Friday, May 30, 2008

Dad's Brownies

I didn't write this, but have always loved the message that it tells.

A father of some teenage children had the family rule that they could not attend PG-13 or R rated movies. His three teens wanted to see a particular popular movie that was playing at local theaters. It was rated PG-13. The teens interviewed friends and even some members of their family's church to find out what was offensive in the movie.

The teens made a list of pros and cons about the movie to use to convince their dad that they should be allowed to see it.The con's were that it contained ONLY 3 swear words, the ONLY violence was a building exploding (and you see that on TV all the time they said), and you actually did not "see" the couple in the movie having sex - it was just implied sex, off camera.

The pros were that it was a popular movie - a block buster. Everyone was seeing it. If the teens saw the movie then they would not feel left out when their friends discussed it. The movie contained a good story and plot. It had some great adventure and suspense in it. There were some fantastic special effects in this movie. The movie's stars were some of the most talented actors in Hollywood. It probably would be nominated for several awards. Many of the members of their church had even seen the movie and said it wasn't "very bad".

Therefore, since there were more pros than cons the teens said they were asking their father to reconsider his position on just this ONE movie and let them have permission to go see it. The father looked at the list and thought for a few minutes. He said he could tell his children had spent some time and thought on this request. He asked if he could have a day to think about it before making his decision. The teens were thrilled thinking; "Now we've got him! Our argument is too good! Dad can't turn us down!" So, they happily agreed to let him have a day to think about their request.

The next evening the father called in his three teenagers, who were smiling smugly, into the living room. There on the coffee table he had a plate of brownies. The teens were puzzled. The father told his children he had thought about their request and had decided that if they would eat a brownie then he would let them go to the movie. But just like the movie, the brownies had pros and cons.

The pros were that they were made with the finest chocolate and other good ingredients. They had the added special effect of yummy walnuts in them. The brownies were moist and fresh with wonderful chocolate frosting on top. He had made these fantastic brownies using an award-winning recipe. And best of all, the brownies had been made lovingly by the hand of their own father.

The brownies only had one con. The father had included a little bit of a special ingredient. The brownies also contained just a little bit of dog poop. But he had mixed the dough well - they probably would not even be able to taste the dog poop and he had baked it at 350 degrees so any bacteria or germs from the dog poop had probably been destroyed. Therefore, if any of his children could stand to eat the brownies which included just a "little bit of crap" and not be affected by it, then he knew they would also be able to see the movie with "just a little bit of smut" and not be affected.

Of course, none of the teens would eat the brownies and the smug smiles had left their faces. Only Dad was smiling smugly as they left the room. Now when his teenagers ask permission to do something he is opposed to the father just asks, "Would you like me to whip up a batch of my special brownies?"

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Patient in Affliction

Romans 12:12,
"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."

In one of my previous post I wrote about what I have learned about this first part of the verse, "joyful in hope". God has also spoke to me concerning the second half of this verse, "patient in affliction". I understand what it means, but when I first read this verse to be "patient in affliction" seemed like such a far off place for me to be. I understood that as a believer, in my life I am guaranteed to be faced with affliction. How I respond to affliction shows the depth of my love for God. This was really disheartening to me to realize this because my response to affliction, trials, difficult days was not a response that pleases the Lord.
As I thought about how we should respond to affliction my thoughts turned toward 2 men in the Old Testament. First Job came into my thoughts. He is known for his patience during unbelievable circumstances.
He lost his children, his livestock, his health and yet he never cursed God. Scripture tells us that Job was "blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil." He was not a bad person, he loved God and lived his life to God's glory. So when his life fell apart if anyone had a reason to say, "I don't deserve this, this is not fair! It was Job. But, he didn't do that. He knew that his God loved him deeply and even if he never gained back all that he lost he would always love his God. Do I love that deeply? Can I be as patient as Job? Can I say, "If you take it all away, I will still love you & live for you." ? I really can't honestly answer that. I would like to think that I could, but I don't know. I know that my family has lost things that we once thought were great, but now looking back, we see that they were not so great. So there was really no loss. Job experienced great loss and yet he remained patient in his affliction and God restored all that he had lost and blessed him twice as much.

