August 30, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Praising the Lord for:

~Weekend dates. My man and girl had one Friday night, while she & I had one Saturday night. Hopefully he & I will have one soon.

~Safety during a rash of recent thunderstorms

~The opportunity to minister to my youth girls these past few years. Circumstances have taken me away from that ministry for the upcoming year and I'm heartbroken. However, I'm reminding myself how blessed I was to teach them, and that God is sovereign even in this.

~Dinner time conversations as we three read through Voices From The Past - Puritan Devotional Readings

~The end of an eventful summer

~Thoughtful discussions of the iron-sharpening sort

~The upcoming launch of a new group blog. I am deeply humbled to be associated with these women.

~These words: "God's grace is his unceasing loving commitment to a race that has acted in a way that not only does not deserve such love, but actually deserves the very opposite." ~Graeme Goldsworthy

~And these: "The Gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not." ~R.C. Sproul

~Most importantly, these:

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
    our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest;
    for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
~Psalm 116:5-7

August 23, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Thanking the Lord this week for:

~hugs and giggles from a 3-year old overnight guest

~completed projects around the house

~the man who's completed those projects

~the girl who's helped the man complete those projects

~cooler temperatures


~one last date with my college girls

~my girl saying "Nanny taught me..."

~upcoming opportunities to write outside of this little blog

~a visit with a widower in our church family

~impromptu ice cream dates

What shall I render to the Lord
    for all his benefits to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
    and call on the name of the Lord,
I will pay my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people.
~Psalm 116:12-14

Review: The Yankee Officer and the Southern Belle

The Yankee Officer and the Southern Belle: A Journey of Love Across Africa is an autobiography written by Nell Robertson Chinchen.  Nell and her husband Jack have served as missionaries in Africa for more than four decades.

The Chinchens were married shortly after World War II. They'd been married for several years before Nell realized her need for the Lord, and longer before Jack would become a believer.  But the Gospel grabbed him tight and didn't let go.  The couple, along with their four children, soon left everything behind for Jack (who, by this time, was in his mid-thirties) to follow the Lord's call to seminary.  After serving in churches herein the US, the family accepted an opportunity to serve as missionaries in Liberia, Africa. 45-year old Jack, Nell and four of their seven children packed their belongings and headed to the jungle.
Waiting on the other side of the Atlantic was a multitude of people. Some had walked for two days to get out of the jungle and then had taken money-buses, and had even slept in the airport, in order to greet us as we arrived in Liberia!...We didn't realize that they were waiting for US until we got off the plane and were completely enveloped in the loving arms of these tribal people who had waited for so long for someone to come and live among them and teach them the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ....We have often said, "What if?' 'What if we had not kept going?' 'What if we had turned back?'(pp. 43-44)
Reading The Yankee Officer and the Southern Belle is like having Nell Chinchen in your kitchen, relating her amazing stories over a cup of something warm and cozy. Her narrative isn't necessarily in chronological order and is, quite honestly, difficult to follow at times. But I felt as if I was catching up with a dear friend.

The book also gave me a new appreciation for missionaries, especially the two young families from my church who are serving overseas. Sometimes we here in the US romanticize the mission field. Nell's story certainly changed my view.  The family has survived fires that destroyed their homes, rebel invasions, and the deaths of many who were close to them. Yet through it all, they have seen the goodness of the Lord.
Investment in LIVES is never a waste. And as we build Bible Colleges across this unstable, volatile African Continent, we are not considering the cost if the buildings do not last forever. We are building men and women for eternity. They will last forever. (p. 174)
I'd like to thank Christian Focus Publications for allowing me to review The Yankee Officer and the Southern Belle as part of a blog tour for the book.

August 20, 2012

Fall Reading List

 Cooler, shorter days lead to cooler, longer nights. As we gear up for the school routine, the promise of quiet evenings curled up with my favorite quilt and a good book brings a smile to my face. I am trying to be more intentional and more productive in my reading, and hoping a reading list will serve as an impetus to meeting this goal.

~Small Wonder because Elizabeth has challenged me to read it.
~Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption because her story touches me to the core.
~The Nine Day Queen of England: Lady Jane Grey because her story intrigues me
~Bringing It To The Table: On Farming and Food because my granddaddy was a farmer & Wendell Berry's writing captivates me.

