Leveling the Playing Field

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Politics seems to pervade every segment of American life this election year. There are two very extreme philosophies coming from the two dominant political parties in America. The one party wants a government-mandated redistribution of wealth so that all live on the same playing field. The other party wants everyone to have a chance at doing the best they can for themselves so that the playing field is naturally leveled by their own efforts. Jesus would certainly agree with both parties that the poor need help. He was very clear about that. He cares deeply for the orphan, the widow, the misplaced and the oppressed. That is why He calls those of us who have more to take action and He modeled the action.

Philippians 2:6-8 (NLT) Though He was God, He did not think that equality with God was something to cling to. Instead He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

He came to earth in the womb of a vulnerable teenage girl who was suspected of betraying manger-crossher betrothed and was birthed in a stable because there were no rooms available for a human baby. It occurred to me that Jesus became poor to show us how to be poor. He showed us how much it may cost to accomplish His will on the earth. He experienced everything a poor person in society experiences and He did not let it stop Him. He did what God asked Him to do even when it became increasingly unpopular, even when it caused His death.

God’s word is clear that the way up is down, that we stand best when we are on our knees, that in humility we are a formidable presence. He modeled that. What does that mean for a Christian on the eve of a very serious presidential election? Seriously, let’s seek Him and do what He calls us to do.

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Dawn

 

 

 

Fruit Flies and the American Presidency

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This morning at breakfast, my husband and I were reading Jeremiah 25:

You would not listen to me, says the Lord. You made me furious by worshiping your idols, bringing on yourselves all the disasters you now suffer. And now the Lord Almighty says: Because you have not listened to me, I will gather together all the armies of the north under King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, whom I have appointed as my deputy.

Whoa! My husband and I looked at each other when we read that last phrase “whom I have appointed as my deputy.” The ungodly, arrogant, self-centered  Nebuchadnezzar was God’s deputy.

Evangelical Christians are at a loss as to what to do about voting in this upcoming election. Neither candidate has a life of integrity. Neither is a Bible thumper. Either one could be Nebuchadnezzar or the president whom God’s Nebuchadnezzar will come against. America is in sad shape. She has turned her back on the Lord and, though warned repeatedly to do so, American people do not turn from the evil road we are traveling or from the evil things we are doing. God will restore America if she is repentant, but she is not. I can’t help but think that the judgment slated for Judah may foreshadow America’s future.

I will completely destroy you and make you an object of horror and contempt and a ruin forever. I will take away your happy singing and laughter. The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will no longer be heard. Your businesses will fail, and all your homes will stand silent and dark. This entire land will become a desolate wasteland. Israel and her neighboring lands will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years. Jeremiah 25:9-11

fruitflies Priscilla Shirer in her book “The Armour of God” uses the fruit fly as an analogy for satan and his minions. Fruit flies don’t need an invitation to invade your house. All they need is an environment conducive for them and they invite themselves in. Rotten fruit is their opportunity. In the same way, satan and his minions cluster around the unrighteous environment that is America. They see our mess as their opportunity to push their way right in and take over. No wonder we do not have a clear choice in a presidential candidate! Satan has free reign in our country.

My son asked me the other day what God had to do with the election. I sent him to Romans 13:1. “Obey the government for God is the One Who put it there. All governments have been placed in power by God.” God has everything to do with everything. We need truth to know what is the right thing to do. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:17 Without it, we cannot walk in righteousness. We cannot do what is right. Indeed, we cannot even know right living. Truth comes from the Lord. We need a righteous leader. You cannot guide someone from a framework of error and expect right results.

I think a lot about what the Lord might have in store for America. I can’t dismiss the idea that He may have an evil fruit fly named Nebuchadnezzar in the wings. [No pun intended!]

 

 

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Glory: Light We Cannot See

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My husband and I are reading John Owen’s “Overcoming Sin and Temptation” and we were reading a bit in Chapter 12 today about how little mankind can really know God.

Owen writes, “We speak much of God, can talk of Him, His ways, His works, His counsels, all the day long; the truth is, we know very little of Him. Our thoughts, our meditations, our expressions of Him are low, many of them unworthy of His glory, none of them reaching His perfections.” *Owen, p. 111

Moses was said to have seen God, but only His “hind parts” for God said he could not see His glory and live (Exdous 34). What is this glory? God describes Himself as invisible, incomprehensible, immortal, infinite. “Who only has immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man has seen, nor can see.” (I Timothy 6:16).

