Monday, December 26, 2011

Go tell it (in the mall)

A few days ago, on Christmas Eve, I posted a video of people singing Christmas carols in a mall. We liked that video a lot. Besides enjoying the surprise on peoples’ faces as a lady began singing "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee" in the middle of a public mall, we enjoyed seeing the message of the carols. When we heard "a weary world rejoices/ Fall on your knees" and saw the weary world personified by all the haggard looking shoppers in the mall, the message of hope and joy through Jesus seemed new and beautiful. The contrast between the words of the song and the neediness of the people made Jesus shine brighter against the darkness. We need people who aren’t afraid to go up to the top of a mall (some of us don’t have mountains nearby...) and start proclaiming that Jesus Christ is born! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Adopted by God

It’s almost Christmas–the time when we celebrate a Baby’s birth. But more than that, we celebrate the life that we have because He lived. He lived on this earth, died a painful death, and rose again–all for us. The punishment we deserved for our sins was born by Him on the cross. Because He lived a sinless life and took our punishment, we live. Undeserving, ungrateful, sinful man becomes a child of God. We’re adopted from the world into the family of God.

It’s amazing thought, isn’t it? We hear it so often, though, that it starts to sound cliche. This year, my family has gotten a better understanding of this truth.

Some very dear friends of ours are going to adopt a little girl. The birth mother knows she can’t raise her. She’s living a very sinful life right now, and a baby wouldn’t fit in the picture very well. So instead, she is putting the baby up for adoption. My friends (who are a strong Christian, homeschooling family) are going to pay the price for this little girl and give her a different life. She will be taken out of home plagued by sin and placed in a home centered around Christ.

The baby on her own is helpless. Her new parents are willing to pay the price to bring her into their family. Because Christ loved them and brought them into His family, they want to share His grace and love with another.

Galatians 4:4-6--But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!"

~~~~~~~~

Please be praying for this family. The mother is not due for several weeks still, and although she chose this family, a lot could change. Please also pray that the mother will get to know Christ’s love.

Monday, December 12, 2011

They all were looking for a King

They all were looking for a king
To slay their foes and lift them high;
Thou cam’st a little Baby thing
That made a woman cry.


O Son of Man, to right my lot
Naught but Thy presence can avail;
Yet on the road Thy wheels are not,
Nor on the sea Thy sail.


My fancied ways why should’st Thou heed?
Thou com’st down Thine own secret stair;
Com’st down to answer all my need,
Yes, every bygone prayer.


(by George MacDonald--can be sung to the tune Childhood)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Vapor of Life

 This morning I went to a funeral. Her name was Joy Brace and she was a 43 year old mom with four kids, the oldest of whom is a dear friend of mine. She was my Mom's roommate in college, and they are the same age. Mrs. Brace suffered from a brain tumor, and it all happened so fast- she was diagnosed just 4 months ago. She was such a wonderful example of peace in time of severe pain and heartache, and she definitely glorified God through her life and her death. There were about 700 people at her funeral, and the message of Salvation was very clearly preached-- by her husband, which was her last wish. Pray that the Holy Spirit will work on the hearts of those who heard the salvation message today, perhaps for the first time.

 PLEASE pray for that family, and all who knew and loved Mrs. Brace. When all of us left the funeral, we went back to normal life. But when they went home, reality struck. They went home to the new normal- life without their mom. Life goes on, even when they don't want it to;  they want life to stop, or at least pause long enough to let them grieve! Pray that we would be able to comfort them with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

A couple times this fall, Mrs. Brace had the opportunity to sing for different gatherings and such, and every time she would sing "Blessings". This morning they played a recording of her singing it, and yes, I cried. The song so aptly describes what we are all feeling, and is such a good reminder. Here are the lyrics:

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

Throughout her struggle with chemo, radiation, and all the emotional roller coaster that come along with this cancer, her motto was, "God IS good." Those were her last words on this earth. I praise the Lord that He IS GOOD! He has a plan for this hurting family. The problem is, they can't see it. Please pray for this family whose lives have been drastically, radically changed this week.


All of this made me think of James 4:14. "Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." We don't know what will happen tomorrow, next week, or next year. Are we prepared for glory? Do we have crowns to lay at the feet of our Lord? When we get to heaven, will He say, "well done, thou good and faithful servant"? Just some thoughts to meditate on. And thank you all for praying for this dear family. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What is Better?

"Better to love God and die unknown than to love the world and be a hero; better to be content with poverty than to die a slave to wealth; better to have taken some risks and lost than to have done nothing and succeeded at it." -Erwin Lutzer, Pastor of Moody Church

Monday, December 5, 2011

The difference

I have a big piano audition this Saturday. Since I didn’t practice very much last month, I’m having to do a lot extra now. This weekend, I had a brilliant thought. If I could spend my entire Saturday studying Bible Bee, why not try practicing piano all day?

I learned something: Studying the Bible and practicing piano have very little in common. I enjoy both a lot, but there is no question which is better! When we’re studying the Bible, we are studying the Word of God. That Word created the world. It destroyed the ancient world. It preserves the present world (2 Peter 3:5-7). But most importantly, that Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and Truth (John 1:14). Think about that...isn’t it amazing? Studying the Word is never a burden; it is a privilege. Trying to find the same joy and fulfillment in a Chopin ballade is pointless. It doesn’t matter how much you enjoy something–it never gave you life, and it won’t give you a purpose for life. Only Christ can do that.

During this time of year, there are lots of things that keep us busy...school, music recitals, sports games, shopping, Christmas parties...it’s a time when culture is shoving lies on customers who are only too willing to buy. People are longing for the truth, but they can’t buy it at the mall like they can a new sweater. We see words like "Joy," "Peace," and "Hope" everywhere. Joy–from what? Peace–toward whom? Hope–in what? Those words are meaningless and empty without Christ. Nothing culture offers is going to satisfy us. But the Word made flesh can. He offers us Joy from the Father, Peace with God, Hope in Himself.

As life gets busy with Christmas celebrations, remember that, without Christ, all the fullness of the Christmas season is really a cry of want from a hungry world. Only He can come as the Bread of Life and fill them.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ezekiel 33:31; 34:36; 34:8,20,22b

“They come as though they are sincere and sit before you listening. But they have no intention of doing what I tell them to; they talk very sweetly about loving the Lord, but with their hearts they are loving money. . .

“My sheep wandered through the mountains and hills and over the face of the earth, and there was no one to search for them or care about them. . .

” ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘. . . you were no real shepherds at all, for you didn’t search for them [my flock]. You fed yourselves and let them starve . . . Therefore,’ the Lord God says: ‘I will surely judge between these fat shepherds and their scrawny sheep . . . and I will notice which is plump and which is thin, and why!’ ”

Monday, November 28, 2011

To live is Christ

In the Bible Bee gift bags, Voice of the Martyrs gave the senior contestants a copy of Jesus Freaks: Martyrs. A few days ago, I had a little extra time and decided to read for a few minutes. About 100 pages later, I finally put the book down.

For some of the stories, they listed the ages of the martyrs. They were teenagers–just "kids" our age! Like the Jeremiahs and Timothys in the Bible, they were not afraid to proclaim the Gospel even when they knew it would be their death sentence. Not all the "Christians" stood firm during persecution, though; some counted this life above that which is to come.

