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Faith's Firm Foundation: December 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thankful Thursday: His Unfailing Presence

His Unfailing Presence

Another year I enter
Its history unknown;
Oh, how my feet would tremble
To tread its paths alone!
But I have heard a whisper,
I know I shall be blest;
"My presence shall go with thee,
And I will give thee rest."

What will the New Year bring me?
I may not, must not know;
Will it be love and rapture,
Or loneliness and woe?
Hush! Hush! I hear His whisper;
I surely shall be blest;
"My presence shall go with thee,
And I will give thee rest."
--Unknown Author 

I'm grateful for many things today:
A quieter time to spend at home with family between Christmas and New Years.  Health: another year cancer-free. My two grown children walking with the Lord. One year closer to heaven.  That God is in control, no matter what happens. That He promises to never leave me nor forsake me. That He is at work in me and my circumstances even when I cannot see His Hand. For a very blessed life.

No matter how you look at it, the world is not going well.  We are definitely in the last times.  Though I have many blessings, and am not suffering, I do not look at this world as a place I would want to stay in forever.  I am exceedingly grateful for heaven.  I think that the Lord made the human spirit to long more fervently for "home"--heaven--the nearer we approach to it.  And as loved ones who were saved precede me in death, it seems closer than ever.  But as long as I'm here I have work to do.  I'll be setting goals for the new year soon.  I'm grateful that God has given me time here to share with others the Good News, but I know I fail miserably, and pass up opportunities.  I'm grateful for His mercy. And I pray I'll do better in the coming year.
What are you grateful for this Thankful Thursday? Leave me a comment and let your thankfulness flow.  (You can participate and read other grateful posts at Grace Alone.  Thanks, Iris, for hosting.)
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Messy": When Others Mess Up My Life

Before I continue with my thoughts on how God's Perfect Plan is sometimes very "messy," it's the week after Christmas.  This time of year I tend to wish there were an extra month at the end just for catching up! If you find yourself after Christmas, as I do occasionally, feeling a little "let down," discouraged or out of sorts, (usually, in my case, due to the effects of MSG) here are my tried-and-true methods for a quick recovery:

  • Get a little extra sleep, or at least, regular sleep
  • Eat right (more veggies; less, or no sugar:)
  • If you're feeling a little down or depressed, realize that it may (though not always) be due to over-pushing yourself physically (possibly "abusing" yourself), over the last few weeks--and give yourself some grace by not setting high expectations while you're recovering and getting back on track
  • Be in the Word of God daily (this should be first on the list)
  • Clean up your house a little? (If it looks like mine does after Christmas:)!
  • Get a little fresh air and exercise

This week is also typically a time of reflection--looking back over the year--and looking forward--making decisions about what the Lord would have us do and be in the coming year.  I've been thinking lately about how God's thoughts are not my thoughts and how I need to align my thoughts with His.  Reading God's Word is paramount and essential in this endeavor.

I am reading many chapters of the Bible each day this week, trying to finish my goal of reading through the Bible in a year--knowing I will not reach that goal, though, since I decided to "go for it" some time after January 1 last year, and haven't followed the schedule perfectly.  But I'm still seeking to finish as close to the end of the year as possible.  Reading through the Bible in a year isn't a legalistic goal for me, because my goal in having a "Quiet Time" is to spend time with the Lord, to hear from Him through His Word, and to obey what He tells me, but reading the whole Bible does help me to know better His full will and thoughts and it's a goal that I recommend, though I caution you not to think you've sinned if you don't reach it.

I use a Bible Reading Plan from Discipleship Journal (NavPress), which I print out and keep in the cover of my Bible.  I encourage you, whatever method (or schedule) you use, to plan your reading and set a goal for the year.  Having a reading plan has helped me to become more consistent in Bible reading.

Yesterday I spoke about God's perfect plan sometimes being very "messy"--a term I use to describe circumstances which we would not look at as the most desirable or not having things "go well" or smoothly.  How do I respond when things are "not going well" or as I would have them?  Often we find ourselves in a position of going through a trial due to "no fault of our own," but because of someone else's choices or actions.  I've been thinking about how God has made our lives so interrelated, and just how much we affect one another.  This is His perfect plan.

When we open ourselves up, as Jesus has commanded, to love one another, we make ourselves vulnerable.  Our lives will be affected by the actions of others.  Their, and our, beliefs, choices, decisions and actions have a ripple effect.  This is a sobering thought as I think about how I'm affecting others' faith and lives by my choices and actions.