~Little Women because it's been too long.
~Home because Lisa recommended it.
~Fahrenheit 451: A Novel because it's required for my girl this semester.
~The Giver because it's also required for my girl.

On Audio:
~The Poisonwood Bible because I've heard it's wonderful.
~John Adams because I admire him.
~A Tree Grows in Brooklyn because I've never read it & heard that I should.
~A Room With a View because I know I'll be craving something British.

For Study:
~A Woman's Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything because I'm reading with Jessalyn.
~Gospel Wakefulness because I need it.
~A Proverbs Driven Life: Timeless Wisdom for Your Words, Work, Wealth, and Relationships because I need this, too.
~In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life because my life needs a shift in focus.
~Practical Theology for Women: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in Our Daily Lives because I need a difference.


August 16, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Praising the Lord this week for:

~A man who corrects me gracefully, encourages me constantly, and loves me fiercely

~An ever-strengthening bond with my girl.  The Lord is knitting our hearts together as she grows; I pray it will continue throughout her teenage years

~Love and encouragement from a substitute mother.

~Beautiful, haunting words

~The Lord's comfort and hope in a difficult situation

~The upcoming launch of a new blog, which I am privileged and honored to take part in with a group of wonderful Christian women.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.
~Psalm 100:4-5 (ESV)

August 14, 2012

Modern Ministry Miscues

Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to trends I see in the modern church. Human tendencies toward self-confidence and self-sufficiency have led to the creation of ministry models that are man-centered rather than God-centered. The result is an overwhelming number of churches that are more style than substance.

We plan events and implement programs, certain that our efforts will reach people for Christ. We  disregard Jesus' words in John 6:44, No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. If we don't get the numbers we expect, we plan more and work harder.

Why have we not realized that these modern ministry techniques are not based on Scripture?  Have we ever considered:

Jesus wasn't "seeker friendly". The rich young man wasn't willing to be obedient to Jesus' command to sell his possessions and give to the poor.  Jesus didn't follow after him  to offer a compromise or beg him to change his mind. He let the young man go because He knew that not everyone will respond to the Gospel. (Mark 10:17-27)

Jesus didn't call us to convert everyone to Christianity. The Great Commission instructs us to make disciples, not converts. (Matthew 28:19-20)  As the Word Incarnate, Jesus spent His ministry teaching the disciples about Himself.  He modeled discipleship for them. He was intentional in His relationship with them.  "...[He] gave himself in depth to 12 disciples, not refusing to bless the masses, but not neglecting to invest in the few." (source)

Here is where we must begin like Jesus. It will be slow, tedious, painful, and probably unnoticed by people at first, but the end result will be glorious, even if we don't live to see it. Seen this way, though, it becomes a big decision in the ministry. We must decide where we want our ministry to count---in the momentary applause of popular recognition or in the reproduction of our lives in a few chosen people who will carry on our work after we have gone. (source)

Jesus didn't become like the masses in order to win them.  Jesus met people where they were, but He never offered Himself as a substitute for an earthly pleasure. Jesus told His disciples that He had called them out of the world (John 15:19). Likewise, we are not to conform to or love the things of this world (Romans 12: 2, 1 John 2:15-17).  Are "Christian alternatives" setting us apart or helping us fit in?

The first century church didn't have strategy sessions and long-range planning committees. In Acts 2:42 - 47, Luke tells us that the believers were devoted to teaching and fellowship. They took care of each other, prayed together, and spent time together. They lived their lives according to the ministry principles Jesus had modeled for them. They understood the function of the Church is to disciple obedient believers to go out and do the same (Ephesians 4:11-16).  The result was that God increased their number every day. 

Now there's a program worth following.

August 9, 2012

Thankful Thursday

It's been a strange summer - a girl too often gone, a schedule too filled, temperatures too hot, circumstances too difficult and grief too fresh. I have allowed myself to become mired in self-pity and melancholy.

Yet today I look to the words of Psalm 116 and see myself.

And I am reminded to be thankful.  This week, I'm thanking the Lord fo:

~Lunch with a sweet friend and her beautiful daughter.

