Category Archives: Paterology

First Impressions

Donned my painting clothes yesterday morning, determined to get back in the house-painting groove.Evening Reflections Yes, the vacation is definitely over. *smile* Is there any other chore more tedious to home-owners than painting? Or scraping, preparatory to painting? If there is, please let me know in comments, it might help me complain less!

It’s a long nasty story, but I’ve been trying to get my house painted for at least 7 years now. It wasn’t a priority to Hubby, and then when it was, he wanted us to spray the paint on, but our sprayer is very touchy–it’s definitely a two-person job. Have I mentioned yet that my hubby hates painting? He and I spray-painted one side of the house about four years ago, and another side two years ago. So this last May, I decided to start painting with a paint brush and I’m gettin’ her done! Eight hours slapping paint just today, Woo-HOO!

With every brush stroke I’m loving this house more. Its tattered exterior has long been an embarrassment to me…so to see pristine whiteness take over the weathered gray is magical. I find myself strangely exhilarated. Hubby is even impressed, and has forgiven me for resorting to a lowly paint brush.

How many times have I talked myself out of extending hospitality because of the sad shape of my siding? Too ashamed to count… Why do I worry so much about what people think? It really boils down to “first impressions” doesn’t it? We want our best face forward when we invite people over. Especially people who haven’t seen our home yet or who live in “House Beautifuls”. So we either dither ourselves into a panic over clutter in the corners or, like me, peeling home exteriors and falling-down barns, or we shrink back within ourselves and wave limply at the nice hospitable thought as we say bye-bye to an opportunity that could have blessed both parties. Us and them.

It’s really crazy that we worry about it at all. Here’s a question for you, do you really *care* what your friends’ homes are like when you walk in the door to visit them? If they look lived in, doesn’t it instantly relax you? It does me. One of my best friends is exactly like me. Her home was an old farmhouse till they built new last year, and her back porch and mine could have been twin sisters–they both looked like a twister had ripped through the night before. And we laughed about it. It bonded us. Silly but true. (So quit worrying about your houses!)

I’m so glad our Heavenly Father isn’t concerned with first impressions. If He was, good night, who could stand? His first impression of all of us? Black with sin! Yet He loved us sinners so much that He gave up His only son for our salvation. That’s amazing. We didn’t have to clean house first, or dress in white linen and go through a ceremony. Nope, He took us as is. Even when we continue in sin, He still loves us and forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Best of all, He doesn’t see us as sinners once we accept His gift of salvation. He sees us through the filter of His holy Son. That is grace. Grace we could learn a thing or two from.

So extend grace on yourselves and try not to let your lack of House Beautiful keep you from enjoying life. Here’s a little secret: I’m more in awe of friends who welcome drop in’s despite their messy houses, than I am of friends who have impossibly clean homes. Now doesn’t that make you want to invite the neighborhood over ASAP?

How Does God See Us?

Do you feel guilty when you think of God? It’s easy to get in a pattern of blaming ourselves…to immediately think, I don’t spend enough time reading God’s word or Every time I pray, I’m full of me and my needs and wants, and they’re all physical things–health, finances. How about, I don’t do enough for God. Or, I know this is a sin, I’ve tried to stop, but I can’t. I have too many things to confess to ever get caught up… Etcetera. We convince ourselves that we’re failures. That we’re letting Him down.

These inner whisperings work away at us, creating a distance between us and God that is wholly one-sided.

Here’s the truth.

Our sin has been dealt with. God, our Father, has removed it from us who believe, through His Son’s work on the cross. Psalm 103:12 says that He’s removed it from us, “as far as the east is from the west”. 1 Corinthians 6:11 says, “Your sins have been washed away.”

He holds no condemnation against you, dear friend. (Romans 8:1).

Here’s His promise, “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” Ezekial 36:26-27

Wait a minute.

Don’t misunderstand me here. We are all sinners. Sin is an attitude of wanting our way over God’s way. Sins exist in our past, our present, and some are ongoing struggles we strive against.

1 John 1:8-9, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Why confess sins if Jesus already paid the price?

Confessing sin is simply agreeing with God that you’ve done something wrong. The above verses are actually encouraging to believers, in fact, if you read 1 John 5:13, you see that John wrote this book so that we believers may know that we have eternal life. One way to know God is in our lives–to *know* we’re in the faith, is to experience His forgiveness, His faithfulness and mercy. We are human and fallible, He is God, and He loves us anyway.