In terms of life being "messy" sometimes, yet in God's perfect plan, I can't help but think of Joseph, who we read of in Genesis.  Though the actions of others had a profound, and very "messy," effect on his life, he was given grace to say in the end, "But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good." (Genesis 50:20)

As a believer in Jesus Christ, how I respond to others' words and actions and the "messes" they make in my life must be dictated by the Word of God.  What do I do with my anger? How do I deal with bitterness?* Did God go to sleep? Is this a "mess," or His purpose, or both?  What are His thoughts?  His ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not my thoughts.  I ask for His grace to respond in agreement with Him about the "messes" He allows others to cause in my life.

  • Are there any trials I'm going through because of others' choices and actions, which I need to respond to with His thoughts?
  • Are there areas in my life that I need to change so that I'm not "messing" up others' lives?
  • Am I practicing "loving one another" and remaining open, or have I closed myself off because I don't want to be vulnerable?
  • How do I need to change my thinking and acting to bring it into alignment with His thoughts and ways?
*Additional Links to some of my posts on bitterness:
Contentment in Christ Alone,
bitterness and self-pity,
Steps to Overcoming Bitterness
Going the Second Mile

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"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8-9

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Messy: "A Strange Way to Save The World"

I've been thinking all week about the fact that my thoughts aren't like God's thoughts and His ways are not like mine.  Let me explain.  If I'm planning something--an event, happening, or just trying to get something accomplished--I want everything to go smoothly.  I want it to go without any problems, glitches or snags--"neat and tidy" you might call it.

God doesn't think like me.  His perfect plan--God's PERFECT Plan, the one He put into place before the beginning of the world--was for Jesus to be born of a virgin, that she take a long trip close to her due date, riding on a donkey, that there be no room for them at the only hotel in town, and that she have her baby, God's Son, in a stable.  That was His Perfect Plan.  Nothing went wrong. It went just as He wanted it to.

All week long I've been thinking about how purposely "messy" it was.  I've been thinking about how, on days when I think things are not going well, or when there's a "mess" in my life, God might have been planning for things to go that way.  (I'm not talking about when there's obvious sin that's causing the problem.)  How do I respond when situations in my life don't turn out "neat and tidy," the way I think they should.  My attitude is that "neat and tidy" is what God wants, and that I'm sinning somehow, or not as mature as I should be, or "not measuring up," or something, if things aren't going smoothly.  I tend to analyze to see what I or someone else did wrong.  I tend to try to figure out how I can avoid the glitches, snags, and PROBLEMS the next time.  I tend to be upset with myself, or someone else, if I think they were "to blame."

Maybe, though, the way God sees it, it was just perfect.

When Jesus was born, God's plan was perfect. And yet. It was. Very. VERY... "messy."

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8-9
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmastime at Our House

From Our Family to Yours,
May you all experience the Hope
and Joy of the Birth of Our Savior,
Jesus Christ, as you celebrate!
"18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise:
When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph,
before they came together, she was found with child
of the Holy Ghost.
19Then Joseph her husband, being a just man,
and not willing to make her a public example, was
minded to put her away privily. 20But while he
thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD
appeared unto him in a dream, saying,
Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary
thy wife:

for that which is conceived in her
is of the Holy Ghost.
21And she shall bring forth a son,
and thou shalt call his name

for he shall save his people from their sins.

22Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 

23Behold, a virgin shall be with child, 

and shall bring forth a son,

and they shall call his name

 Emmanuel, which being interpreted is,
God with us."

"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD:
though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
Isaiah 1:18

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called Wonderful,
Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace."
Isaiah 9:6

"24Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him,
and took unto him his wife:

25And knew her not till
she had brought forth her firstborn son:
and he called his name JESUS."
Matthew 1:18-25
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Top Christian Books For Him

Here are my Top Five Recommendations (Especially for Young Men), in no particular order, and links to where you can find them:

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Got Any Ideas To Make A 25-year-old Son's Birthday Special?

Well, today's my son's 25th birthday. (See below for gift ideas for guys.)  First of all, I can't believe that my son is 25. I'm just not sure how that happened.  Anyways, what with Christmas so near, we have always tried to make his birthday special, but this year I feel like it got swept under the rug.  He thinks we're all making a bigger deal than he is about it, though.

I ordered Christmas presents for him, but completely forgot to buy him anything for his birthday, and even forgot to get him a card! (FYI: I am a card kind of person, and if I give anything, I give a card.  So what's up with me this year, I have no idea.)  After all my feeling so on top of things for Christmas, somehow I forgot about birthday gifts, plus NONE of his Christmas gifts have been delivered yet.  Aaargghh!