Next I began to think about Joseph, found in the book of Genesis. He was the 11th son of Jacob. His brothers were very jealous of him as he held the favor of his father. They sold him into slavery where he ended up in Egypt. His father Jacob was a godly man. Though his sons were not as upright as he was, God still used them to build his Israel. But God set Joseph a part from the rest for a very special plan. After Joseph had been sold into slavery he was sent to be a servant in the house of the Captian of the guard. This was a great start for Joseph, until Potiphars wife decided that she wanted him for herself. She was a very deceptive women and had the trust of her husband. She lied to him saying that Joseph tried to take her to bed and Joseph was sent to prison. He stayed there for 2 years. Genesis 39:21 says, "while Joseph was in prison, the Lord showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes or the prison warden." It says over and over that the Lord was with prison.
So, I'm thinking that if I am Joseph, I would just want out of there. I don't want to have a job in prison as a prisoner. I want out of prison. But, Joseph never asked God to get him out of prison. He was there for 2 years. He had a lot of time to think about himself and his God. He was stuck here in this pagan land and his God was all that he had. He could either believe that his God would deliver him, or he could just try to believe in his self. He could be patient in his affliction or he could try to figure out a way out...his way.

The deeper in my walk with Christ I get the more aware I am of the reality that no matter the reason for the affliction, my patience and trust in the midst of it teaches me more about the greatness of my God than anything else. Learning to embrace my suffering rather than trying to run away from it brings me into a deeper understanding of the sovereignty of my God.
I am blessed when I am patient in my afflictions. I experience my God in ways that I would not if I did not choose this reponse. I am loved by the God of Job and the God of Joseph who never left them, but prospered them because of the their trust and love of Yahweh.
Father, Forgive me for my inpatience in my afflictions. Forgive me for wanting relief. Help me to keep my heart searching for your truth and hope. I want to be joyful in hope and patient in my afflictions. Thank you for your patience with me and your deep love that brings me hope every new day you allow me to experience.

Joyful in Hope

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction & faithful in prayer". Romans

I read this verse a long time ago and while I really liked it & stuck it to my bathroom mirror to remember, I didn't completely understand the first phrase, "be joyful in hope". The rest of the verse made perfect sense to me, but this first part was a little more difficult. I felt like it would require more of me possibly than the later two statements. I understood what it would take to me patent in affliction and faithful in prayer; but joyful in hope?
I began looking up the meaning for the words joyful & hope. I really like doing this because there are so many times that I think I know what a verse means until I begin to search out the roots of the word. I found this definition of joy.

Joy; "Happiness over an unanticipated or present good."
Joy is in the root of rejoicing which is how the Geneva and the King James both translate the Greek text to say. And here is the definition of hope that I found.

Hope ; "To trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; or to expect something beneficial in the future."

So, according to these two definitions I am to be happy or cheerful as I trust in and wait for the Lord to do something outstanding in my life. That sounds all good and biblical, but not very realistic to me. If my life is falling apart, how am I to be happy? How can I be happy that my life is falling apart? (My life is not falling apart by the way; I just think it is sometimes) Here is what I have come to realize about this part of the verse. God NEVER expects me be happy that I am experiencing difficulties. He's not even happy that I am experiencing them. What I am to be happy or joyful about is the fact that he is at work in my life, he is going to do something great, he is going to reveal himself to me in ways I can not even imagine. I am to be joyful in the hope of what he is about to do in my life. That sounds like a lot more fun!

It means that while I am in the midst of my boat called life and the waves are splashing up against the boat, spraying me in the face, I can look out and see him standing in the boat with me, keeping the waves from sinking my boat. He is getting ready to calm the sea, but first he wants me to trust him. That is another part of the definition of hope; "to trust in". It is very easy to say that we trust God in our lives, but when it really comes down to it, do we?

I fail at this so often. I say that I trust him to answer my prayer or to take care of something, but when I see the clock clicking away & he doesn't seem to be doing anything about it, I step in and play God again. It would be like me taking the oars in the boat and trying to row back to shore. The shore looks safer than the storm I'm in so I want to go back. And God in all of his mercy let's me go back to shore at times. He gives me what I want. And it is the same outcome every time. FAILURE! I don't trust, instead I think that I can do a better job than God! Oh my goodness, doesn't that sound wonderful? WRONG! Who am I to think that I can do a better job than the one who simply spoke me into existence...forget me; he spoke the whole universe into existence. Have you see how big it is out there & here I am thinking that I know how to handle my life better than he would.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares
the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than
your ways and my thought than your thoughts." Isaiah 55: 8,9 (NIV)

The honest fact is that none of us can even get out of bed in the morning if our God doesn't want us to. He is every aspect of every second of our day. He thinks about us more than there are grains of sand on the sea shore.

