Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful

There are so many things that I am thankful for-- family, friends, health, freedom, provision, music-- the list could go on and on.

None of those things, though, could really mean anything without the gift of salvation.

God has chosen me to be his child. He sacrificed His Son for me. He has promised me eternal life with Him. It is this that gives meaning and purpose to everything else in life. Nothing else matters apart from this all-encompassing truth.

"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ."

~Philippians 3:7-8

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Reading Level

cash advance

I find this fascinating since none of the writers of this blog have even been to college. How about that?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Tradition, Meet Reality

Caution: this might ruin your Christmas.

Not this...

...but this.
You can read more here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Children: A Blessing?

I was at a dinner meeting for financial professionals last night. Not that I am one, you see, but it's my job to attend stuffy sorts of events. I usually eat at the registration desk at these things (servant's quarters, you know), but I ended up at one of the main tables this time. The conversation around my table turned interesting when the subject of children came up.

Someone asked someone else if she had children, and soon, pretty much everybody was mentioning their kids. These are some of the comments I heard:

"My oldest is about to graduate from college, so he'll be off the pay roll."
"I have one daughter and one granddaughter."
"I have a son...and he ran away with my secretary...no really!"

Then someone said, "My wife and I have seven children."

A moment of silence, then, "SEVEN??!!!" Everyone else was aghast (except for me, who was surprised but not aghast). They immediately began offering sentiments of sympathy, saying "No wonder you're HERE tonight...I can barely afford two kids...let's all pray for you right now!"

I was impressed with the man's bravery at admitting this in such a group, and saddened that bravery was necessary.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Bell on the Ice Cream Shop Counter

Am I ready? Do I know what I want? I feel unusually un-pressured here by myself. I’ve had time to consider what sort of people eat pumpkin ice cream. And does anyone really pay $2.99 for a little bowl of sugar-free, fat-free ice cream? Does green-apple-gummy-bear flavor turn your teeth green? How can they have five different flavors all in the exact same shade of plain old white?

Maybe since I’m the only one here, I should ask if I could have bites of all the flavors. Okay, maybe not.

It might be fun to see how long I could stand here undetected if I never ring the bell.

I find it charming that there is still a shop small and quiet enough to have a bell on the counter.

Who will I meet when I ring the bell, I wonder? Will he be glad to see someone or annoyed at the interruption? What’s he doing back there anyway? Maybe he’s sleeping. Maybe he’s finding out what all the flavors mixed together tastes like. Maybe he’s inventing a new flavor, something better than pumpkin, I hope.

Okay, here goes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Why I'm About to Need a Bigger Bookshelf

There are so many things to spend your extra money on: clothes, music, eating out, car repairs...

I've decided though, that one of the few things you can buy that is almost never a mistake is a book.

Books are treasures with power. When you read, you can travel the world without leaving the house. You can hear the teachings of the most learned men in the world. You can go back in time, and even forward. You can learn what other people are thinking.

True, some books are lousy, but even when you come across those, you learn how not to write. You discover what the opposition thinks. You get better at refuting wacky ideas. And if all else fails, you can use it for a fire starter.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Journey to the Holy Land

Not counting a super-long plane ride, my adventure in Israel began in Jerusalem. The Old City was intimidating at first, with its narrow, crowded streets, and blur of sights, sounds, and smells. Very soon, though, I began to love it. There was something thrilling about walking ancient streets and actually seeing the places of the Bible. Many times, I looked around and thought, “There’s the Mount of Olives, and that’s where the temple was, and these are the broken stones Jesus was talking about!”

We traveled all over the country, from Dan to Beersheba. The geographical diversity was amazing, from hills and valleys, to lush forests, to barren deserts. I think my favorite area was the Sea of Galilee. It was absolutely beautiful. It was also great to know that Jesus was there. So many of the sites are surrounded with uncertainty and speculation, but we know that the lake hasn’t gone anywhere! We got to take a boat ride across the lake, which I found to be one of the highlights of the trip. We also spent several days visiting the sites around the lake, including Nazareth, Capernaum, the Mount of Beatitudes, and several tels.