~Words of encouragement

~Hot tea

~Cold medicine

~My caring husband and daughter

~Long-awaited good news from family

~A thought-provoking Bible study

~Iron-sharpening friends

~Tomato plants full of fruit

~A new ministry opportunity (more to come on that soon)

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
    our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple;
    when I was brought low, he saved me.
~Psalm 116:5-6

August 8, 2012

The Church's Responsibility to Teens

Present circumstances - not the least of which is the fact that my girl enters high school next month - have caused me to do a lot of thinking about the church's responsibility to teenagers. As I look over the youth ministry landscape, I see a lot of events meant to entertain rather than educate. Ravi Zacharias, speaking of youth in this month's Tabletalk, said it well:  "Building their faith is not a prime strength in our churches today. We seem to think that we need to entertain them into the church. But what you win them with is often what you win them to."

Today's active youth group seems more focused on fellowship and service than discipleship. I don't discount the benefits of spending time with believers or our calling to serve others, but I question the profitability of a youth group that doesn't balance these activities with in-depth Bible study. 

Sadly, many churches shy away from such Bible study. Perhaps they fear they will scare kids away, or that it will be too much for them to handle.  I agree with Danny Aikin.
If our schools can teach our children chemistry and biology, physics and geology, algebra and geometry, political science and economics, then we can certainly teach them theology and apologetics, Christian ethics and philosophy.
Yet youth ministry seems to follow so many other ministries that promote quantity rather than quality. It's a mentality that seeks to keep us so busy that we don't notice what we're missing.

Parents cannot rely on the youth group as the sole source of our teen's spiritual nourishment. We must be actively involved in their theological education. However, the church also bears some responsibilities to its members, regardless of age (see Ephesians 4:11-16 and Matthew 28:19-20).

I believe our responsibilities to youth go beyond discipleship and equipping. In Titus 2, Paul instructs Titus of these additional responsibilities.  Women are charged to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,to be self-controlled, pure,working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (vv. 3-5) We cannot wait until girls are in their 20s before we begin teaching these concepts. Girls develop their ideas about dating and marriage while they are still teenagers. It is imperative that the older women in the church invest in the lives of teen girls to instruct them on Biblical womanhood.

Likewise, Paul instructs Titus that older men have a responsibility to train the young men. A boy needs to be instructed in Biblical manhood long before he can register to vote.

Teens need time dedicated to this instruction, apart from one another and the pressures of male/female relationships. Giving them this valuable time in a single-sex setting offers a safe environment where honest questions can be asked and forthright answers given. Ideally, such teaching will enhance and reinforce what is being taught at home; however, in many cases it will actually give youth vital instruction they aren't receiving from their parents.

Even though the concepts of Biblical manhood and womanhood may not draw the numbers churches might want, we cannot overlook the fact that the Holy Spirit compelled Paul to give Titus these guidelines for the Church. When youth ministries do not encourage teaching according to Titus 2, they shirk the responsibility of discipling participants and leave the future generations to reap the consequences.

August 2, 2012

Living Quietly: A Clarification

A dear friend contacted me about reducing the noise I contribute online, specifically the line Family accomplishments are to be celebrated, not paraded for public consumption.

She recently moved away from family and friends, and they keep everyone updated through Facebook. My post caused her to think (and, far more importantly, pray) about her use of social media.  I wanted to share my response (edited for privacy), to clarify my post.

Believe it or not, that one line probably was the hardest to write in that post. My immediate family lives near me, so I'm not in the position you are. And I certainly think it's wonderful to share your photos, etc. with your family. Facebook is a terrific platform for that - yippee for technology! My daughter is 13. Of course, she's mortified whenever I post anything about her. I try so hard to respect that, and it's rare that you'll see me post anything personal about her on Facebook or my blog.

I think where I draw the line is the intent of the post. Is it to update family & friends (celebrating), or is it because I want my friends to think my children are so cute/smart, etc. (parading/boasting) As with so many things, it's a matter of the heart. We are wise to check our motives before each post.

It's not often I agree with (popular Bible teacher), but years ago I heard her speaking about idols. She said she could come very close to worshiping her children and she had to be careful with that. I certainly understand what she meant, especially after having a miscarriage & many health issues that made my girl's birth a true miracle. Social media has the potential to amp up the competition among mothers and turn us into child-worshipers.

I know for me, for this time in my girl's life, it is wise to avoid posting about her. Again - most of my family lives nearby and so I don't have to rely on social media to update them. I certainly understand those who do, and in no way do I condemn anyone for taking advantage of such a resource.

Kim said it so much better than I.  Read her excellent post here.