That second part, verse 9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” is our promise. God won’t count our sins against us. He will remove them from us. And He does this to affirm His faithfulness. Look at these following two verses:

Jeremiah 31:34, “…for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

If you follow the link to this Jeremiah passage, and start in verse 31, you’ll see that God is foretelling the New Covenant, the one Jesus bought and paid for with His death on the cross. That’s our promise to claim!

Colossians 2:13-14, “When you were dead in your transgressions…He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Italics mine)

I’m still confused. Confessing a list of sins is intimidating. If God doesn’t see sin when He looks at me, why bother? 

As a teenager and young person, I worried that I’d forget a sin when confessing. I mean, who can remember every single selfish or unkind thought or action? I’m sure there have been and are sins in my life that I’m not even aware of, perhaps I haven’t been convicted of them yet. But here’s the thing: It’s NOT about confessing a list of sins.

We know our sins have been forgiven by Jesus on the cross, not by our ongoing list of items to confess, right? That’s what Colossians 2:13-14 say above. That God canceled our record of sin and nailed it on the cross. We know we have no hope of ever being able to confess EVERYTHING, right?  

So when we “confess” we are doing so for this reason: We are repentant. We desire change. We love God and want a right relationship with Him–friendship aka “fellowship”. This is a humble heart seeking forgiveness, removal of guilt, and God’s assurance that Jesus’ sacrifice paid for it all.

In conclusion…

Jesus covered our sins. When God looks down from Heaven and sees us, He sees us through the filter of His Son in us. Yes, when we sin, when we get caught in the trap of worry or anger or whatever, we need to confess/acknowledge our sins to Him, to restore fellowship. Just as we make things right with our husbands or wives or children after hurting them, rather than letting pride keep us from admitting we’re wrong, and subsequently put its walls up between us and our loved ones. We are God’s bride. And God is ever faithful.

Ask God to show you what He thinks of you. And don’t believe Satan’s lies, because you can be sure, the last thing the great deceiver wants is for you to believe that God can love you. Sin is not the deepest thing about you.

You have a new heart. Believe that.

All scripture references are linked to the full passages at blueletterbible.org, and are taken from the New American Standard Bible.

Anything Short of Hell is a Privilege

Some of my greatest epiphanies occur behind the wheel. Thankfully these flashes of insight usually occur when I’m alone, because they’re almost always accompanied by tears. (You guys are going to think I cry all the time. Actually, I never! Just lately…)

For instance, a couple of weeks ago, on my solo way to a baby shower, I was listening to the hymn Amazing Grace. I’d just been fretting about something or other that was feeding my discontentment in a certain area, and wham! The words from the song hit me in the chest and immediately I felt convicted of the following, and I even jotted it down so I’d remember:

How dare we think that God’s plans for us are less than what He promises?

Seems pretty simple, but as with all epiphanies, it was so right on for my internal angsts. The lyrics kept washing over me…

“Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me–I was blind–but now–I see…”

With these truths before me, I definitely felt wretched! I’d been comparing again, and finding my life “wanting”–am I the only one that struggles with this? Anyway, how dare I be discontent with any part of this God-ordained life I lead, one that frankly, is incredibly blessed above and beyond all that I could ever ask or think!

So I may not have the money to complete this or that disaster-waiting-to-happen or some such other tripe that got my contentedness off track to begin with. So what?

Someone once said, “We should not doubt in the dark what He has shown us in the light.”

Worth repeating: “We should not doubt in the dark what He has shown us in the light.”

Yes, I was so blind but now I see.

Because, as Mark Lowry put it so eloquently:

“Anything short of hell is a privilege.”

Don’t you agree? Don’t let a little darkness morph into a faith crisis as I almost did. Rest in God’s sovereignty. We are shaped through our pain.

The plans God has for us are for our good, not for our evil. This doesn’t mean His plans are for our financial gains, or for our material comforts, or for us to be considered popular by the masses, or for one month without health tests. To me, it means that the circumstances He allows in our lives will bear fruit for good, not evil, if we keep trusting!

Father, take the wheel. Because in my hands, it too easily detours…and sadly, wide is the path to destruction when we let our failures take root, and turn into bitternesses, and forget in the darkness what You told us…in the light.

God Knows the Way

If you’re human, then you’ve felt discouragement, disillusionment. You’ve sometimes felt far away from God. You’ve wondered what the master plan was and when someone was going to clue you in. Especially in times of suffering.

But it’s not the Christian’s job to question. Our job is to trust. Trust is faith in action.