"How precious are your thoughts about me O God! They are innumerable. I can't
even count them; they outnumber the grains of the sand!" (Psalms 139:7-8)

He loves us so deeply that he gave his son to die so that we wouldn't have to. The emotions that I experience when I think about the depth of that love, that I am not even capable of, are enormous! I am engraved on the palm of his hand, he will not forget me!

"See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;" (Isaiah 49:16)

Why wouldn't I be joyful in hope? Why wouldn't I trust him to do a better job than I am doing with my life? Why wouldn't I be happy that he is about to do a great new thing in my life!

Isaiah 43:19, For I am about to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun!
Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness for my people to
come home. I will create rivers for them in the desert!

I found this commentary in the Matthew Henry's, and I thought was very thought provoking.

" He is honored by our hope and trust in him, especially when we rejoice in that
hope. He is served, not only by working for him, but by sitting still quietly,
when he calls us to suffer. Patience for God's sake, is true piety. Those that
rejoice in hope, are likely to be patient in tribulation. We should not be cold
in the duty of prayer, nor soon weary of it" (Matthew

Remembering that my life is not really about me, rather it is all about God puts this verse all in perspective. I can be joyful in my hope of his touch on my life as I am patient in my affliction and faithful in my prayers, because it is through him that all things happen.

Heavenly Father, help me to rejoice in my expectancy and trust of your working in my life. A~men!

Be Wise Toward Outsiders

My door bell rang one afternoon. This was nothing new. We live in a busy neighborhood. My house has been compared to “Grand Central Station” with all of the neighborhood kids & my kids going in and out.
My son answered the door and then came and found me.
“Mom, those guys are here.”
“What guys?” I asked.
“You know, those guys who wear dark pants, white shirt & have backpacks.”
Mormon Missionaries.
“Ok, no big deal. Let’s see what they want.” I knew what they wanted.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:5,6
I thought of this verse as I made my way to our front door. On my porch were 2 very clean cut & well dressed young men. I knew I had a choice, though at the moment I didn’t really consider my choices. I just knew what I was to do.
“Hi, how are you?” I asked. They looked a little taken back, that I was not closing my door on them.
“Uh, fine, thank you. We are from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and we would like to share with you some information about Jesus Christ.” His words were very scripted and rehearsed. I listened to them and we talked. Because I had a big family I had an instant connection with one of the boys because he was also from a large family. We enjoyed casual conversation about our families and how fun it can be. But we also discussed salvation. I asked them questions, some they had answers to, some they did not.
I had a choice that day. I could either be very short with them and say, “I am a Christian and I am not interested in what you have to say.” and they shut my door with them on my front porch. Or I could talk with them, with grace, and listen to what they had to say.
I do not agree with the Mormon beliefs for a multitude of reasons. But that does not mean that I should run away from them or be rude to them. When I open my door to them, I am taking every opportunity to show the love of Jesus to them. Even if we disagree, I can still love them with the love of Jesus.
They thanked me over and over for being so kind to them. Then they said this, and it really saddened me; “You are the first Christian to ever be so kind to us.”
Moms, we have a responsibilty to our children to let them see us be wise in the way we act toward outsiders. If they see us slamming the door in someone’s face & talking unkind things about them, they will repeat it. Honestly speaking, I did not want to talk to those guys. I knew that I could not convert them. I really did not have an extra hour in my day to stand on my front porch talking with them. But as a believer, I have learned that God gives me opportunities in front of my children to honor Him. They are watching very closely! They are listening to our conversations and then repeating them to their friends.
It is a sad day when Christians are knows for their rudeness to unbelievers. But we are here, moms! We are in this day. Are we going to raise up more rude & arrogant Christians? We will if we are that way ourselves.
Years ago, I was one to slam the door on the Mormons or Jehovah Witness when they came to my house. I did not want to talk to them. But the Lord changed my heart. He showed me that my sin is no less than wrong theirs. I am no better than they are. I am just as depraved and capable of evil as they are. The difference is that I believe in the saving blood of Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, there is no amount of good works that will get me there. That is how I am different from unbelievers. I am no better than they are.
Please be careful how you act toward others. Whether in the grocery store, at the park, or on your front porch. Show you kids how to be graceful and loving to others. They will copy you. They want to copy you.

Father, Help me today to be aware of opportunities that you give me to show my children how to be wise toward others.