Wednesday, February 01, 2017

A Book Review: None Like Him by Jen Wilkin

Following is a book review I wrote for my church.  I was blessed with so much insight about God and His greatness from this book, I cannot recommend it enough!  May you be blessed from it, as well.

A Book Review:
None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different From Us
(and why that’s a good thing)
by Jen Wilkin

About 18 months ago, I asked Pastor for a book recommendation on God’s attributes. He suggested Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology When he saw the look on my face Pastor quickly reassured me I only need read a small portion, about 17 pages, and that I could find used copies (i. e. cheap) on Amazon! Grudem’s work did what it was supposed to; it described God’s attributes, providing substantial proof texts, and it whet my appetite for more. Wilkin’s short book (158 pgs) is a banquet, including dessert!

While Grudem’s descriptions of God’s characteristics were understandably academic, Wilkin’s are intimate and personal. With sound biblical teaching she describes God and then pointedly illustrates how we fail to stack up comparatively.  In our goal-oriented, esteem-conscious culture, this would make one feel incredibly downcast; but with socially relevant examples she reassures us “why that’s a good thing”.

At the end of each chapter are study questions and a section where readers are asked to write a prayer of confession where they have tried to usurp God’s place by trying to be omniscient, omnipotent, immutable, etc; trying to be God themselves. As I wrote these prayers I was made aware of sin I’d never even considered. Though humbled and convicted, when I saw my sin I was made more aware of the breadth, length, height, and depth of God’s love.

Wilkin’s writing style is likeable and down-to-earth. She presents sophisticated material in an understandable manner. Though the book is written by a woman from a woman’s point of view with a cover of pink roses on a teal-colored background, men would not feel uncomfortable reading it.  It is also appropriate for people at all stages of their Christian walk.  I’ve been reading the book with a friend of mine for whom all this information is new material.  We are both awe-struck and mind-boggled by the information presented.  In fact, if anyone wants to do a book study on this I’d be willing to go through it again, it is that good!


Barb

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Surf City

As I was getting ready for church this morning I started singing to my self the hymn, "O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus". I couldn't remember some of the lyrics so I did a quick Google search to make sure I was singing it right. I know God knows what I mean to say, but I still like to get it right for Him!

As I read the lyrics certain passages stood out to me; the Spirit was prompting me to do more than sing the words but to reflect.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus...rolling as a mighty ocean in it's fullness over me!

Often I've described depression, sadness and grief as waves that wash over me.  Sometimes they're small splashes at my ankles. Other times the waves are bigger, knocking me off my feet; but other times they're large waves crashing over me, threatening to drag me out to sea, Comparatively, however, the love of Jesus is more than a wave, it's an entire ocean.

Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love

Waves of sadness, grief, pain, they threaten to drown me. Their desire is to drag me to the bottom of the sea. The all encompassing love of Jesus has a different aim. It wants to take me in a different direction to a different destination.

...and it lifts me up to glory for it lifts me up to Thee

The deep love of Jesus doesn't sink me but lifts me up. Jesus wants me to ride the wave of His love. He wants to take me surfing!


Photo: Flickr


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Election Reflections

A large group of Christians gathered on a Social Media chat to “discuss” the US Presidential election. There were conservatives, liberals, progressives in the chat. Moderates, too.  Complementarians, egalitarians. Believers of all shapes, colors, sizes, nationalities, denominations and doctrinal beliefs.

A lot of snarky comments were tossed back and forth. Vile, hateful memes traded.  Jesus entered the discussion and keyboards grew still. 

“Hey, I meant it when I said ‘where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them’. There are definitely more than two of you here and you say you’re my followers.  Why are you so surprised that I’m joining in your chat?”

Some people left the room, but many stayed on.  A lot of “Thumbs Up” emojis appeared.  Smiley Faces, too.  And of course, some Praying Hands. But no one said anything. 

Then one brave participant, a lawyer jumped in to the discussion. 

“Lord, I just want to make sure of this.  What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

The lawyer’s feed went still for a moment then this appeared:

27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus smiled. “That was quick. BibleGateway is really handy. You’ve answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

The lawyer was embarrassed it had been obvious he’d copied and pasted from Bible Gateway. Desiring to justify himself he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied, “You’ve heard the story of the Good Samaritan, so I won’t repeat it.  I’ll be brief.  Everyone’s your neighbor.”

The audience sat silently in front of their keyboards as the implications of His words penetrated their hearts. Not even an emoji was sent.

