Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bible Passages to Encourage You Today


Job 12:7 But ask the animals and they will teach you,
Or the birds of the air, and they will tell you
Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
Or let the fish of the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
That the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature
And the breath of all mankind.

Psalm 103:4-5 Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 40:2-3 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.

Romans 8:22-24 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.

Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Genesis 2:7 the Lord formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of live, and the man became a living being.

Isaiah 11:6-9 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead tem. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hold of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s next. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Excuse Me, But What Planet Is This?

Sometimes I wonder if I live on Mars and not Earth. When I look at the stock market that is up several hundred points today, knowing there is nothing to sustain it or a valid reason for its rise, I wonder who is buying. Is it the government? With businesses closing everywhere, deflation in personal income hitting almost everyone (call furloughs and forced days off from work what you want, but it’s lost income), people losing their jobs, and home foreclosure rates at an all-time high, it doesn’t make sense. And the government telling me that the recession is over makes me even more edgy. Is this the new norm? Is this what the future holds for my children and me?

I no longer believe the statistics put out by the government. In fact, I am not even sure there is anybody I really trust in Washington. I feel violated, angry, and helpless to do anything that will make a difference.

And then there is always that one person who thinks everything is wonderful and President Obama is the best thing that happened to America. I suppose if I was receiving those government handouts I might agree. Sometimes when I am captioning, I think, if you mention one more “free” program I might quality for, I will scream. Why do people feel like they need something or deserve something “free” from the government? What happened to hard work and sacrifice?

All those “free” programs are not free. They have cost somebody something. And I can tell you this; they didn’t come out of President Obama’s stock portfolio or the Washington bureaucrats’ retirement. They came out of hard-working people’s pockets like you and me that get up in the morning and go to work and earn a paycheck by sweat, blood, and sacrifice. And charity—I am all for charity and giving. But the government’s giving of my money is not charity. It’s theft.

I guess I have ranted on long enough. When I get depressed over the news that I caption every day, I remind myself that I have much to be thankful for. I need to put my hope in the only one that deserves my adoration and commitment—my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is for such a time as this that we are here, to be a witness to the world. To put our faith and trust in man is futile.

My heavenly Father also gently reminds me that those who are in power He put there. None of this craziness in Washington has caught Him by surprise, and His purposes, thoughts, and plans are higher than mine. “Be still and know that I am God,” is what He commands us to do.

As a young wife abandoned by her husband, who gladly took on the task of raising two orphans from Asia as a single mom, I take comfort that God will not leave me or forsake me. I can turn to Him to be my provider and my comforter no matter the tribulations that may beset our country; and I do believe dark days are ahead, maybe even a depression.

Our Christian testimony may be all some will ever see. We can be a light in the darkness, a beacon on a hill. We can speak a word of encouragement to those who are broken and pray for the lost. We can get up in the morning and thank God that He is unchanging. The sun still rises, our cats still purr when we scratch their ear, and the dogs still wag their tale when we give them an occasional bone. And today, at least, the sky wasn’t green. If I was a betting woman, I am sure it won’t be tomorrow either. God keeps order among His world. Some things don’t change.

I urge you to pray for our country, to pray for those in leadership, and to pray for God’s wisdom in the voting booth in the upcoming elections. God pours out His love for us with good things when we ask, and we need great discernment for the days ahead. Dangerous times abound and the enemy is working overtime. Our future as a nation may be in peril but the one who holds our future is sure and trustworthy. And for that, I am thankful.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Evolution versus Creation, Is It Really that Complicated?

Can we trust Jesus as our Savior and accept the evolutionist’s view that from a primordial mix of gases evolved the first living cell?

If we believe God gives us life after death, why is it a stretch to think God breathed life into us in the beginning? It seems illogical to me to imagine a concoction of gases spontaneously combusting into something called life. It seems even more incredulous to imagine molecules with enough intelligence to evolve into a higher form. If that were true, why don’t the “building blocks” continue to evolve into a super-human race?

Is not our belief that God “created man” in Genesis 1:27 as compelling as Romans 8:11: “And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”

And Job 38:2 states: "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?” As lofty as the evolutionist’s ideas, his words are without knowledge. Even with all the great discoveries since Aristotle and the advancements in genetics, scientists do not have the ability to create DNA. John 1:1 adds, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Not only is matter and energy needed to create life, but knowledge is essential.

Within every living creature, even in a tiny one-celled organism, the code of life is hidden. It is so intricately complicated that we cannot replicate it. Nature possesses the mystery of life, but it was given to it by the Creator.

Just as God will bless us (or damn us) with eternal life after we die, God gives us life here. Can a person accept Christ as his personal Savior and believe he is evolved from a lower life form? The concept seems contradictory and would ridicule God’s creation story in Genesis.

I envision the theory of evolution going the way of the dinosaurs. Science evolves and knowledge increases, but the Bible is unchanging. God’s Word is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And I take comfort in the fact that some things don’t change. My beliefs are embedded in the cornerstone of salvation and not in the whims of science. Science doesn’t have the answers to creation and is unable to prove anything—except to disprove its own inconsistencies.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Confessions of a Christian Homeschooling Mom

Leaves floating in the pool always signal the end of summer for me and the beginning of autumn. With fall comes my assignment of homeschooling Joy. While some days it’s a pleasure and other days a chore, I recently thought about curriculum in an unusual way. It reminded me of something funny years ago when I homeschooled Manisha.