His light is such as no creature can approach unto. He is not seen, not because He cannot be seen, but because we cannot bear the sight of Him. The light of God, in Whom is no darkness, forbids all access to Him by any creature whatsoever. We who cannot behold the sun in it glory are too weak to bear the beams of infinite brightness. On this consideration, as was said, the wise man professes himself “a very beast, and not to have the understanding of a man” (Prov 30:2)–that is , he knew nothing in comparison of God, so that he seemed to have lost all his understanding when once he came to the consideration of Him, His work, and His ways.   *Owen, p.114.

As I read these words of this 17th century scholar, suddenly it occurred to me that perhaps this is how God is: with me all the time, yet I can’t see Him. He is right beside me, but He is on a spectrum of light outside my ability to see. God made me finite, and, as such, I have eyes that can only see a part of the visual field He created. There are many other wavelengths of light, I just cannot see them. Perhaps that is where He is: on a wavelength I cannot perceive. Why would this be? I can only guess that, once the fall happened, I became damaged goods and my sin nature could not bear the glory: the full spectrum of light where God has His being. He had to keep me from this light to save me. As He said to Moses, “…no one may see me and live.” Exodus 33:20

Instead of coming to me as God, He came to me in a way I could understand. He took on flesh. He became Jesus. He walked on the earth. That I could understand. Love will do this: bend low to capture another. Jesus is now with the Father and both are spirit, but, because of Jesus, I can learn how to walk on this earth as He did. It is Christ in me, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27).

*Kapic, K & Taylor, J. Eds. (2006). Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Pondering today,

Dawn

 

 

 

Knowledge Does Not Equal Understanding

IMG_0769In church this morning, my husband preached on I Corinthians 8. It is a scripture on mature Christians being sensitive to weaker brothers and sisters in the faith. Paul is instructing mature believers to give up doing something they believe is acceptable if it would cause a weaker Christian to stumble. I had heard this portion of scripture preached on several times before over the years and thought I understood its premise. I was not looking forward to hearing it again. I wanted something fresh and new. This seemed like “milk” and I wanted “meat”.

My mind was shutting down when Jonah, one of our young men who reads the Scripture Sunday morning, read this:

Now, concerning what you wrote about food offered to idols.

It is true, of course, that “all of us have knowledge,” as they say. Such knowledge, however, puffs a person up with pride; but love builds up. Those who think they know something really don’t know as they ought to know. But the person who loves God is known by him.                       ~ I Corinthians 8:1-3.

Whoa, all of a sudden, he is talking to me! I am saying I already know this and I don’t want to hear it again. “Those who think they know something really don’t know as they ought to know.” (verse 2) What is it I “ought to know” that I don’t know? That verse stood out to me like a flashing neon light.

coollogo_com-37752530I didn’t want to go over this Scripture because I already knew this Scripture. Ah, but I didn’t know what I “ought to know”.

Later in I Corinthians Paul explicated what he began earlier:

I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains—but if I have no love, I am nothing. I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned—but if I have no love, this does me no good.                      I Corinthians 13:1-3

What I ought to have known was that my impatience and irritation was not loving. I wanted to move on, but there may have been those who needed to know what was in this chapter. The message for me was not about what to do with meat sacrificed to idols, it was about being a part of the family of God this morning and being attentive to the needs of others.

Last evening, I was watching a clip of young brilliant John Adams venting his frustration at the slow proceedings at the First Continental Congress to the seasoned elder statesman from Pennsylvania, Benjamin Franklin. He just couldn’t understand why fellow patriots did not move quickly on his arguments concerning independence.

Benjamin Franklin said it was not so much that others disagreed with Mr. Adams, but that he was making enemies with the way that he presented his arguments. Mr. Franklin conceded that Mr Adams was brilliant and even “correct” in his arguments, but, at the same time, he was arrogant and insulting, demeaning and rude. Paul might have said, “he was a clanging bell”. Thankfully, the clanging bell had a teachable spirit and through wise delegation became quite influential in leading his fellow patriots to declare their independence from England, but it was a lesson he had to learn over and over again.