In the southern desert, we visited Masada, the Dead Sea (fantastic floating fun!), Jericho, and En Gedi, among other sites. En Gedi was another highlight for me, because it’s an amazing oasis in the desert. It is a narrow area completely surrounded by sand, rock, and burning sun, but it was teaming with life. We saw waterfalls, lush greenery, and lots of animals. It was a great visual reminder of those Scriptures about God being our refuge in a barren land.

The Lord blessed me richly with allowing me to go with a great group of spiritual brothers and sisters. I hadn’t met any of them before, but we all became friends quickly. They were very sweet to me and made me feel welcome. Our guide and teacher was a professor from Columbia International University, and he shared amazing insights with us everywhere we went. He was a lot of fun, too, being particularly fond of corny puns!

I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to go on a study tour, because the teachings the professor shared at each site made the trip much more meaningful. I learned so much, and the Bible came alive for me in ways I’d never expected. Seeing where the events took place, and being able to visualize places in relation to each other made many things make more sense. For example, we saw the valley where God made the sun stand still for Joshua and the Israelite army. When you see where everything is and determine exactly where and when everything took place, you discover that when the sun stood still, it remained exactly where it would be blinding the advancing army! Another example was when we were in the desert and saw the dry ravines. When it rains, they become raging rivers. It brought new meaning to the passages about God’s blessings being like streams in the desert. It’s not talking about little bubbling brooks, but a rush of water that brings life to a barren place.

So, I learned a LOT. I’ve been home for almost a week, and my head is still spinning. The trip was a very full two weeks. I haven’t even told you about the camel ride in Jericho, or about swimming in the Sea of Galilee in the dark, or the baptism service in the Jordan river, or going down to the Western Wall at the beginning of the Sabbath, or going into the Garden Tomb.

I guess you’ll all have to go there and do all those things yourself!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Inspiration from Psalms

"Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!

Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens.

Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts!

Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.”

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it!

Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness."

~Psalm 96, ESV

I was reading this Psalm this week and was just struck anew with the magnificence and glory of God. God is so unspeakably powerful, and glorious, and good, and bountiful, and just so big!!!! All the things that I worry about, no matter how insurmountable they seem, just shrink into invisible nothingness when compared with the vast, blinding radiance of the glory of God.

Apart from him we can do nothing, absolutely nothing. So stop trying, and immerse yourself in the unfathomable depths of His greatness!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Back From Israel

I just returned from an absolutely amazing two-week study tour of Israel. I'll write a report soon, but for now, pictures are up on my Facebook page. You can view them with the links below.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Friday, November 2, 2007

2007 Family Integrated Church Conference

This past weekend, our church had the privilege of hosting our first FIC conference. The two-day conference included sessions calling on men to be the spiritual leaders of their families, discussing how the church can minister to families, and giving practical advice on family worship, deacon ministry, and writing a mission statement. GfBC is in many ways a pioneer church, so, while there are many resources out there already which make the case for family integration and expound general principles, we wanted to give people an opportunity to see one way that those principles can actually play out.

Our family was in charge of registration and name tags, so we were heavily involved with the preparations beforehand. Papa and I, especially, were busy, since we were handling all of the registration and database work.

We ended up with around 200 attendees, not counting those who came from our church. It was an important time for people from around the country to meet others who are pursuing the same ideas about family and church. The feedback we've gotten indicates that it was also very meaningful for other attendees to meet GfBC members, since they were able to see real people who have put these principles into practice.

Our church's goal is to form an alliance for the support of family-integrated church plants. We want to help others who are just starting the process, and give both churches and families the resources and encouragement they need to pursue a new course, even if it means making radical changes or sacrifices along the way.

It's tremendously exciting to be a part of this movement. It was encouraging to see so many people who are earnestly seeking what is really God's best in the matter of church. The current model isn't working, and people are beginning to wake up and see that and are looking for answers.

Our prayer is that many lives and families will be impacted for God's glory, that the Gospel will be more effectively spread, that families will be strengthed, that fathers will be inspired to lead, and that children will be discipled to be effective ambassadors to a lost culture.