Have you ever imagined what you would say if someone pointed a gun at you and asked if you were a Christian? I like to think that I would say yes, not caring what the consequences would be. But then I think of Peter, the apostle who said that even if all were made to stumble because of Jesus, he would never be made to stumble (Matthew 26). We read Peter’s story and wonder how–after declaring how much he loved Jesus and how he would never desert him–he could be so afraid of being associated with Jesus that he told a little servant girl that he didn’t know Him. Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Many of us would say that we are more than willing to die for Jesus, but how many of us are really prepared to live for Him? Jesus didn’t define a Christian as "one who will die for Me" (although being a Christian sometimes includes that), but as "one who takes up his cross daily and follows Me" (Luke 9:23, emphasis added). We’re ready to die for Jesus or suffer for Him, but we’re not always ready to take up the daily little crosses. How many times a day do you deny Christ by not wholeheartedly following His commands? I doubt I could even count how often I disobey Him. As Paul said, "For me, to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21). The rest of that verse says, "and to die is gain." Sometimes it’s easier to think about dying for Him and receiving the gain of being with Him instead of present tense living for Him. If we think that saying we are willing to die for Jesus proves our love for Him when we are not willing to live for Him, we need to examine our hearts. Ask Him to help you learn to deny yourself and live for Him every day. The Greek word martys does not mean only one who dies for his faith, but also one who bears witness of his faith. You can be a martyr for Jesus while you’re still alive! Don’t wait for the day you die to prove your love for Him–let your life be a shining testimony to the world; show everyone what it means to have the Love of God alive in your heart!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

What, then, could now sustain them but the spirit of God, and His grace?  Ought not the children of their fathers rightly to say:  Our fathers were Englishmen who came over the great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto the Lord, and He heard their voice, and looked on their adversity....Let them therefore praise the Lord, because He is good, and His mercies enndure forever.  Yea, let them that have been redeemed of the Lord, show how He hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor.  When they wandered forth into the desert-wilderness, out of the way, and found no city to dwell in, both hungry and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them.  Let them confess before the Lord His loving kindness, and His wonderful works before the sons of men!

(from Of Plymouth Plantation, by William Bradford)

Monday, November 21, 2011

After Bible Bee

Rejoice!–that was the theme of the 2011 National Bible Bee. And if you are anything like my family, it was impossible to do anything but rejoice last week!! We spent almost an entire week studying the Bible, listening to people speak about the Bible, and singing hymns about the Bible. We were with hundreds of Christians who had all diligently studied the Word of God. We made lots of new friends and strengthened old friendships. It was one of the most encouraging, thrilling, and joyful weeks of the whole year.  

But now, Bible Bee is over for the year. Most of us probably had an after-Bible-Bee-is-over list. You know, when a friend or family member says, "Do you want to do _____?" And you reply, "Well, I’m really busy studying for Bible Bee, but after that’s over, I’ll do _____, _____, and _____." It’s easy to slip into the life-begins-again-after-Bible-Bee mentality. Once Bible Bee is over, we’ll have plenty of time to do lots of things because we won’t be studying the Bible all day, right? We loved studying Bible Bee for hours upon hours every day, but now it’s time to move on. The competition is over and we have other work to do.

Do you find yourself thinking that? I know I do! But when you think about it, doesn’t that take away the whole point of Bible Bee? If Bible memory is only something we’re doing for a grade or competition, it’s only getting hidden in our minds–not our hearts.

Now that Bible Bee is over, I challenge you to keep on studying the Word. We probably can’t study as much as before–we need to be developing other talents God has given us to use for His glory and kingdom as well–but please don’t stop studying! Instead of thinking of Bible Bee as a Bible memory curriculum that lasts for half a year and then you get a "winter vacation," try to think of it as a springboard to get you started on a new study. Choose another book and do an inductive study on it. Set a new Bible memory goal. Review old memory verses. Don’t ever take a vacation from studying the Bible! In 2009, Bible Bee’s motto was Learn it! Speak it! Live it! I challenge you to keep on learning, keep on speaking, and most importantly, keep on living the truth of the Bible.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Not unto us

Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.


Your voice alone, O Lord, can speak to me of grace;
Your power alone, O Son of God, can all my sin erase.
No other work but Yours, no other blood will do;
No strength but that which is divine can bear me safely through.

Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest, And set my spirit free.

I bless the Christ of God; I rest on love divine;
And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine.
His cross dispels each doubt; I bury in His tomb
Each thought of unbelief and fear, each lingering shade of gloom.

I praise the God of grace; I trust His truth and might;
He calls me His, I call Him mine, My God, my joy and light.
’Tis He Who saveth me, and freely pardon gives;
I love because He loveth me, I live because He lives
("Not What My Hands Have Done," Horatius Bonar)

Psalm 115:1–Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, But to Your name give glory, Because of Your mercy, Because of Your truth.

On our own, we can do nothing. We have not memorized a single verse in our own strength–everything we have learned has been by the grace of God. Let’s thank Him and give Him the glory this week at the 2011 National Bible Bee!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Compassion in Us

::Christ's people feel compassion like Christ did, and they feel the strike to the stomach, they feel the pain in the deepest places and they hurt and they bend over and they reach down and they reach out and their lives become cruciformed, shaped into the cross of Christ:: -Ann Voskamp
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17

Monday, November 7, 2011

Friends

Last week I was biting my tongue, trying to obey 1 Peter and not say all the many responses that were running through my head.

Three other highschoolers and I were beginning a team project that will not be done until June. It felt more like they were a team and I was an outsider. They all go to the local public art school, and I’m "just" a homeschooler. They are all good friends and get along really well, but I’m the "different" one. I don’t mind being different or on the outside, but it’s hard feeling like I’m not wanted. Two of them are quiet and generally speak only when spoken to, but the other one talks to them but ignores me, talking to me only to critique me or blame me for making a mistake when it wasn’t my fault. It hurts to be ignored, critiqued, and treated as the outsider, especially when you are all on the same team! And so, I found myself just about bursting with all the things I really wanted to say. I didn’t do anything to deserve the comments, but I was not about to spoil my witness by venting my feelings in front of everyone. All those verses from 1 Peter 2 were coming in handy!

The other thing I was thinking about was how excited I am that Bible Bee is next week!

When I’m with other people who look down on me because I’m different, it makes me appreciate the times I’m with people who (like me) want to be different. As I hear not-so-nice remarks, I can look forward to the days when we’ll all be quoting the Word of God to with other. At my church, there are some really amazing people. After talking to them, I can’t wait to go home and read more "hard" books, study apologetics, or look up a new Bible lecture. Just five minutes of talking gets me excited to spend five hours learning! And in just a few days, we’ll have almost a whole week of learning, fellowshipping, and praising God together at Bible Bee! When the apostles wrote epistles, they referred to the recipients as the "beloved brethren" (agapetos adelphos). Doesn’t that describe the family of Christ well? The beloved brethren–not the popular, cool, awesome friends (not that y’all aren’t awesome friends–it’s just that being "beloved brethren" involves so much more than that!). They are the family members who love you, encourage you, advise and help you and when the world thinks you’re weird...the ones whose agape love makes them call you agapetos. Isn’t that a comforting thought? Even when we feel like we’re alone, we still have Christian brothers and sisters all around the world experiencing the same things!

I am looking forward to meeting you all next week! It will be a joy-filled family reunion!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Looking forward to His coming

Several days ago, I was reading a blog and found this quote:

“To wait is not merely to remain impassive. It is to expect—to look for with patience, and also with submission. It is to long for, but not impatiently; to look for, but not to fret at the delay; to watch for, but not restlessly; to feel that if He does not come we will acquiesce, and yet to refuse to let the mind acquiesce in the feeling that He will not come.”
-Andrew Davidson

Doesn't that summarize 2 Peter 3 beautifully? 

2 Peter 3:8-14--But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?  Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you.

Reading that quote made 2 Peter 3 come alive for me...that's what we're supposed to be doing!  Our time on earth isn't supposed to be passively waiting--we need to look forward to it, diligently prepare for it, hasten His coming.  Isn't that an exciting thought?  The King of the universe is going to come again, and we get to see Him! 

P.S.  I never read anything else by Andrew Davidson, so I'm not sure if I agree with everything he's written...but I really liked that quote!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

For HIS name sake

October is our church's missions emphasis month and we have different missionaries come in and share their work with us. Also, the pastor (who happens to be my dad :)) always gives a series of messages about evangelism and witnessing. Last week, we covered the topic of the reason for evangelism. Why do we (or why should we) evangelize? There are many good answers to this question. We want people to get saved. We want to obey the Word of God. We want to have the thrilling experience of a missions trip. There is nothing wrong with any of these answers. In fact, they are good things to want. But, if those reasons are the ultimate reasons, we have missed the whole purpose of witnessing and evangelism. If all we look for is results, mere obedience, and adventure, we miss it.

The ultimate reason for mission and sharing the good news (and all of life) is for God's name to be glorified. It's all for His name sake. To spread His name through out the whole earth that He might be glorified and lifted up. That's the ultimate reason for evangelism.

