is also very important.

  • This past week, we studied the book of Proverbs with Dr. Mike Roth.

    • He talked about the two main themes in the book: Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly.  Both of them are calling to us - which one will we follow?  Following Lady Folly results in death, but following Lady Wisdom results in life and understanding.

    • We discussed how we need to be teachable.  Am I wise when someone corrects me, or am I a scoffer?  Do I dishoner the one who corrects me?  Do I make excuses or insult the one correcting me?  Instead I should love the one correcting me, become wiser and learn more.

    • Proverbs 10:19 - one way to avoid sin is to talk a lot less.

    • Proverbs 18:13 - we must listen - really listen - to what others have to say; and we should not make a judgement before hearing both sides (Proverbs 18:17)

  • And finally, we had Mark Burch teaching Ephesians:

    • "If you can change what someone believes, you can change everything.  If you don't change their beliefs, you won't change anything else, either."

    • "A productive Christian behavior system is the product of a solid Christian belief system, not the other way around!"

    • "What's the big deal about grace?  It challenges most religious assumptions and changes the focus from me to God - not 'what can I do to earn God's favor?' but ' what has God done?'"

    • "In the gospel, we discover that we are far worse off than we thought, and far more loved than we ever dreamed." ~Steven Curtis Chapman

    • "The greatest deception of the enemy is to tell us that God cannot use us until we have our own act together."  God uses weak people; we are more useful to God when we're weak, because then we have to rely on God.

    • "The unified, trained body of Christ is the most powerful expression of God on teh face of the earth." ~Bill Hull

    • If you are a believer and you are not using your gifts, you are hurting other believers.

    • Money - materialism - is probably our biggest idol; it is the only area of life we are told to test God in, and most people are not willing to do it.

    • "Biblical submission: a willingness to yield my life, my desire, my plans, to God's design - to His will and His Word."

    • We are living in a war zone - why are we living for fun and entertainment?

    • We equip ourselves for the battle on our knees.  Prayer is the work of the church.

    • Every single great revival began with prayer.

    • The enemy has us deceived that prayer won't work.

    • What are you living for?  What is your purpose in life?  When you get to the end of your life, will you wish you had done more?

I know these are all kind of random...they are just some various thoughts that stick out to me as I go back through my notes.  But, I'm doing this more for my own sake - to think through the classes again and have another copy of the things I've learned - than for anything else.  Looking forward to next week's classes: 1st Thessalonians and Christology!  Should be good!  Oh, and the Day of Prayer for Ecola is on Tuesday!  Definitely looking forward to that!

The Tragic Issue of Slavery


It brings to mind appalling, gruesome, hideous crimes committed against people made in the image of God.  And it's over now.  William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln and many others worked hard and diligently - sometimes at great cost to themselves - to free the slaves.  We still have some repercussions to deal with, even years later, but for the most part the issue of slavery is a shameful part of history that we can look back on as an example of the atrocities that one human can commit against another.  It's over now, though, right?

Wrong.  Slavery, repellent and horrifying as it is, is still in full force.  In fact, there is evidence to suggest that there is more slavery in the world today than there was during the time of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.  It is estimated that there are more than 27 million slaves around the world.  On Wednesday, Ecola Bible School brought in a guest speaker from International Justice Mission to present the film "Call and Response."  While I knew a bit about this problem of human trafficking and slavery, I didn't know the extent of it.  There are children being forced into the military in Africa, people taken as slaves and forced to work without pay, girls being kidnapped, raped and sold as sex slaves.  And it's not just happening in other countries, but even right here in America.  The statistics are horrifying:

  • In 1850, the average slave in the south cost about $40,000 in today's money.  Today, a slave costs an average of $90.  Since buying a person is so cheap, they are considered "disposable" - there is no real concern for their well-being because it would be so cheap to replace them (info taken from Free the Slaves website).

  • "Nearly 2 million children are exploited in the commercial sex industry." (taken from International Justice Mission's website)

  • Human trafficking is the world's third largest criminal enterprise, after weapons and drugs (from IJM)

  • With the earthquake in Haiti, the door is wide open for many of the women and children there to be kidnapped and forced into slavery (see this article).

To get a good idea of the widespread problem of human trafficking, read this report from the US Department of State.  I highly encourage you to read through this report.  At the very least, skim through the stories in the introduction.  Here are a couple stories and some other info that really struck me.  (Not for children to read.)

Marlena traveled to the Persian Gulf to earn money for her family as a domestic servant in a wealthy household. Instead of a room of her own, Marlena slept on the kitchen floor and worked 20 hours every day of the week serving the family. The employer’s wife confiscated her passport the day she arrived and forbade her from ever leaving the house. The family locked her inside whenever they left. The employer’s wife beat her and called her names when she did not work hard enough. When Marlena tried to run away, the employer told her that she would be arrested for leaving the house without permission. Though the recruitment agent promised her $200 per week, Marlena was never paid by her employers. After eight months, Marlena escaped, but once on the street, the police found and arrested her for running away from her employer. She sat in a deportation center for two years, waiting for her sponsor to grant her permission to leave the country.

.    .    .

At just 17-years-old, Maryam dreamed of a better future than her life in Kazakhstan. A man paid her parents $300 and forged a passport so that she could work in Russia as a shop assistant. When she arrived in Russia, the shop turned out to be a locked cell with barred windows and a metal door. After the armed guards told her she would be used as a prostitute, rather than a shop assistant, she said: “I refused by saying that they could do anything they want, but I wouldn’t be a prostitute. I was punished for that. I was beaten up, raped, and starved. In five days I gave up.”

.    .    .

The explosion of the Internet and the growing use of digital cameras and cell phone cameras have given perpetrators additional tools to victimize children. Predators are going online to share stories, trade child pornography, and plan sex tours. Sex tourists use chat rooms, message boards, peer-to-peer file-sharing servers, news groups, and specialized Web sites to obtain information on potential destinations. One disturbing activity is the establishment of “cyber-sex” dens where some children may be sexually abused by a foreign pedophile and the images beamed via a webcam to the Internet. Payment to watch these live “shows” is often made by a credit card via an Internet connection.

There is so much information...so much to process...and where do we even start to make a difference in this?  Well, I have a few suggestions, and will hopefully have more in the coming weeks, as I meet with some friends to pray and research how we can help.  But please, whatever you do, don't just go away and forget all of this.  We must do something.  Every little bit helps.

  • While this is all overwhelming to us, we have access to the One who can make a change.  God is all-powerful and able to do anything, and we have the privilege of being able to come before Him with our requests.  To get ideas of how to pray, you can sign up for the IJM weekly prayer update here.

  • Put this phone number in your cell phone: 1-888-3737-888.  This is the National Human Trafficking Hotline that you can call anytime you suspect a case of human trafficking.  Go to their website to learn more.

  • Talk to others about it.  The more people are aware of the problem, the more we will be able to do to help, and the more effect we will have.

At this point, I'm in the "depressed" stage: I have been learning all this information about modern slavery and the horrific things being done to people, who are made in God's image, and I don't really know what to do.  I feel overwhelmed, and my heart breaks for the people, especially the children, and all the women forced into prostitution.  Please pray with me for the many people in slavery, for the victims who have been rescued, for the people working to free them, and for justice to prevail.