Just as I was ready to push the publish button on this post, my son, Harry, called to say he had walked out of a meeting of united churches in Philadelphia today. He said he couldn’t stand the people whining about discrimination and poverty and the churches saying enough wasn’t being done.. This is a young man who freely gives of his resources to help the poor and began many service ministries in his local church. He believes this is what the church is to be about. He was upset, however, that these people wanted the government to do more. He was so exasperated. I was able to listen, empathize and remind him God was in control. I suggested he just needed to let go and let God. He is too much like his mother. sigh

Freedom from prison

I have named this year Freedom. It is becoming increasingly clear why this word came to me on the eve of 2015. I will soon be posting the particulars about a big conference that the women of my church are organizing that has everything to do with freedom. I think it is amazing what the Lord orchestrated us, His daughters in a small country church, to do; but that is a story for another day. Today I am linking to Leslie Leyland Fields’ post. She asked fellow bloggers to link up to her because she felt her message needed a wide audience. I was a bit blind-sided by what I read there. I can’t imagine anyone asking me to do what a woman asked Leslie to do for her, but, nonetheless, I trust Leslie. See what you think.

For freedom,

Dawn

Cognitive Training that Outsmarts Our Desires

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My Lenten journey has intersected with my weekly First Place 4 Health Bible study and given me such a jolt. It’s like I got shoved in the shoulder by the one and shoved again by the other. “Say, Dawn, did you get this yet?” It all began with the Bible verse for this 5th day of Lent, Matthew 6:16:

‘When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

I was to read the verse three times and then pick the phrase that I believed could re-form me the most. The verse that called out to me was “…they have received their reward in full.” No matter what the circumstance, if one gets some kind of instantaneous reward from their behavior or choice, that may be enough for that behavior or choice to become a habit. For instance, if eating a sweet brings joy or comfort or distraction from boredom then, whenever one needs those rewards, one may go for a sweet. If being melodramatic during a spiritual discipline elicits sympathetic commiseration, the one who desires accolades for taking on a spiritual discipline may find themselves being melodramatic. In each case, the person has succeeded in meeting his/her needs, but at what cost? Jesus says, “…they have received their reward in full.”

What if the person would have fasted secretly? What if the person would have kept their “weight control” rule of not snacking between meals? Was Jesus insinuating that there would be something better for those with the discipline to wait? My First Place 4 Health Bible Study took me to Matthew 4:4

Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

and Deuteronomy 8:3, the Old Testament record of what Jesus was quoting

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Hmmmm, they were hungry and were fed to teach them that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Jesus tells them the physical bread is not the issue. The issue is learning that they are to live beyond food; they are to live on every word that comes from the mouth of their Lord. He is the Bread of Life. They are to feed on Him. He further tells the crowds in John 6:27

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’

And if we do seek after things eternal, He promises in Matthew 6:33

Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well

How do we effectively turn our attention from our temporary physical needs and prioritize our eternal spiritual needs? I found some of my answers in reviewing the marshmallow experiment that I had written about almost 4 years ago. You can read about it here.

We have to come up with a plan that outsmarts our carnal humanness. It seems that the habit of delaying gratification quellswell-fedsoul the heat of desire, nullifies the longing for the forbidden. Jesus tells us to turn away from whatever is taking us from Him and deliberately/intentionally turn to Him. He will fill us, satisfy us and keep us forever.

In freedom,

Dawn

Wisdom of the Sadhu: A Book Review for Plough Publishers

sadhuWisdom of the Sadhu: Teachings of Sundar Singh  –  Compiled and Edited by Kim Comer

I had never heard of Sundar Singh, but when I read that a young man from a devote Hindu family became one of the leaders of Christianity during the first half of the last century, I wanted to read more. He was not known as a systematic theologian, an apologist or an evangelist. He was simply a personal teacher, an Indian holy man who just happened to be a Christian, but his teachings captured the attention of the world. This book contains snippets of conversations, books, articles and conversations with others who knew him.

The book gives example after example of Sundar Singh’s thoughts, interpretations and beliefs. I will share three of them to show the richness of his God-given discourse. He tells the story of a woman praying to God to cleanse her heart as she was sweeping cobwebs from her house to get her house clean. She was frustrated when, the very next day, the cobwebs had all returned. Sadhu explained, “You will always have cobwebs until you get rid of the spiders. In the same way your heart will continually need cleansing until you get rid of the sin that makes it unclean.”