As I thought through the message, I started to apply that truth to other parts of life. What is the reason, the supreme reason, why I do what I do in all of life? Because most of my time right now is spent studying for the Bible Bee, I especially asked, "Why am I studying for the National Bible Bee?" There are many, many possible reasons. I get to memorize hundreds of Bible verses. I get to do an in-depth study in the Bible. I increase in my knowledge of the Bible in general. I get to meet AMAZING friends :). I get to compete in an intense, thrilling competition. I have a chance to win lots of money.

....And the list could go on. None of those reasons are bad in and of themselves (some of them could be very self-focused, but they're not bad things to want in and of themselves). But none of those reasons should be ultimate. What?! You mean that studying the Bible and memorizing Scripture is not the ultimate reason? No, it's not. If our ultimate goal in participating in the Bible Bee is to know Scripture, then we've missed it.

The ultimate goal in all our of lives should be to glorify and exalt the Lord. The supreme reason to participate in the Bible Bee is for His name's sake. For the advancement of the kingdom of Christ. When we realize this, we get it. We get the purpose for all of life.

We all agree with this. We all know that life's purpose is for His name's sake. But do we live it? I'm really speaking to myself here. This week, I've been very convicted of shallow purposes that I have been living for. So many times, I do the Bible Bee. I study. And recite. And study and recite. And I loose sight of what really matters and get caught up in temporary things. I study because I want to know Scripture. That's great. But if that's my end goal, I haven't accomplished anything. I need to know Scripture for His name's sake. So that I can exalt and glorify His name through out all the earth. That's what really matters.

"For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.'" Romans 9:17

Monday, October 24, 2011

Help!

This is a continuation of last week's post

When someone asks you what your favorite subject in school is or what your hobby is, what do you usually say? For me, I generally answer that I really like math and that I’m a pianist. I enjoy both a lot and sometimes take just a little bit of pride in them. And anytime the word "pride" describes my attitude, you can be sure that trouble will soon come after. As Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride comes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall." Think about it for a second–when you fall off a chair, it hurts a little, but it’s not that bad. If you fell off a mountain, that would be a different story. A fall from pride is the same. When you have a little pride and God taps you off your pedestal, it hurts a little. When your pride "reaches to the heavens," it’s killing. You end up needing to shut the door of your room and pray that God will perform some serious heart surgery on you! 

Inevitably, that fall will come. It either looks like the "C" on my calculus test or that awful memory blank at the concerto competition (you know–the one where you start a scale on page 5 and when you come down you realize that you somehow ended on page 25 and have no idea how you got there). I get so angry at myself when I fail! When I mess up really badly in one of my "strong" points, I want to give up in everything. After all, if I’m bad at what I’m good at, what does that mean about what I know I struggle with? It’s the whole identity theft problem all over again: I’m trying to live in an identity that doesn’t belong to me. But, as frustrating and embarrassing as those failures can be, they are a great time for me to take a step back and examine my heart. When you trust in your own abilities, you’re going to fail. People aren’t perfect. We can’t live our entire lives with a perfect record of anything. But, when you admit your imperfections to God and trust Him to make His strength perfect in you, then God can use you to do His work. It’s only when we recognize that our strengths are our weaknesses that He is able to take our weakness and make it His strength. If we could do something–anything–perfectly, we would become proud. When we mess up, it reminds us how imperfect we are...how much we need One who is perfect.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me, October and November tend to be the hardest months for me...with all the time spent studying Bible Bee, I feel like I’m spread a little thin over the rest of my work! It’s so easy to want to give up since I get discouraged and think I can’t do it all. Guess what–I’m right! I can’t do it all! But, by God’s grace, I can. Maybe we can’t do everything we want to do, but God will give us the strength to everything He has planned for us to do. Soli Deo Gloria!

2 Corinthians 12:9–And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

James 4:10–Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

1 Peter 5:10–But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Identity Theft

Several days ago, I took the PSAT. It’s only offered once a year, and it only counts towards a scholarship when you take it as a junior in highschool. Needless to say, I was nervous. That scholarship would help so much! And it looks so good on an application to say you’re a National Merit Scholar...

That made me start thinking about who I am. How do you define yourself? Do you let test scores and competitions define who you are? It is so easy to get caught up in the excitement of winning and being known for how great you can do something...that competitive spirit wants to be #1 in everything so that the world–or at least your friends–will know just how great you are. But that is not what life is about! It’s about how great God is! All those trophies, scholarships, and titles you win won’t make a bit of difference when you stand before God after you die. When God asks you why He should let you go to Heaven, are you going to list off all your accomplishments? No way! The only way we can go to Heaven is by realizing that all our "accomplishments" are nothing at all! They are, as Paul says in Philippians 3, rubbish. They are something to be thrown away. Defining ourselves by anything temporal is useless. It doesn’t matter if it’s a test score, a piano competition, or even winning Bible Bee–none of that is going to matter at all for eternity.

So where do you find identity if not in what you’ve done in this world? Our identity is in Christ. We boast only Christ’s righteousness. We don’t have any righteousness on our own; imputed righteousness is all we can brag about. Seriously, when you think about it, bragging about what we can do is pretty wimpy sounding. When you view all our mighty works compared to what the Creator and Savior of the world has done, nothing we do is great. Boasting that Christ has taken our sin upon Himself to us His righteousness is all we can say. Galatians 6:14–But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

No test score or competition really matters. All that stuff is going to fade away. "All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the LORD endures forever." (1 Peter 1:24-25) Don’t let your identity in Christ be stolen by a false identity in something else. Every other "identity" we have is fake, and when we stand before the Lord, all those false identities will be stripped away. The only identity that matters is that of Christ.

Monday, October 3, 2011

True love

Have you noticed that when you’re memorizing a passage that you had learned before, you tend to skim over it more quickly? My family first memorized Romans 12 many years ago, so when I got to the verses from that chapter, I studied it really quickly. But then, a few days ago, I noticed something that I hadn’t read carefully before.

Let love be without hypocrisy (Romans 12:9)

Whoa.

Agape anypokritos.

Agape love is something that we’ve studied already; it’s God’s unconditional love toward us–the love that He commands us to exhibit toward each other in 1 Peter 4:8 described in 1 Corinthians 13. Anypokritos, though, is a word we have not studied for Bible Bee. It means "unfeigned, undesigned, sincere." Ouch–is it even possible to love completely sincerely? I can’t seem to do anything for other people without at least some amount of concern for myself! But God tells us–He commands us–to love one another fervently with a pure heart (1 Peter 1:22). Pure, sincere, undesigned, unfeigned, fervently...as Christians, we have no choice but to love one another!

1 John 4:7-13–Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cooking lessons

I love when the seasons change...leaves turning colors, crisp fall breezes, fires flaming in the fireplace...and, best of all, pumpkin pie. My family loves pumpkin pie. So the first cool week in September, my mom and I made a double recipe of pumpkin pie. She rolled out crusts on one end of the kitchen while I mixed the filling on the other. It brought back memories of when we made the pies last September, and I carelessly flipped open the can of pureed pumpkin. My mom ended up finishing that pie since I promptly wrapped my finger in lots of band-aids. It wasn’t a big cut, but it was deep–deep enough for me to see a scar on my knuckle when I opened the can this year.

Ever since that pie last year, I have been very careful to follow my mom’s instructions when I’m cooking. Instead of opening and dumping cans as if I was competing in the international Rubik’s cube championship, I very carefully pry the lid open. That scar is enough to remind me not to be careless with sharp edges. I used to think my mom’s warnings were a little too cautious...after all, you can slide a finger over the sharp edge of a can without getting cut, so why waste time opening a can so slowly? But once I actually felt the consequences of being careless, I understood the importance of slowly working with sharp objects.