One person finally typed “????” 

“Everyone.”

“Donald Trump!!??”

“Donald Trump”, Jesus posted.

“Hilary Clinton!!??” another asked, incredulously.

“Hilary Clinton.” Jesus paused for effect and then typed “Bill Clinton, too.”

“Rosie O’Donnell?  Alec Baldwin?”

“Yes to both.  All the Baldwin brothers, in fact.  And I need to remind you that Stephen Baldwin is not just your neighbor but your brother. He’s a believer, too.” Jesus continued, “I’ve said this before, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? Be merciful as your Father is merciful. It’s all in the Bible.”

At this point, many people left the chat. Some made final derogatory comments and posted a few mean-spirited and obscene memes. But Jesus did not reply to the insults hurled at Him.  He’d been through this before.

But there were still a number of people remaining in the Chat.  There were conservatives, liberals, and progressives. Moderates, too.  Complementarians, egalitarians. Believers of all shapes, colors, sizes, nationalities, denominations and doctrinal beliefs. One woman commented “Lord, that’s hard!”

“I know”, Jesus replied

Those remaining paused as each felt a stirring in their souls, the implication of His response washing over them.  It was a twinge of guilt mixed with a generous helping of mercy.

“I don’t even know where to begin!” many lamented.

“Why not start with I Corinthians 13; there’s nice list of possibilities there.  It’s not just meme material or a screen saver. It’s how I love you – patient, kind… Why not start with kind?”

“Do Facebook Likes and posts count?” one person joked.

“Oh, yes! What comes out of the mouth and the keyboard proceeds from the heart. A meme I saw recently said ‘Tweet others as you want others to tweet you.’ J

“Uh, Lord I’ve got to go.  I’ve got some apologies to make.  And some Facebook posts to delete.”

Though none really wanted to leave the presence of their Lord, they felt the same urgency.


Jesus reassured them telling them “It’s ok to go.  I’m always near.  I am with you always to the end of the age.”

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Election 2016-How I'm Voting and Why

Tuesday, November 8 will be the 10th time I will enter the voting booth to cast my vote for President of the United States.  I have done so each time with the knowledge of what a privilege it is to be able to vote for my country's leader. Few other countries allow their citizens this freedom.

As a Christian, I believe my freedom to vote is a God-given gift; one more place where I can shed salt and light and exercise my faith - and with so little risk!

About ten or twelve years ago I was in a Small Group meeting and we wound up discussing that year's upcoming election. The Pastor leading the group mentioned he was not going to vote. The group members were collectively dumbfounded and asked why.  His answer was something like "Why should I?" I blurted out "Because its irresponsible to not vote!?"

My vote is like one of those talents entrusted to the servants in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). I'm expected to use it, invest it; not just hide it in a hole in the ground.

With this in mind, it is then very difficult for me to say I plan on leaving the President portion of my ballot blank in this year's election. This is a decision with which I've struggled, agonized over for months.

I've know all along I could not vote for Hillary Clinton. I disagree with most (but not all) of the Democratic party's platform and Clinton's own policies and the values they reveal about her are reprehensible, even evil.  Add in that she's a liar and a cheat - well, there is nothing about her I can stomach.

For many month's I've been trying to find something about Donald Trump that could help me find reason to vote for him.  It seems he's worked overtime to give me reason to not vote for him. The hot mic tape came  as no surprise to me.  Though it was taped in 2005, Trump's attitudes and actions in the 11 years following have been no different. And Trump is not so much a Republican as he is a Trump-ite. His support of conservative values only goes as far as they serve his own interests.

People I love and respect will be voting for both candidates. Many of those voting for Clinton are doing so because they in good conscience cannot vote for Trump.  Those voting for Trump are doing so because they cannot vote for Clinton.

Trump supporters have explained to me their's is not a vote for POTUS as much as it's a vote for SCOTUS, their logic being Trump will nominate conservative justices. I don't see that as a good enough reason to vote for such a dishonorable candidate.

Proverbs 20:1 says "The king's heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases." God can change the hearts and rulings of Supreme Court Justices current and future. The President who nominates them is immaterial to the Sovereign God.

Recently, I mentioned this reasoning to a few friends of mine. I (sincerely) told one woman if Clinton becomes president maybe she'll have a "road to Damacus" experience like Paul and have a change of heart! She laughed at (not with) me and said I was naive. Here I thought I was showing faith (but maybe this is naive).