In the fourth grade, she was given an assignment to set up a study schedule for the week—what subjects and how much time she should devote to each one. I chuckle as I remember her daily homeschooling curriculum: Reading, five minutes; English, five minutes; science, five minutes; history, three minutes; math, thirty seconds; lunch, one hour; and recess, the rest of the day. While that may have seemed like a great curriculum to Manisha at ten, I would hate to imagine where she would be today in her second year of college if I had allowed her to “go her own way.”

Last spring over Memorial Day weekend, Joy and I went to the Florida Homeschooling Convention in Orlando. It was a time of refreshment as I reflected on what we had accomplished over the past year and what I hoped to do for this next year. Upon arriving Joy and I quickly ate and hurried down to the exhibit hall, where I spent hours pouring over the books, curriculum, games, and “ideas” on display. Most of the venders return every year and there are always new ones to check out. This annual tradition encourages me to keep on keeping on for another year until God shows me it’s time to enroll Joy in traditional school. We just take homeschooling one year at a time.

Each year I assess Joy’s strengths and weaknesses and which curriculum (or non-curriculum) would work best for the following year. I have not used with Joy the same materials that I used for Manisha. Each of my daughters is unique, and as a homeschooling mom, it’s been a joy to tailor the curriculum to meet each of their specific needs. I have to admit, I have made mistakes. A couple of times I tried math programs which caused far too many tears. It required the unexpected expense and time of switching to something else. But I have never doubted God’s calling to homeschool, even as a single parent. I have been brought to my knees at times by the sheer burden and feeling of inadequacy. I could not do it without the Lord’s help.

But my heart’s desire to give my daughters the best that I can goes a long way in God’s provision. He makes up for what I lack. As I recall what Manisha wanted for a curriculum many years ago, in my finite wisdom, of course, I knew one minute of math a day would not prepare her for Algebra, and twenty-five minutes of English a week would not be sufficient to write a ten-page term paper on International Relations as a sophomore in college. We can chuckle at the absurdity, laughing because we know ourselves. Are we really any different?

In the broader context of life, reflecting on God’s great plan for each of us, do I know what His perfect curriculum is for me? Do I know what I need in His economy to become the person He created me to be? If God way back at the beginning of time had asked me to design my own curriculum, what would I have asked for? The human side of me would have said, “God, how about a little place on the beach with a pool, lots of books, and a Starbucks latte twice a day. I don’t want to cook, wash clothes, worry about car repairs, computers that crash, or anyone I love getting sick. In fact, give me a life where I never have to worry about anything.”

I know it’s not very “spiritual,” but if the truth be told, I don’t think anyone would ask for heartache. After all, we don’t have the mind of God. Our little thoughts are not like His. We long selfishly for a fulfilling life, to have our needs met, and to be accepted by others. The Bible is full of all the perils that accompany that mindset, beginning with Adam and Eve.

One of the courses in my life curriculum (which I never would have asked for) was working for twenty years as a court reporter. I never liked court reporting—the adversarial nature of it, the long, unpredictable hours, the fact that most of what I wrote was meaningless in God’s great scheme (who cares that someone found a cricket in a can of beans). Plus it was something I never wanted to do but circumstances willed it.

Sometimes life takes away our freedom to choose. Things happen. In those moments of doubting God’s best for us, we should cast our eyes on Jesus, who did the will of His Father and not His own. I “begrudged” those years until very recently, feeling like much of my working life was wasted. How many books could I have written during that time? I can’t say I was filled with discontent, but certainly upon occasion I have questioned, why didn’t God allow me to pursue writing at a much younger age? Why did “this” have to happen? You can fill in the blank with your own “this” and ask your own “why.” I have said to myself more than once, things would have been so much better if I had chosen “this” but couldn’t.

What better choices could there be than what my heavenly Father chose for me? Do I not trust Him completely? Does He not know the best curriculum to mold me into His image? Cannot my sorrows and loss be counted as gain for the kingdom of heaven?

Jesus tells us in John 15:7, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” Jesus gave this command to His disciples on the eve of His crucifixion. Little did His followers know what was about to happen. But Jesus knew if His words “abided” within their hearts, it would be sufficient to bring them through the dark days that lay ahead.

God has given us everything we need to equip us for His heavenly kingdom. Our curriculum has been chosen by the King of the universe. He molded each one of us from clay. He breathed life into us. He gifts us with talents and blesses us with hope and so much more than we deserve. He loved us so much He sent His only Son to die for us. No doubt His curriculum is vastly different from and better for my soul than anything I could possibly envision.

When I took my novel course in my Masters studies, I learned that one of the greatest novelists of all time, Charles Dickens, began his career as a court reporter. So I am in great company. Who knows how God will use those years down the road. After all, He is the great designer, craftsman, artist, and author.

God knows exactly what curriculum we all need to complete a doctorate in life and graduate Summa Cum Laude. And for each one of us, God lovingly designs the classes. I think a doctorate would fittingly describe the many difficult courses we must take to become everything He longs for us to be. And it will probably require—at least for me—more than thirty seconds of suffering, two minutes of patience, five minutes of sacrifice, and five minutes of prayer.

If we can cease our striving, our complaining, and slow down, God might just exempt us from a life class we would rather not take. “Godliness with contentment is great gain,” according to I Timothy 6:6; and that Starbucks latte, well, I do enjoy one upon occasion. Now, by God’s grace, I just need a teaspoon of patience and a tablespoon of love to enjoy another successful year of homeschooling.