Isn’t it funny how we are so prone to thinking that we’re the ultimate authority on everything? Like Liesel said in Sound of Music: "I’m sixteen years old and I don’t need a governess!" Even respectful Christian teenagers can unintentionally get that attitude. It’s not that we’re trying to be disobedient, but we just assume we know more than our moms and dads do. And, what’s worse, we sometimes act–not that we would ever say this–like we know more than God does. No, we’re not out murdering and stealing in our free time, but what about getting angry at siblings or thinking we inherently deserve the biggest slice of pie? Our anger is not righteous indignation, and if you think you deserve anything–! We just don’t get it. When God gives us commandments, it’s for our own good! He doesn’t make up rules for the sake of rules; God gave us commandments that our for our good and His glory. But then, when we act like we’re smarter than He is, God sends us a reminder that He is infinitely wiser than our little finite minds. He sends us pain as the consequences of our foolishness. Now we remember that He knows better. As C. S. Lewis said once said in The Problem of Pain, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

If we would only listen to those whispers in the pleasant times, we could avoid so much pain! But God is sovereign, and He plans our pains to make us grow.

Revelation 3:19–As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Christian's praises

O God, my exceeding joy,
singing Thy praises uplifts my heart,

for Thou art a fountain of delight,

and dost bless the soul that joys in Thee.

But because of my heart’s rebellion

I cannot always praise Thee as I ought;

Yet I will at all times rest myself

in Thy excellencies, goodness, and loving-kindness.

Thou art in Jesus the object of inexpressible joy,

and I take exceeding pleasure in the thought of Thee.

But LORD, I am sometimes Thy enemy;

my nature revolts and wanders from Thee.

Though Thou hast renewed me,

yet evil corruptions urge me still to oppose Thee.

Help me to extol Thee with entire heart-submission,

to be diligent in self examination,

to ask myself

whether I am truly born again,

whether my spirit is of Thy children,

whether my griefs are those that tear repenting hearts,

whether my joys are the joys of faith,

whether my confidence in Christ works by love

and purifies the soul.

Give me the sweet results of faith,

in my secret character, and in my public life.

Cast cords of love around my heart,

then hold me and never let me go.

May the Savior’s wounds sway me more than the scepter of princes.

Let me love Thee in a love that covers and swallows up all,

that I may not violate my chaste union with the beloved;

There is so much unconquered territory in my nature,

scourge out the buyers and sellers of my soul’s temple,

and give me in return pure desires,

and longing after perfect holiness.

(This prayer was in my church bulletin; there is no name after it, but I think it is from the Valley of Vision or another Puritan prayer book)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Apathy?

BUSY busy busy busy BUSY busy busy busy

Have you ever watched The Widow’s Might? If you have, you probably can hum along the melody to the "Busy" song. Soon after the townspeople beginning whispering "busy" and listing off their chores that must be done, the lone cowboy comes riding up. And then he sings (I forgot to mention–it’s a musical) the "Apathy" theme.

That is a bad description of the song, but it should give you the idea.

Business often leads us to apathy. You get so busy, you just don’t care too much about anything other than your busyness. Lately, I’ve been going around hearing "BUSY busy busy busy" in my head, while I’m going through a mental checklist: Write the paper and do the reading. Solve the problem and practice piano. Learn the verses and study 2 Peter. And then, the little cowboy (who I normally call my conscience), comes on stage and starts saying, "Apathy!" And I sigh, and try to get my priorities straightened out. I’m doing lots of good things; it’s not that I’m busy wasting time! But you can be apathetic even while you’re studying the Bible. You know how the conversation goes. It’s been a long day of school and you just sat down to study, and then your mom comes in and says,

"Are you busy right now? Can you help me in the kitchen for a few minutes?" You groan inwardly and attempt to smile outwardly. It’s a rhetorical question. Yes you are busy, and yes you will help.

"Um, sure...I was just reviewing a bunch of verses before I finish my homework." You try to say it cheerfully, but somehow a mildly sarcastic edge creeps in.

And I do help her for as long as she needs your help, and then, I dash back to the cards. Do you get the picture? I’m giving my mom the minimum. That’s apathy. I’m busy keeping up with everything else, so something is going to fall by the wayside.

By now, we’re all trying to keep up with a full school schedule, music or sports, church activities, and additional Bible Bee material. Talk about being busy! Maybe you’re even working part time and watching even more time get eaten up. You try so hard to do everything, but you just can’t keep up. Family time and helping around the house slips by unnoticed as the "busy apathy" sets in.

The purpose of the blog is to encourage each other and keep each other accountable in our studying...don’t get so busy with your studying that you become apathetic to your family!

Colossians 3:23-24–And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

P.S. I know I have written several similar posts about busyness recently, but it is something with which I struggle. I apologize if my writing is somewhat repetitive!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Broken pieces

I guess you could say I have a bit of an obsession. If I’m happy, I solve a Rubik’s cube. If I’m bored, I solve a Rubik’s cube. If I’m nervous, I will definitely be solving a Rubik’s cube. Last time I counted, I had about six or seven on my dresser. Since I couldn’t bring any Bible Bee study materials to the local competition on Saturday, I brought–you guessed it–some Rubik’s cubes.

I brought my very favorite one: the 4x4. It’s harder than the 3x3, and it’s even more fun. I haven’t been able to solve it for a few months...I have a suspicion that a friend may have rigged it when I wasn’t looking. Anyway, no algorithm I tried would solve it, so I finally decided to flip the cubes manually. When they called me for my oral round, I left the cube in the waiting room. Well, when I came back after the oral round and everyone was gone, I found it...broken into 57 pieces. No two pieces were left together. Probably some other contestants saw it on the table and decided to play catch and it a hit the wall...hard. I carefully scooped up the pieces and brought them into the other room. After a few minutes, I gave up–it was a mess!!

When I got home that evening, I laid all the pieces on the floor and sorted them out into by their color and placement. Then, I flipped them over and tried seeing how everything fit together. The 4x4 Rubik’s "cube" doesn’t even have a cube base; it is a sphere with X’s etched through it. How on earth did 56 square faces fit into a sphere? I slid the pieces through the sphere X’s. Some stuck, some didn’t. Why wouldn’t they fit? A few slides and clicks later, the ridges fit like puzzle pieces. Within an hour, I rebuilt the cube. Only 56 pieces had been laid out on the table, so there is still a hole. Unless I can find the missing piece somewhere, it won’t ever be a whole cube again, but I learned some interesting things when I was solving the cube inside-out.


  • First of all, a rigged cube can’t be solved from the outside. The problem wasn’t with the outside of the cube; it was with the internal structure. No matter what algorithm I used, I couldn’t solve it by manipulating patterns. It needed to be broken and changed on the inside before the outside could be changed.

  • Every piece fit together. When you look at dozens of pieces of plastic with weird curves etched underneath, they really don’t look like they fit together. But when you look carefully, you begin to notice patterns and shapes. Then, as you piece the problem together, you see the connection points. The pieces were made to lock together to form a whole. Switch one piece the wrong direction and the whole cube gets jumbled. Put ever piece in the right place, and you end up with a complete Rubik’s cube.

  • One of the more obvious things was that ever piece had a purpose. There weren’t any "extra" pieces. The puzzle is broken until every piece is in place...you can’t have a half-solved puzzle and say it’s done (as evidenced by the hole left in my cube by the missing piece). Mr. Rubik designed each piece to have a purpose in the whole; he created the cube to be one thing. Even when we scramble Rubik’s cubes up, they are still whole–they’re just convoluted wholes. In the beginning and the end, though, they are perfect.

You probably see where this is going now=) Our lives are just like that Rubik’s cube! Man started perfect and got "rigged" on the inside. No human manipulation can put us back together again. But, after God breaks us, we can be whole. It takes divine intervention–a renewed heart–to be perfect again. Our problems in life aren’t accidents; they are planned for a purpose. Our problems and struggles in life shape us into being conformed to the true image of what we should be. And finally, we serve a sovereign God. God created and designed us with a purpose. Everything that happens is for His purpose and His glory. Every piece fits together for His plan. Whether or not we like the design of the pieces, He has it right. Maybe I didn’t like that my cube was really a sphere and I wanted to change it. That’s too bad! I can’t change what it was meant to be! Maybe we don’t like what happened...perhaps we weren’t satisfied with a test score or competition. Well, God works all things for good, and He has a purpose for that! Remember, it takes breaking for wholeness! We’re just a bunch of broken pieces. God makes us whole. None of our twists and turns are going to make things better, but His working–no matter how hard it seems–will.