As you read this passage from Job, can’t you see how his feelings and perceptions are waging war against his faith? And his faith wins.

Job 23:8-10,

Behold, I go forward but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; when He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him; He turns on the right, I cannot see Him. But He knows the way I take; when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

God knows the way I take…

~~~~~

Go to Blue Letter Bible and do a search on “But God”…there are some goodies such as:

Psalm 73:26, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” NASB

Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order to bring about this present result…” NASB

Are You Willing?

Jesus was. Let’s check out some more Messianic prophecies. Powerful verses to apply to our own lives. In Isaiah 50:4-9, Jesus says about Himself:

“The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.

The Lord God has opened My ear; and I was not disobedient, nor did I turn back.

I gave My back to those who strike Me, and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.

For the Lord God helps Me, therefore, I am not disgraced; therefore, I have set My face like flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.

He who vindicates Me is near; who will contend with Me? Let us stand up together; who has a case against Me? Let him draw near to Me.

Behold, the Lord God helps Me; who is he who condemns Me? Behold, they will all wear out like a garment; The moth will eat them.” (NASB)

I love reading this, and knowing the difference between God the Father (referred to as Lord God and He who vindicates in the above verses) and God the Son. Knowing that we find our salvation and help from our Father-God, just as Jesus does.

  • Are you letting God’s word sustain you? Are you using your tongue to bring the comfort of God to weary friends? (applying verse 4)
  • Is your ear tuned into the Lord’s will? Are you obedient and not willing to turn against what He’s asked of you? (applying verse 5)
  • Are you willing to die to self? (applying verse 6)
  • Are you truly relying on God’s help to stand firm, no matter what the culture says/accuses? (applying verse 7)
  • You may feel alone, unappreciated, helpless…maybe you need to draw near to His word, to Him, to His strength. (applying verse 8 )
  • What matters? God’s appraisal of my life. Am I doing what He put me here to do? His plans are for eternity. (applying verse 9)

If we’re willing, to die to self for a greater cause, God is able to give us strength just as He enabled Jesus to complete His ministry on earth, and face the cross and all our sins.

It’s a process. If you start applying it at the beginning (vs 4) by committing to reading God’s word, and from His word/prayer learning His will for your life (vs 5), practicing being obedient (vs 5 and 6), getting in the habit of bucking this world system in favor of doing right (vs 7), coming back to God to fill you up because suffering is part of Christianity (vs 8 ), and getting to the point that this process is second nature. All your priorities fall in line because of your continual desire to put God and His ways first (vs 9).

Just start at the beginning with a willing and committed heart. God will work the rest.

Grace For the Weary

In Bible class this morning, I was struck afresh at the Messianic prophecies in Isaiah. What an encouragement, comfort, and hope…for us Christians. Apply their soothing peace to your particular discouragement. Take this one, for instance:

“A bruised reed He (God the Son) will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish.” Isaiah 42:3 (parentheses mine)

Our God is a God of grace and mercy. He is a God for the everyday mom who is worn out and struggling. She feels guilty for not always making time for reading the Word, she feels a constant failure in certain areas. I know I’ve felt like a dimly burning wick, haven’t you?

Let’s address homeschool burn-out. It happens. In fact, if you choose to homeschool, it’s something you need to be prepared to face. Right up front, decide why you are homeschooling. Don’t forget that influencer. Hold it like a banner over those times of frustration and failure. Satan is not going to leave you alone, he hates anything good (of God) that has the power to change lives–including homeschooling. And he’s very good at discouraging, and at dangling temptations/lies before our noses. (If I didn’t homeschool, I’d have time for such and such. Or, my kids would be getting a better education elsewhere…or, my children are too challenging to homeschool) I know I’m coming on strong, but believe me, I’m preaching to myself here. (I know there are good reasons some of you cannot homeschool)

Five years ago, dh and I felt convicted that homeschooling is God’s will for our family. I know He calls certain ones to certain things, why not homeschooling? So when I get discouraged about the process, I remember that God thought I could do it. He has His reasons, and it helps me not to bail. ‘Cause this boat is a full load, let me tell you!

“I (God the Father) am the Lord, I have called you (His son Jesus) in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those who dwell in darkness from the prison…” Isaiah 42:6-7 (parentheses mine)

Wow! Christ is our promise, our light, our freedom. Hold my hand too, Father, help me to continue in this righteous calling, as your Son was willing, even to the cross. What amazing love!

“He (God the Father) has sent Me (Jesus) to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners…” portion of Isaiah 61:1 (parentheses mine)