In teaching people how important their witness is in the world, Sundar Singh spoke of the deep sea creatures that shine their lights in the deepest depths of the ocean and the fireflies who shine their lights throughout the darkest jungle nights. Nature, he implied, teaches us to shine.

The story that meant the most to me, however, was the story of the Sadhu and his guide trekking through the Himalayan SnowMountains. They were making good time until a snow storm blew up bringing with it bitter cold and wind and they were still many miles from the nearest village. They proceeded along slowly, the numbing cold making them wonder if they would make it in time. Along the way they found a man lying in the snow, unable to continue against the wind and snow. Sadhu knelt by the man to help him when the guide said, “We can not take this man with us or we will all die.” Sadhu ignored the guide and proceeded to make preparations to take the man with him. The guide ran off toward the village on his own. Sadhu struggled with the man on his back, but he trudged along little by little. Hours later he could see the lights of the village! He knew he was going to make it. Just outside of town, however, he saw the guide lying frozen in the snow. He knew he had made it because of the heat of the man on his back. Sadhu taught, “This is the way of service. No one can live without the help of others, and in helping others we receive help ourselves.”

Wisdom of the Sadhu will bring depth of vision to anyone who reads it, but will most certainly bring the Christian reader refreshment. Although the narrative is not always engaging, I found that the nuggets to be found were well worth the panning.

There is freedom in Christ,

Dawn

The Greater Good

gaspricesRuss and I were watching the news last night and the story was about how gas prices are dropping. My husband commented that the Arabs are selling us their oil dirt cheap to try to put American oil out of business so they will have a monopoly. The report showed multiple interviews with domestic oil drillers and refiners who say that they are going under because of the cheap oil coming from the Middle East. Those in the Middle East are taking a temporary loss for an ultimate gain. Why do we not know this in the US? Why do executives in the oil market not buy domestic products even if they cost more so that American business can survive? I know that there will always be a foreign product that can be bought for less, marketed for a lower price and, thereby, mean more profit for the broker. I see it on my corner every day. Citgo will price its gasoline $.02 cheaper than the Sunoco station across the street. Citgo is a Venezuelan company. The Venezuelan dictatorship has purposely told Citgo stations to be the lowest-priced gas in every city across America in order to destroy American entrepreneurship. Why do Americans not understand this and make their purchases based on the greater good?

The “greater good” principle was brought home to me in my Bible study this week, also. I am reading about prayer and how AngelGod answers prayer and I discovered that God seems to use the “greater good” model to answer prayer. In one of the prayers in my First Place 4 Health study guide is the line, “[God”s] will has a greater purpose than what I desire.” Not even God’s son could escape this principle. In the Garden, the night before his crucifixion, He asked the Father “If You are willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done.” He knew His crucifixion meant salvation for the world. He had to die for the greater good. God did not remove his trial, but he did send an angel from heaven to strengthen him (Like 22:43). At any moment, Jesus could have called 10,000 angels to destroy the world and set him free, but he willingly chose the will of the Father for the greater good. The salvation of the world became his desire trumping the desire to escape the personal agony looming before him. When Jesus’ heart and God’s heart were one, personal release became a moot point.

I John 3:21-22 says that “If our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God and whatever we ask, we receive of Him because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” Jesus could do what he did because he put his trust in God’s purposes not in his own desires. God’s purposes are always for the greater good. May we have eyes to see, but trust Him even when we can’t see (which, for me, is most of the time).

The Truth will make us free,

Dawn

An Advent A-ha!

IMG_1850During Advent, my husband and I add the Jesse Tree to our morning devotions. This morning we read the story of Moses and hung the 10 commandments ornament on the tree. We are using Ann Voskamp’s book and ornaments that I took from her web site several years ago. The book and ornaments have since evolved into a colorful hardback book called Unwrapping the Greatest Gift:A Family Celebration of Christmas and 3-D ornaments can be made or purchased online in paper or resin. I love the ones I made years ago. I downloaded the pictures from Ann’s blog site and pasted them on sparkle paper and then laminated them so they would last. The pages that go with the ornaments were pulled together and bound with spiral binding.

This morning was no different from any other time I have read Ann Voskamp. She gets right to the heart of the matter. She was tellingIMG_1848 her readers that God only gave 10 rules and that in our sinful state we can’t even keep 10. In fact, she challenged us to pick one commandment and see if we could keep it for a whole day. I thought to myself, “Well, that shouldn’t be too hard. Take something really safe like ‘You shall not kill,’ Dawn. I mean, really how many times have you killed someone? Have you ever?”