Philippians 2:13–for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

After Locals...

Congratulations EVERYONE!
No matter how Saturday went for you, if you did your best, you are a winner! I know you've heard that many times are starting to think of it as cliche, but it's true. 
If you are really doing this for the Lord, then the outcome is in His hands. As you breathlessly await the results to be posted on Wednesday, trust Him.
Maybe Saturday was a disappointing day for you, and you don't feel like you were able to represent what you really know. Trust Him.
Maybe you shone on Saturday, and you have already set your mind toward Nationals. Hold on a minute!  Revel in the Lord and what He has given you in His word. Trust Him!
Maybe you are more nervous now than before Locals, and you can hardly focus on anything without thinking about how you did. Trust Him!
God's way is perfect! His Word never returns void!  
Don't be so focused on the Bee that you forget the Bible!  
Enjoy God these next couple days, just spend time with Him, away from the memory cards and the Sword Study, tell Him you love Him. 
And here's a thought: Await His appearing with the same anticipation with which you await the posting of the scores. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Be Thou My Vision

I've been thinking a lot about this hymn these last few days of studying for the Local Bible Bee. May these words be the prayer of our hearts as we compete tomorrow!!

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art-
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son,
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
Hight King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven's joys, I bright heav'n Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

I especially love the words of the third verse; they apply so greatly to me - it's not about the prizes or praise of the competition - it's all about Christ and glorifying HIS name! He needs to be first in my heart - He needs to be my treasure, my wisdom, my Word, and my vision - both for the National Bible Bee and in every other area in my life!

Grace be with you all!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Press On

As we are finishing our work in our sword study on the book of 1 Peter I would like to encourage all of you to stay strong, finish the course, and stand fast through trials.  Our goal in this life is to "Live Victoriously Through Our Trials".  We will face trials but through God's grace if we submit to His will He will use our trials to build our character that we will be more like Christ.  This is my prayer for all of you.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." ~ Romans 8:28 ~

To God alone be the Glory as we prepare for the Local Contest for the National Bible Bee.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
These trials are to refine you,
To purge away all dross,
That through it all you'll radiate
The light of Christ, humility,
God's mercy on that wondrous cross.
 by Marie Morris                     
                              

Just a few more days!!

Well, it’s almost time! In just five days, we’ll be participating all around America in local Bible Bees. We have five days left to finish perfecting verses and complete our study of 1 Peter. Are you getting nervous? I am! Every day I look at that stack of verses, marked over with a rainbow of colors to remind me of all my mistakes, and I start getting that awful butterfly feeling again. With less than one week left, the relaxed morning quiet time turns into an intense study session. The evening quiz time often ends in tears as we realize just how far we fall short.

If you look at the Bible Bee website, it says that there are 2717 families participating for a total of 5653 contestants. Of those 5653 contestants, only 300 will make it to Nationals. The other 5353 will be done with Bible Bee for the year. They will be done with the Bible Bee, but never done with the Bible. The last page of the Sword Study says something like, "Congratulations! You’re finished!" Then underneath that, it says, "Which book will you choose next?"

As we’re getting close to the competition, I was encouraged by re-reading Alex and Brett Harris’s comments from the 2009 Bible Bee (http://www.therebelution.com/blog/2009/12/our-remarks-at-the-national-bible-bee/). After the all the study time you’ve put in, it’s hard to have to stop. It doesn’t matter if you end after locals, national preliminaries, semi-finals, or finals...we all have to admit that it’s over sometime. I remember how hard it is to be one of the 240 (or 255 by the new rules). To make it so far and then stop–it hurts! I can’t remember too many times when I’ve felt more discouraged than after the 2010 semi-finalists were announced and I was not one of them. But then I hit me that it wasn’t about the competition. We say that all the time, but do we really know what it means? After the competition was over, I decided that I was not going to stop. It was one of the best, life-changing commitments I’ve ever made. Whether or not you make it to nationals this year, I challenge you to continue what your memory work! Make Bible study such a part of who you are that you can’t go a day without it!

Philippians 1:6–Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

2 Timothy 4:7-8--I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Earth into Heaven

Have your heart right with Christ,

and he will visit you often,

and so turn weekdays into Sundays,

meals into sacraments,

homes into temples,

and earth into heaven.

~Charles H. Spurgeon

Doesn’t that sound lovely? Having ever earthly thing turn into its heavenly counterpart? If your heart is right with Christ, it will happen–earth becomes heaven! When your heart is sanctified (1 Peter 3:15), your life will become sanctified. Jesus’ set-apartness will change the common into the holy.

Have you ever felt that Sundays are the best day of the week, and that Communion Sunday was filled with an even more special joy? Sometimes when we walk into a friend’s home, we sense a certain peace and joy that overflows onto us. That is the kind of home that is filled with Christ’s love. We can have all of that by keeping our hearts right with Christ!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Traveling

This weekend, my family drove across the country to visit our family.  It was a long drive--20 hours!--but we have done it many times and look forward to our long family car trips.  They give us plenty of time to read, study, listen to sermons, and stare out the window.  This year, the ride was relatively uneventful.  Last summer, it wasn't, but that's another story=)  We pulled in the driveway after 3 a.m., and several very sweet cousins were still awake to help us unload.  For the next few weeks, we will be visiting a state that, although very familiar and "homey" from many years of visiting, is still not quite our home. 

It's a good reminder of what we began our summer thinking about in 1 Peter: The pilgrims, strangers, and aliens scattered around the world (1 Peter 1:1).  We can settle down here and enjoy being with family--some of our best memories were made here--but we won't be at home.  We're travelers.

During the drive, my older sister was reading and old edition of Pilgrim's Progress.  In the book, she noticed that Bunyan used the verbs "travel" and "travail" interchangeably (don't you love reading olde English!).  We were traveling to our grandparents.  Pilgrim was travailing to the Celestial City.  Traveling means we are going from one place to another on a journey; travailing means we are laboring and toiling.  When our traveling is difficult, we travail.  When we travail, we travel.  Our suffering doesn't leave us in the same place!  We travel from one place to another!

2 Corinthians 7:10-11--For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.  For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner:  What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication!  In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

Godly sorrow, or suffering, is not in vain!  Sometimes when our travailing seems in vain and we pray for strength, it still seems like we can't get through...things don't get easier.  But, as my pastor says, God's answer to prayer may not be taking the trial away.  It may simply be the strength to get through the day so you return to Him the next day and ask for more grace.

As we enter the last 20 days before the local Bible Bee competition, our travailing is getting more intense.  It's almost time!  Yet our journey is nowhere near over--Bible Bee is only the beginning.

Keep traveling and travailing to the Celestial City, Pilgrim!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Book of Treasure

Here is a poem I composed about Bible reading and studying.  It also applies to Scripture memory.  I pray that each of you may learn to love the Word of God greatly through our time with the Bible Bee.  The Bible is a Book full of treasures that God desires us to explore.  By reading and studying and memorizing His word we are able to know Him better.  This is my prayer for all of you, that you will gain treasure from His word abundantly.

Book of Treasure

How often when we read the Book,
Do we forget to take a look?
For Truth within the cover there,
Or words of Wisdom, pure and fair.

The Bible is God’s Word so pure,
It is divine, rooted and sure.
Trusting in others is absurd.
The Book of Treasure is God’s Word.

The key to unlock this Treasure:
His Word in our hearts with pleasure.
Searching for Wisdom so we find,
Jewels so rare, His Word divine.

The Bible is God’s Word so pure.
It is divine, rooted and sure.
Trusting in others is absurd.
The Book of Treasure is God’s Word.

So take a look within God’s Book,
Digging for a much deeper look,
Seeking the Lord with all your heart.
His Word has treasure to impart.

The Bible is God’s Word so pure.
It is divine, rooted and sure.
Trusting in others is absurd.
The Book of Treasure is God’s Word.

                                By Marie Morris

Monday, August 1, 2011

Rejoice!

1 Samuel 2:1–And Hannah prayed and said:"My heart rejoices in the LORD; My horn is exalted in the LORD. I smile at my enemies, Because I rejoice in Your salvation.