Does your vision (whatever it may be) grip you as it did originally? Are you weary, brokenhearted, not up for the task? Find strength in knowing that God has your back. Over and over in scripture, He used the weak to confound the wise.

In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon writes of how there is a time for every purpose under heaven (eg: a time to tear down and a time to build up)–and later in verse 10 he writes,

“I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves…”

Verse 14a, “I know that everything God does will remain forever…”

What is your purpose in this life? We only have one to give.

Don’t let your discouragement bind you for a lifetime. Most of all, remember 2 Corinthians 12:9,

“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore, I will rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Faithfulness

I wanted to share an excerpt from a book I truly enjoyed, Bring Back the Joy by Sheila Walsh. In chapter 5, talking about God’s faithfulness she tells the reader to imagine that the following is a conversation between a father and a son about the son’s future bride.

“She’s the one for you, son. Im’ sure of it.”

Martin looked at his father in utter disbelief. “You must be joking!” he said. “She’s hardly the kind of woman you should be advising me to marry.”

“I’m as serious as I’ve ever been,” his father continued. “I’m telling you, this is the girl you should marry.”

Martin looked across the restaurant to the bar where his “intended” was creating quite a stir. She was on her fourth round of drinks and was getting louder with every clink of glasses. He watched as four of the guys at the bar threw their car keys into a beer glass and held it up for Sonja to choose. She pulled out the set of keys that went with the blue suit and disappeared into the night.

“I’m asking you to do this for me, son,” his father said. “Do this for me.”

An episode from a cheap soap opera? Just read the OT book of Hosea. This man of God was instructed to marry a woman “with a reputation” to live out the story of God’s faithfulness to unfaithful Israel. Hosea married Gomer, who remained unfaithful to him, and yet Hosea persisted in his faithfulness. Perhaps God, in the only way we can understand, is giving us an illustration of how we have broken his heart by our wanderings and lack of commitment.

What is so amazing about the tragic story of Hosea and Gomer is the redemption and mercy carved out on the harsh landscape of their lives. We read, “The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods.'” (Hosea 3:1)

Despite the brazen behavior of his people, God still loves, still goes after, still stands true and faithful.

What amazing grace…

Cow Stories: Farm and Faith

Dh is loving the cow/calf aspect of his new job. It’s calving season, a time when rescuing little calves becomes an hourly occurrence. Especially when they all want to be born on wintry nights such as we’ve had lately. At last measurblackcow.jpge, we had 6 inches of snow on the ground. My cowboy and the ranchers he works for will be taking shifts throughout the night, dh’s starts at 4 A.M., which means he leaves home at 3 A.M.

So often his “cow stories” of the day get me to thinking about spiritual parallels…weird, huh?

The ice/sleet storm that hit us last week left ponds frozen 8″ thick in spots. Dh told me about a winter long ago when he’d run a hot wire fence around a pasture pond to keep the cattle off the precarious ice. You’d think that was kind of harsh, an electrical jolt to each cow whose only offense was wanting a drink, right? Well, a local cattleman lost 16 head the other day. They’d gone out on the pond for a drink and the ice broke sucking them down in three different places. They’re still trapped under the ice, and what a mess they’re going to have wenching them out of there when things thaw.

I’m sure you see the obvious parallels between the above story and us, God’s wayward ones. After all, He continually refers to us as sheep in the Bible.

Today, a baby calf needed a mother. And a mother cow needed a calf. They’d each lost one or the other. Dh and his co-worker tried everything to get the bereft mother to accept another cow’s calf. They made sure the mama cow still had plenty of milk–she did; they rubbed her manure all over the baby, hoping her scent on it would help her take to it. It didn’t. They ended up having to remove the entire hide from her dead calf and wrap the living calf in it. Immediately she started bawling (mooing) in recognition of her baby. If you’ve never been in a pen of cows/calves you can’t appreciate the deafening racket they put up trying to keep near to one another!

The spiritual parallel of this is God can’t look at us in our sin. He can accept us only through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus, who died on the cross for our sins. When God sees us, sinful man, He sees instead, thanks to our redemption, Jesus–whose blood has covered us in every way. Just like the mother cow cannot accept a calf that is not hers by blood.**

After dh told us about the calf-swap, my girls asked, “Will the mama cow still accept the calf once the other calf’s skin is taken off?” He then explained that as soon as her milk had been through this calf’s system, she’d know by his manure that he was hers.

Okay, obviously, I have a strange way of relating even things like this to scripture, but doesn’t this make you think of how we’re to be fed and nourished by God’s word, so we can fulfill the scripture that says, “By their fruit you shall know them”?