About that time our new dog, Biscuit, started to bark and bark and bark. It got me to thinking about the same barking at 5:30 this morning when the garbage man was so loud emptying my neighbor’s garbage that he woke the the dog and me. I caught myself saying to my husband, “If I could have gotten my hands on the garbage man this morning, I think I would have killed him.” Honestly, it couldn’t have even been a half hour after I hung the 10 commandments on the Jesse tree. Did I actually hear myself say, “I would have killed him”? Of course, it was a gross exaggeration to illustrate my frustration with him, but there it was, the seed of death. Jesus said if we kill we are in danger of judgement, but he also said if we are angry we are in danger of judgement Matthew 5:21-22. He does not differentiate between killing and anger. He said if we break the least of the commandments, we will be least in the Kingdom of God.

I’d be in the “least” category if it were not for Christmas. Because of Jesus the Lamb, I have been redeemed. The Babe in the manger came to pay the price for my sin and raise me out of the hell I deserve. Why would He do that?

My husband said, “You know, Dawn, that garbage man is our garbage man.”

I said, “You’re kidding.”

He said, “No, he’s the same man who will come here tomorrow to collect our trash.”

I was really sorry then. I really like our garbage man. He takes care of all our trash and is kind to our dogs. I couldn’t believe he was the same person who made all that noise at 5:30 am. I know him beyond the loud garbage collection incident and so I wanted to give him grace. Then it hit me. That’s exactly why Jesus paid the price for my sin. He knows me and loves me. We have a relationship. I am His child. He knows me intimately and, in.that.knowing, He gifts me His love, His mercy and His grace.

Each day of Advent I unwrap another layer in preparation for His coming…

His coming for all of us.

 

Prayer Magic?

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Magic, the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces, is the first definition given by http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/magic. When prayers are said, are we not speaking to a supernatural [and mysterious] being and are we not, many times, asking Him to influence the course of events? Is prayer, therefore, like magic?

IMG_1686I attend a Christian weight loss group every Friday wherein we do a Bible Study, pray, memorize a verse of Scripture, exercise, learn to eat proper portions in a healthy manner, and encourage and weigh-in to be accountable to one another. This week for Bible Study we are focusing on prayer. Yesterday I was struck by a Scripture that I thought I knew well and that comes from my favorite chapter in the Bible, Romans 8:IMG_1682 (NIV) 26″…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

Many come to our group for a certain reason.

“I will do the Bible Study if I have to, but what I really want is to lose weight.”

“I will come, but only because it’s a Bible Study. I’m not really interested in the health stuff.”

“I really need to get out of the house and breathe a little. This looks like a good group for fellowship.”

So, while some are praying for weight loss, some for Bible knowledge, and still others for friendship, all are praying that God will work His magic and they will get what they came for. Those verses from Romans should draw the believer up short. They say that we don’t know what we really need. The Holy Spirit does. “He searches our hearts.” He, also, knows the mind of God for us and it is He who takes our questionable prayers and motivations and intercedes for us “in accordance with the will of God.”

I wonder just what my prayers sound like when the Holy Spirit intercedes for me. Do the requests He takes to God on my behalf resemble anything I originally said? Author and Bible teacher Jennifer Kennedy Dean says, only if the pray-er prays in the will of God:

The purpose of prayer is to release the power of God to accomplish the purpose of God. The purpose of prayer is to discover God’s will, not obligate Him to do mine, to reflect God’s mind, not change it….[Of course] changing my prayer focus from my own satisfaction and happiness to God’s glory and eternal purposes would take a brand new heart.*

I John 5:14,15 “and this is the confidence we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us; and if we know that he hear us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” (KJV) No, it’s not magic. Answered prayer is the result of the heart of the believer. “If the believer delights in the Lord, He will give her the desires of her heart. If she commits her way unto the Lord and trusts in Him, He will bring it to pass.” Psalm 37:4,5

Thanking Jesus for a brand new heart,

Dawn

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*Jennifer Kennedy Dean, Live a Praying Life: Open Your Life to God’s Power and Provision (Birmingham, AL: New Hope Publishers, 2011), p. 30.