Psalm 16:11–You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 35:9–And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD; It shall rejoice in His salvation.

Habakuk 3:18--I will rejoice in the Lord; I will joy in the God of my salvation.


Philippians 4:4–Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, Rejoice!

Have you ever been reviewing a verse, and suddenly started smiling and laughing, rejoicing in the message of the verse? Some verses seem to demand that you stop for a moment and praise God. Psalm 139–You know my thought afar off..there is not a word on my tongue but, behold, O LORD, You know it altogether...Where can I go from You spirit, or where can I flee from your presence? Philippians 2–Christ humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. How can you read that without rejoicing? Our God is amazing!! And, in His perfect holiness and justice, He took our punishment and saved us from the death that we deserve. He knows our every thought, and yet He still saved us! What could give us greater joy than that? God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

My soul shall be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation!

Monday, July 25, 2011

I Hide Your Word Within My Heart

I hide Your Word within my heart
To keep me safe from sin;
For where Your truth is in control
No lie can enter in.

I shine Your Word upon my path
And walk within its light;
For where Your wisdom shines, O Lord,
It drives away the night.

I trust Your Word with all my heart
And give You thanks and praise;
For all the beauty of Your truth
That stands from age to age.

Text by: Claire Cloninger

This song seems to capture the truth of why we are hiding God's Word in our heart for the first place.
The reason we memorize Scripture is not to win an award or to go to nationals (though all those are great if they happen).  Rather, it is to hide God's Word in our hearts that we may know God better and that we may worship Him for is great and awesome deeds.
This is the reason we memorize!

In Christ's Love,
Marie

P.S.  If any of you get a chance, the music to this song is very simple to sing and could easily be used for your Bible Bee summer get togethers or for your local contests.  This song is in "The Celebration Hymnal" #411.

Give Me the Faith

Give me the faith which can remove
And sink the mountain to a plain;
Give me the childlike praying love,
Which longs to build Thy house again;
Thy love, let it my heart overpower,
And all my simple soul devour.

I want an even strong desire,
I want a calmly fervent zeal,
To save poor souls out of the fire,
To snatch them from the verge of hell,
And turn them to a pardoning God,
And quench the brands in Jesus’ blood.

I would the precious time redeem,
And longer live for this alone,
To spend and to be spent for them
Who have not yet my Savior known;
Fully on these my mission prove,
And only breathe, to breathe Thy love.

My talents, gifts, and graces, Lord,
Into Thy blessed hands receive;
And let me live to preach Thy Word,
And let me to Thy glory live;
My every sacred moment spend
In publishing the sinner’s Friend.

Enlarge, inflame, and fill my heart
With boundless charity divine,
So shall I all strength exert,
And love them with a zeal like Thine,
And lead them to Thy open side,
The sheep for whom the Shepherd died.

"Give Me the Faith" by Charles Wesley

So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God.  For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.  Mark 11:22-23

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The End of the Rope

You've been working on your verses all since the beginning of June. Though it's been hard, you have been able to do it, and as you move on, you think nothing can stop you. You're going above the number of verses you have to be doing daily. You're on track with your sword study. You've got a good review system going. But then...
But then you get overwhelmed. The time you spend on reviewing Bible Bee verses is getting more and more. Memorizing all of the references for all of the different cards is difficult. You don't get to do as much studying as you want for the Bible Bee, and many passages you don't know as well as you wanted to.
You're discouraged. You're spending many hours a day working on this, and... And you aren't where you want to be. You have so much work to do. You're exhausted; you're tired of doing it. All you want to do is to give up and call it quits.

Generally in trying to do something, there are two main time periods where it is easiest to give up. The first is a couple weeks after you started. You started the task with boldness and vigor, but it can too quickly die out, and you can give up. But the other time period when it is easiest to give up is when you're nearing the final stretch. You aren't quite at the point when you can see the end in sight, and you still have so much to do. The amount of time and effort is getting to you, and perhaps you don't have the strength to continue working at it. "Where can I get the strength to do this?" you might ask.

Psalm 11:1 says, "In the LORD I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, Flee like a bird to your mountain?" If our soul has taken refuge in God and we hope in God, what weariness can discourage us from our journey? God is our all in all; he is every thing that we need.

Galatians 6:9 says, "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." Are you discouraged? Do you want to give up? Look ahead to the end goal! Look to the time when you have done all of your verses, the Bible Bee is done, and you can look back at this time with satisfaction of having a job done well. Look forward to the time when the hardness is over! Look to when you can relax and rest and rejoice that you had the strength to get through it all.

But where do you get this strength? In Hosea 10:13, where God recounts the wickedness that Israel has done, He says, "Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors..." The strength to persevere and to continue on is not to be found in ourselves. We have no strength in and of ourselves to continue on. If we were just relying on our own strength, it would be best for us to just give up here. Because we wouldn't be able to do it.

But the glory of it is, is that we do it not of our strength but of God's! Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Through the strength we receive in Christ we are able to do it. This is a strength by which we shall be able to do all things, even memorize 250-500-800 verses in one summer for the Bible Bee.

Is your strength failing you? Isaiah 40:31 says, "but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." If we hope in the Lord, we will have our strength renewed. We will soar on the wind as if we were majestic eagles. It is when we realize that our own strength can do nothing to help us that God blesses us by renewing us with strength that comes from him?

So, like I am now, are you weary? Had you been hoping to have been doing better right now? Is the time commitment becoming burdensome? "Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." the psalmist says in Psalm 55:22. Look to God and trust in him. Cast your fears, your worries, and your burdens upon the Lord and hope in him. Because he will never suffer the righteous to be moved. If you trust in him, then he will not fail your trust.

Monday, July 18, 2011

So He said, "Come."

“Matthew 14:28-29.”

I sighed and turned my head toward the water. Perhaps the answer would be written somewhere in the waves? But no, nothing–maybe just a sailboat in the distance.

“First word please.”

“And”... “Peter”... “answered”...

“And Peter answered and said what? Skip.” My sister showed me the card. Of all cards to miss while one was studying at the beach!

And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.

As I’ve been reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, I have been amazed at how well it goes along with our study of 1 Peter. Bonhoeffer talks a lot about the call and the cost of discipleship, which is very similar to the theme in 1 Peter of salvation and suffering. Many of the passages on which Bonhoeffer focuses are our memory verses, and reading this book has helped me learn what I am studying.

In Chapter 2, Bonhoeffer focuses on the Call of Discipleship. In reference to Jesus’ call to Peter in Matthew 14:28-29, he says,

It means that we can only take this step aright if we fix our eyes not on the work we do, but on the word with which Jesus calls us to do it. Peter knows he dare not climb out of the ship in his own strength–his very first step would be his undoing. And so he cries, “Lord, bid me come to thee upon the waters,” and Jesus answers: “Come.” Christ must first call him, for the step can only be taken at his word. This call is his grace, which calls him out of death and into the new life of obedience. But when once Christ has called him, Peter has no alternative–he must leave the ship and come to him. In the end, the first step of obedience proves to be an act of faith in the word of Christ. But we should completely misunderstand the nature of grace if we were to suppose that there was no need to take the first step, because faith was already there. Against that we must boldly assert that the step of obedience must be taken before faith can be possible. Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe.

...If you dismiss the word of God’s command, you will not receive his word of grace. How can you hope to enter into communion with him when at some point in your life you are running away from him? The man who disobeys cannot believe, for only he who obeys can believe.
(The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

We might not walk on the water to go to Jesus as Peter did, but like Peter, we have received the call to come to Jesus. To refuse that call is disobedience...it is also the refusal of His grace. Are you answering His call? Will you lay aside all reasonable, earthly fears and trust solely in Him? Run across the troubled waters of life and have faith!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Be still

Have you ever made yourself a schedule and told yourself that you were going to follow it? Occasionally, I find myself writing them in fifteen-minute increments in notebooks to make sure a single minute isn’t wasted. I stick them on my bookshelf. My message board has lists of friends I want to email and phone numbers I need to call. My booklist is a large stack of dusty books sitting under the list on my bookshelf. There is so much to do and so little time!

Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).

Be still...be still...be still...

Quiet your heart and seek His presence in the still. Don’t be so worried about putting in enough hours studying Bible Bee that you forget to listen to His voice. Have you ever waken up while it’s still dark and begun to pray? Sometimes God speaks in the smoke and earthquake (Exodus 19), but other times it’s the still, small voice you hear only when you are still and listening (1 Kings 19:12). When you are the only one awake in your house, and the only other noise you can hear is the gentle pattering of summer rain on the roof, can you quiet your heart enough to hear Him? Are you so busy studying that you forget to listen?

Some days, studying feels like a complete mental exercise. I feel burned out and overwhelmed. I quickly flip through every card in the stack and say them till the words jumble together. I’m not listening. Slow down and be still.

Mark 1:35 “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.”

Jesus knew to seek God in the quiet solitude and there commune with Him. We need to follow His example. Quiet your heart and be still. Know that He is God.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Proud to be a Christian

Today is July 4–the day America became an independent country. Fifty-six men agreed to break away from England and become the United States of America–“one nation under God.”

Since the signing of the Declaration, America has fallen away from her Christian heritage. It saddens me to read the news and see how far away we are from God’s law.

Have you ever felt that you are an outside observer numbly watching the news and wondering how these things can be happening?

In some ways, we are. I live in America, but my citizenship is not in America. Philippians 3:20–For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. In our Bible Bee Sword Study, we were told to read the book of 1 Peter as if it was written to us. Who were the real recipients? The Dispersion...the pilgrims, aliens, wanderers...the “poor wayfaring stranger,” as the old gospel song goes. If you’re a wanderer, are you at home? Jesus said that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). My American citizenship is temporal and lasts only as long as I live in America, but my citizenship in Christ’s kingdom is eternal.

Today we celebrate the liberty of our country. Why not use today to celebrate our liberty in Christ? Galatians 5:13 says that we have been called to liberty. We are free from sin–isn’t that amazing? We have been freed from sin, and now we serve our King! Even in a “free” country, we still have to obey some form of government. No earthly government is perfect, but our King is perfect. It is a joy to serve Him!

Jesus taught us to pray to the Father “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). Revelation 12:10 says, Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down." We eagerly wait for the day when His kingdom will come...and we know it will!

God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14). On Independence Day, we look back and celebrate the good our country has accomplished–I am proud to be an American! But my identity and true pride do not lie in being an American; rather, they are in Christ. The world is nothing to me, because I am not a citizen of it. We boast in the name of Christ.

I am proud to be called by His name. I am proud to be a Christian.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Eternity

Today I attended a funeral. Yes, I had the joy of being present at a memorial service of a dear, Christian man named Harold Reiner. I would have rather been there than anywhere else. Why? Let me explain.

This man, Uncle Harold as I knew him, was a Christian giant. He had fought the good fight, he had finished the race, he had kept the faith. He had served as a missionary to Brazil faithfully for over sixty years. He was completely surrendered to the call of the Lord. No matter what circumstances he faced, he consistently did what the Lord wanted him to do. He faced many, many hardships throughout his life. His first wife died, leaving him the father of four kids. He lost two of his children in a plane accident. But, no matter what, he still faithfully finished the course that the Lord had laid out for him. He never gave in. His heart's desire was to see the unreached people reached. Through his work, there are now thirteen churches and two camps in existence and hundreds of lives saved.

I had the amazing privilege to be impacted by Uncle Harold. I was able to go down to Brazil and see all the different places where he had ministered. I spent countless hours traveling with him and was able to hear story after story after story of all his adventures in Brazil and how God had used him in his ministry. He always was encouraging me to follow the Lord. He always had a verse to share, a quote to get you thinking about.

And now, Uncle Harold's journey on earth is over. All the trials and hardships are over. He finished his course. He is now in the presence of our Lord, rejoicing and praise Him. 1 Thessalonians 4 talks about how we as Christians don't sorrow as those who have no hope. Why? Because we have the amazing hope of heaven. Uncle Harold is freed from the pains and sorrows of this world. He is in a better place. This is reason to rejoice!!

At the funeral, Uncle Harold's son shared some thoughts. When we leave this earth, we will take no possessions with us. Only two things about our earthly life will matter for eternity. First, the legacy we leave behind. Second, the people that we reached with the Gospel. Uncle Harold left an amazing legacy. His life shared the message of complete surrender to the Lord. He made so many great memories with everyone he knew. He also reached hundreds of people with the Gospel. His work on this earth is over, but what he did here will last for all of eternity.

What about us, though? What does all this have to do with us? Well, we are still on this earth. We still have to run the race that is set before us. Will we follow the Lord's call? Will what we do here in this life count for the rest of eternity? What kind of legacy are we creating? How many people are we reaching with the Gospel message? We only have one short life to live before we enter eternity. I don't know about you, but I want my life to count. I don't want to waste it. What will be said of us when we leave this world? We, as Christians, have heaven to look forward to! Let's keep our eyes on the prize as we run the race set before us. May our heart's prayer be to have it said of us, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

So, why would I have rather been at the funeral than anywhere else? Because I get to think about eternity. I get to remember Uncle Harold's life and be encouraged to keep pressing on until I reach heaven as well.

Blessings, friends!






Sunday, June 26, 2011

Is the Word in you?

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”(that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:8-9).

Does that passage excite you? We hear the second verse quite frequently, but what about the first verse–have you ever thought twice about it?

The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. That’s the reason we are doing Bible Bee! Why else bother memorizing hundreds of verses? If we simply wanted to exercise our brains over the summer, we could put together a challenging book list or take an extra course for school. The Bible would still be very accessible to us. All we have to do is enter a key word on http://biblegateway.com/ and come up with 273 answers, some of which are more relevant than others. As helpful as it is to have every verse reference of the word “love” come up with one click (there are 494 in the NKJV), I would rather have just one of those written in my heart.

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:10-11

Skimming over that verse and copying here didn’t change me. I want to have that verse near me; I want it in my heart! That verse is life-changing! God loves me, and He sent His Son to save me! Because of His love to me, I need to love others. I want to be able to answer yes to Paul–to say “Yes! The word is near me, it is in my mouth and in my heart!”

We are now officially past the 1/4 point in our Bible Bee studies. It’s about the time when that little voice in you head starts saying, “What?! Still 75% to go? Maybe next summer I’ll take a break from Bible memory and actually get my life back!” Please remember why we are studying! God’s Word has the power to change lives, but you must have it near you–in your heart–before it will change your life!

If you are getting discouraged and feel like you’re wasting time memorizing Bible verses, may I ask you a question? If Jesus died for you, don’t you think you ought to live every minute of your life to Him?

Friday, June 24, 2011


Christ's blood has cleansed us from our sin, and we are in awe still. How, at any moment in time, do we know we are walking in step with the Spirit? Because we have the Spirit. How do we know we are honoring the man whose blood was shed for us? Because he has given us a conscience with which to think and to know and to love him.
Jeremiah 10:11-16 says, 11 "Tell them this: 'These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.'" 12 But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. 13 When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses. 14 Everone is senseless and without knowledge; every goldsmith is shamed by his idols. His images are a fraud; they have no breath in them. 15 They are worthless, the objects of mockery; when their judgment comes, they will perish. 16 He who is the Portion of Jacob is not like these, for he is the Maker of all things, including Israel, the tribe of his inheritance-the LORD Almighty is his name."
He is God Almighty, and to him our lives flow in worship, adoration, praise, holy living, and love to others!
Let us view ourselves as more of flowers belonging to the gardener, rather than someone unconnected with eternity and important to other humans. When we keep silent, maybe our inward selves are groaning! We need to speak! When we let others down, we need to go back and lift them up again! We are conquerors by his blood, pursuing goodness and life!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Happily ever after

My family has a tradition of setting aside Friday evening as family night. We research the latest BBC adaptions of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, and all our other favorite authors, and then count the days till we get to watch the movie. When the day finally comes, we leave 21st century America and travel to old England. We become so engrossed in the movie that someone listening to our conversations would think that Lizzie Bennet, Horatio Hornblower, Molly Gibson, and Arthur Clennam were our best friends.