Before God created us, He and the members of the Trinity knew that ultimately, Jesus would have to take on the sins of the world. Not one of us humans is unblemished enough to be worthy of being called God’s child. No matter how good we say we are, if we don’t believe in the truth of Christ’s sacrifice and our need for a Saviour, we’re going to hell.

Unbelief is the only unforgivable sin. I’m so glad for John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

God is the Father of the fatherless. The father of all fathers. Eternal life in His family–the choice is all yours, thanks to Jesus’ redeeming sacrifice.

His life for ours.

**I first heard it explained this way in Fourth Dawn, a Brock and Bodie Thoene book, one of the AD Chronicles series…only they used sheep, not cattle…this is a fictional series surrounding the life and times of Christ and I highly recommend it. Btw, the sixth AD book will be out in March…

Kids and Prayer

This is my month to give the devotions for our Awana Council Time. It’s a twenty minute lesson time for a group of about 40 children, ages 6-12. My last theme was “treasure hunting”…this time around, I’m focusing on prayer.

I started last night out with the basics…who we pray to, what we can pray about, why we pray, that we can pray anywhere, anytime, etc. At the end, I let the kids share praises, and then we took a few prayer requests and had the children volunteer to pray right then and there for their friend’s requests. It was awesome. Kids praying for kids. Our future Christian leaders, right?

Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me.” We come to Jesus through prayer, so in that line of thought, next week, I’m going to focus on:

  • Coming to God with a clean slate. (“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9)
  • Coming to Him with confidence. (“And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us…” 1 John 5:14)

It’s important that we don’t have sin between us and the Father. So confessing sin keeps the fellowship lines open. Here are some verses to back me up. Key words are in bold.

Isaiah 1:15-16, “And when you spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you, yea, when you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes. Cease to do evil.”

2 Ch. 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Once we confess, and come to God the Father with a clean heart, and right attitude…we can be confident that He’ll hear us and answer. So the next step, with children especially, is helping them understand that you don’t just demand things from God. He’s not your fairy-godmother granting your every wish. We need to bring our requests to him and truly want His will to be done. So my next thought to share would be:

  • Coming to Him wanting His will to be done.

Again verses:

James 4:3, “When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your own pleasures.” (wrong motives=my will, not God’s)

Matt. 6:10, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us…”

So being unhindered by sin, praying according to God’s will, and wanting His glory no matter what the results…

I doubt that I’ll go that in depth with the kids or I’ll lose them, as I’ve probably lost you, my reader! But I’ll definitely tell the following, a great illustration of the power of prayer…

Who doesn’t get chills at the Bible story of Elijah taking on the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel? I can’t wait to set the scene for the Awana kids. Wow.

Chanting up quite a performance to their false fire gods, at the end of many hours the prophets ultimately failed to have their sacrifice lit from on high. Yet Elijah’s water-soaked offering was immediately consumed by fire. Jehovah provided.

I love what Elijah prayed right before God lit his offering, he prayed a prayer for God’s glory to be shown:

1 Kings 18:36-37, “Let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.”

God, let it be known!

Knowing God the Father

Do you feel at times that you are just on the brink of knowing God? No matter how many times you read the Bible, there is always something new springing up at you from its pages?

Have you ever heard someone praying to Jesus? I have, and though I know they do it innocently, I still cringe. Yes, we’re to pray “in Jesus name”, but our guidelines in Matthew 6:9-11 (The Lord’s Prayer) clearly tell us to Whom we’re praying. God the Father.

My dad has always said that God the Father is the most neglected member of the Trinity, and today I found another site saying the same thing. In fact, my dad’s burden is for God the Father to become real to today’s Christian. He says that one of the reasons men are such “back-seat Christians” (my term, not his) is because of the lack of teaching on the Father.

I’ve asked my dad to share some of his thoughts on God the Father here, hopefully soon. But for now, let me leave you with this thought that as far as I know, originated with my mother:

Was it Jesus’ love for us that made Him willing to die on the cross for our sins? If so, why did He shed drops of blood and pray to have ‘this cup removed’ (His upcoming death)…He died on the cross for us out of His great love of His Father, and wanting His Father’s will to be done.

John 3:16 says,

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world…God the Father…

And then, how amazing in light of the Godhead:

John 17:3,

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

Have you given God the Father much thought lately?