Trump supporters also justify their position by saying we are not voting for a Pastor in Chief so the qualifications for Elder listed in Titus 1 don't apply. This is true. What I'm looking for in a leader are the qualities listed in Exodus 18:21.  Moses father-in-law, Jethro, a Midianite priest gave him some sound advice on what to look for when choosing leaders to assist him.  "Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe..." As hard as I've tried, I can't see where Donald Trump fits this description in any way.

So, about 36 hours from now, I will make my way to the polls.  I will be casting votes for various offices and ballot measures, but I will be leaving the ballot for President of the United States empty. This is not a protest vote nor is it a default vote for Clinton, though she may very well be the next President.  My blank ballot is in fact an affirmative vote for the Sovereign God and in His ultimate authority over the USA.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Pretty as a Picture




On my ride home this evening, I was struck by the beauty of the sky. The porch-ceiling blue served the perfect backdrop as a contrast to the clouds, with the sun illuminating the entire scene. The wind was still and each puff of white looked as if they had been perfectly placed in the firmament to achieve this flawless panorama.  I thought to myself “That’s pretty as a picture!”.  Then I thought,”HUH?”

Pretty as a picture? What was I thinking?  I had the original model in front of me. Pictures aspire to look like this genuine article, not the other way around.  King David said in Psalm 19 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork,” The heavens were talking directly to me and I chose to listen to a static-filled recording instead.
God, the Maker of heaven and earth speaks to us each day in so many ways. He speaks through family, friends and strangers we encounter. He speaks when we pray (it’s not supposed to be a one-way conversation). He speaks to us through His Word, the Bible. And He speaks through His creation.

God is speaking, calling us all the time. And He’s listening, waiting for a response.


“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:9)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Coincidence? I Think Not.



The more of life I experience, the less I believe in coincidence and the more I see the hand of the Almighty God at work. Some refer to these works as God-incidences.Though I appreciate the play on words, I think this grossly undervalues the intimate involvement God the Father has with His creation at all times and in all ways. A better term would be Divine Intervention.

Last evening as temperatures soared I set about baking bread for Sunday's church communion. In my un-air-conditioned home.

I was hot. I was sticky, And as has been much the case since January, I found myself missing my dear friend and running companion who'd moved to Illinois seven months ago. As I went to remove the freshly baked bread from the oven I reached for my oven mitts when I remembered the beautiful teal-colored mitts I'd received from her family for my birthday.  I've kept them out for show, but I had the idea of using them then and sending her a picture of the moment.  And so began the following text exchange:







This afternoon, I received this text from Illinois:




Some might say this was merely coincidence; that the song "Blessed Be the Tie That Binds" is a common song and there is nothing unusual about it being sung on a Sunday morning. Some might even go so far as to say God has a lot more important things to do than pick a hymn.  I respectfully say - you're wrong! :p (Well, maybe that emoticon wasn't all that respectful).

God, Almighty, Infinite, Eternal, Omniscient, Omnipresent, created the heavens and the earth and all that dwells there, down to the tiniest detail. He came down from heaven in the person of Jesus to conquer sin and death so we might live with Him forever. God didn't knock over s cosmic domino a few thousand years ago to let things fall where they may. He takes an active interest and care in the daily lives of His creation.  

If you're not sure about this, listen to what Jesus had to say about it:

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:29-31)

Yesterday, I was prompted by the Spirit to grab the pretty, teal oven mitts and text a picture to my friend.  A few days ago, or even a week ago a pastor or worship leader in Illinois was prompted by the Spirit to include "Blessed Be the Tie That Binds" in their service today. Through these independent acts two friends were reminded their Father in heaven has their back. And God was given the glory for the blessing He gave us.

There are countless blessings we experience each day totally unaware and so we miss out on the comfort that comes from knowing there is someone bigger, smarter, stronger than us who is taking care of things so we don't have to. If we pay attention - with our eyes, our ears, and our souls - He will  show us the many wonders He has done and is doing. He will reveal the many moments of His Divine Intervention.

"God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them."
                                                                                                                                 -John Piper

"But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people have longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it." (Matthew 13:16-17)












Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Relocate

Season of life?
Then I've been stuck in Florida
Where the season never changes. 
Decades of hot, uncomfortable weather. 
My air conditioning is out
And alligators threaten to devour. 
I want a change of seasons, LORD. 
I want to relocate.