This last Friday, after finishing Our Mutual Friend, I was thinking about how nice happy endings are. All the good people end up happily married, and all the bad guys end up either dead or unhappy bachelors (since of course in English drama the married state represents ultimate bliss). With Dickens, it feels a lot more complex, but it generally boils down to that=) Something in us longs for a happy ending. When a bad guy gets what’s good and a good guy gets what’s bad, our sense of justice starts yelling at the author. We want a good ending. God made us that way. He, the Author of life, promises us that He has already written a happy ending for us.

Revelation 21:4-5--And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

In Bible Bee the past few weeks, we’ve been studying about inheritance, salvation, and suffering. In a good story, the good people end with some sort of inheritance or treasure that usually comes about through a redemptive process. Normally, the redemptive process involves suffering. Why do we enjoy watching good characters suffer? Through the suffering, they grow up into stronger characters. They become deserving of the happy ending–the inheritance–that we sincerely hope will happen.

In real life, we don’t usually go through a challenging year and then find ourselves possessors of large fortunes. The inheritance that we’ve been promised isn’t an earthly inheritance; we will only find it in heaven. Oftentimes, we hear Romans 8:28 quoted to us when we’re struggling. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Why do good people suffer? What about the trial that never results in any good? God doesn’t promise us that He will make all things work together for good in our lifetime; He promises is that He will make all things work together for good in His plan. Sometimes the good doesn't come till after our lifetime; we see the good when we are in heaven. Maybe Dickens wrote a good chapter-long ending at the end of 600 pages, but God promises a good ending for all of eternity! Praise God for His promises!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Only One Life...

I have been blessed and challenged by this hymn lately; Only One Life. Here are the words of it:

Only one life to offer
Jesus, my Lord and King;
Only one tongue to praise Thee
And of Thy mercy sing
Only one heart's devotion
Savior, O may it be
Consecrated alone to Thy matchless glory
Yielded fully to Thee.

Only this hour is mine, Lord
May it be used for Thee;
May ev'ry passing moment
Count for eternity
Souls all about are dying,
Dying in sin and shame;
Help me bring them
The message of Calv'ry's redemption
In Thy glorious name.

Only one life to offer
Take it, dear Lord, I pray;
Nothing from Thee withholding,
Thy will I now obey;
Thou who hast freely given
Thine all in all for me,
Claim this life
For Thine own to be used, my Savior,
Ev'ry moment for Thee.

We only have one life....we'll only live today once....let's make it count for eternity!

Grace be with you!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Answering the call

Ashley’s post about the call of Christ reminded me of one of Keith and Kristyn Getty’s songs titled “Hear the Call of the Kingdom.” Yohannan’s message was Christ's call; this song should be our answer!

Hear the call of the kingdom
Lift your eyes to the King
Let His song rise within you
As a fragrant offering
Of how God rich in mercy
Came in Christ to redeem
All who trust in His unfailing grace

King of Heaven we will answer the call
We will follow bringing hope to the world
Filled with passion, filled with power to proclaim
Salvation in Jesus' name

Hear the call of the Kingdom
To be children of light
With the mercy of heaven
The humility of Christ
Walking justly before Him
Loving all that is right
That the life of Christ may shine through us

King of Heaven we will answer the call
We will follow bringing hope to the world
Filled with passion, filled with power to proclaim
Salvation in Jesus' name

Hear the call of the Kingdom
To reach out to the lost
With the Father's compassion
In the wonder of the cross
Bringing peace and forgiveness
And a hope yet to come
Let the nations put their trust in Him

King of Heaven we will answer the call
We will follow bringing hope to the world
Filled with passion, filled with power to proclaim
Salvation in Jesus' name

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011

I am a...

“I am a vile, polluted lump of earth.” I often wonder what Mrs. Watts must have thought when her young son showed her an acrostic of his name beginning with that line. Have you ever felt like that–vile and polluted? When you open your Bible and start memorizing verses, have you felt horrified at how dirty you are compared to how holy God is? The past few days, I have been convicted about what a sinner I am. All those verses we’re learning about our holy and righteous God, a God who cannot abide wickedness–and then here am I: A vile, polluted lump of earth. How can I–a sinner–commune with Him? He cannot look on wickedness (Habakkuk 1:13).

Yet His grace is sufficient. I am a great sinner, but Christ is a greater Saviour (John Newton). Christ’s blood washes away my dirty sin. Because of Him, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence, knowing that we are forgiven! Knowing His forgiveness toward us changes our fear to love. Instead of fearing the God who destroys the wicked, I can love the Man who saved me.

As Ephesians 3:12 says, we have access with confidence through faith in Him. Having confidence in His love, we cannot help but seek Him. Aren’t you looking forward to a whole summer of intense study of the Bible?

Psalm 119:10–With my whole heart I have sought You...

For those who are interested...here is Isaac Watts' whole acrostic:
"I" - I am a vile, polluted lump of earth
"S" - So I've continued ever since my birth
"A" - Although Jehovah, grace doth daily give me
"A" - As sure this monster, Satan, will deceive me
"C" - Come therefore, Lord, from Satan's claws relieve me.
"W" - Wash me in Thy blood, O Christ
"A" - And grace divine impart
"T" - Then search and try the corners of my heart
"T" - That I in all things may be fit to do
"S" - Service to Thee, and Thy praise too.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

this is real.

Since November, this blog has been set up, ready for accountability and encouragement. Now it's here. We either have, or are EAGERLY waiting for our contest materials:) and the study is on!
Now is when the rubber hits the road, my friends! Now is when it matters WHY you are doing the Bible Bee. What is this really about for you?
Sometimes it is easy to get in the mode, and forget why we do what we do. Sometimes we get so caught up in the "Bee", we lose sight of the God of the Bible.
I encourage you, my friends, LOVE THE WORD! Don't let this summer just be about memorizing your verses for the day, and studying the Sword Study.  Make it a priority NOW, and set your focus on things above. The goal of this program is to develop in you a love and hunger for the Word of God, a desire you can never shake! Remember the motto from 2009? "Changing lives...one Bible verse at a time."
That is what this is all about! Don't let the studying just become a duty, PRAY, PRAY, PRAY that you would glorify God through it all! SHARE what you are learning with your friends and family. Discipline yourself to study the WORDS OF GOD, and you will never be sorry you did:)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Who am I?

This song by Casting Crowns has really ministered to me during these last few days and I wanted to share it with you:

Who am I?

That the Lord of all the earth,

Would care to know my name

Would care to feel my hurt?

Who am I?

That the Bright and Morning Star would choose to light the way

For my ever wandering heart?


{Chorus}

Not because of who I am,

But because of what You’ve done,

Not because of what I’ve done,

But because of who You are.

I am a flower quickly fading,

Here today and gone tomorrow,

A wave tossed in the ocean,

A vapor in the wind.

Still you hear me when I’m calling,

Lord, You catch me when I’m falling,

And You told me who I am:

I am Yours.

I am Yours.


Who am I? That the eyes that see my sin,

Would look on my with love,

And watch me rise again?

Who am I?

That the voice that calm the sea,

Would call out through the rain,

And calm the storm in me?


{Chorus}


Whom shall I fear?

Whom shall I fear.

‘Cuz I am Yours.

I am Yours.


Wow, I mean, isn't it just great that we can have a intimate relationship with the Lord of the universe?! That the God of all the earth would care for us and choose to make us His?! Amazing! Yet, so many times we forget. We get so caught up in the things of this life. We take it for granted that we are actually God's children. We just go about our daily lives and never let that fact impact the way we live. We don't take time to get to know our Father better, even though we've been given that AWESOME opportunity.


This summer, most of us will be intensely studying the Word of God. Did you catch that? The Word of God. Wow! Isn't it simply wonderful that we have a opportunity to study the very words of God? Don't let that fact loose its wonder. And as we study this summer, lets not take it for granted that we are able to get to know the Word of God and thus get to know God Himself. We need to treasure the opportunity that we have and allow what we learn to radically impact our lives.


Blessings!