So, though he doesn't care as much as I do, it looks like, unless we get a UPS delivery today, we will be delaying opening gifts for a couple of days.  I realized on Saturday that I had no birthday gifts, and found some clothes (he likes nice clothes) on sale, but I couldn't get them online.  My plans were to run over to JCPenneys and buy the sweater and shirt that were on sale and that I had not been able to get online for him.  Tonight, we were going to go to Old Country Buffet (not my favorite restaurant, but he likes it--it must be a guy thing--and we can get birthday freebies there), and tomorrow we were going to be going out with some friends to a nice restaurant (however, not necessarily to celebrate his birthday).  All this has changed, however, because
we have a blizzard right now!!

My husband is off of work for 2 weeks, (but my son had to work on his birthday), and my husband called me to tell me he saw a pickup rolled over on his way to his dentist appointment, and basically discouraged me from going out. 

So, here I am turning to Plan B, trying to think of something to make for a birthday supper, hoping we get a delivery, looking for ways to make it special anyway, making my own card, and wondering how this happened. How would you make it special if you were me?  I hope he doesn't think I'm a terrible mother. 

Update (a couple of hours later):  It looks like we're going to try to go out after all, and I made some cupcakes, to which we've added Rolo candies--he LOVES caramel.  AND, a delivery came, which included gifts for him!! Yay.  I still would love to hear your ideas for making a birthday special for a 25-year-old, and especially how you've made Christmas birthdays work.

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Oh, by the way, some great gifts for 25-year-old guys are:  clothes, tools, and "toys" to let them be a "boy" again (remote controlled, for instance). Or if they have hobbies or are active in a sport, they'd enjoy some accessories, gear or "stuff" to go with that, for example a hockey stick, pucks, or warm hat or gloves. Do they like to watch sports? Tickets to a game, or a jersey for their favorite player or a gift card for the sports shop that they like, is always appreciated.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Food Friday: Easy, Pretty, Special Recipe for Festive Appetizer Spread

I've made this easy recipe many times.
Simple, yet Special! And very pretty on your table!

photo courtesy Taste of Home
Festive Appetizer Spread
Yield:  about 3 cups
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 pkg (12 oz) fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup apricot preserves
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup slivered almonds; toasted
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese
Assorted crackers

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring water and sugar to a boil wihout stirring; boil for 5 minutes.  Add cranberries; cook until berries pop and sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Cut apricots in the preserves into small pieces; add to cranberry mixture.  Stir in lemon juice.  Cool.  Add almonds.  Spoon over cream cheese; serve with crackers.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator.  Editor's note:  the sauce may also be served as an accompaniment to poultry or pork.
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Family Time Together

It's Thankful Thursday (it is Thursday, right? The days have been running together lately!)  It's that crazy busy time of the year for many.  It usually is for me, too.  In fact, I can really "lose it" at this time of year.  I'm grateful this year has been a little different.  Several things have caused this year to be more laid back and peaceful and we have already had wonderful family time together. Yay, yay, yay! Thank you, Lord.
  • We had my father-in-law here for a week. That always relaxes everyone.
  • I ordered almost all my gifts online and stayed out of stores!! Yay! What a difference this made!
  • I set up a jigsaw puzzle in the family room early this year! I usually wait until my husband's Christmas vacation to set it up, because when there's a puzzle up, that's all my husband can think of:)  (This is a surefire way to draw my husband and son together, as neither can stay away from a puzzle! This week has been filled with cozy nights together wrapping presents, addressing cards, and watching old Dick Van Dyke shows on Netflix--my son laughs so hard at these--and listening to Christmas music.)
  • Lots of SNOW! This makes such a beautiful reminder of God's words:  "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD:  though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Isaiah 1:18  The snow and blizzard also postponed, for the first time in seven years, our annual Christmas skating party and potluck.  The house was already cleaned and orderly when we canceled, so I have been able to enjoy the "fruits of my labors" all week. (And we'll have the party later, which is good, because it is a wonderful time of skating, eating, and singing Christmas hymns, and sharing testimonies of all God's done in our lives since we were together last. A very precious time.)

 Though emotions may go up and down with the moment, due to stress, long lists of things to do, and way too many sweets and other foods that "whack us out," the peace and joy of Jesus Christ and His Spirit remains and will always.  He is our Rock, our Shelter in the Storm, our Fortress, our Defender, our Shepherd.  I am very grateful--thankful--that God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world for lost sinners, such as I, to die on the cross to save me from sin and the penalty of death and hell.

I worship Thee, Lord Jesus, for the great sacrifice You made on my behalf, to leave Your Throne above and perfect communion with Your Father, to come to earth and to die on the cross for my sins. I praise You, Father, for raising Him from the dead and accepting His sacrifice. Thank You.
(Visit Iris at Grace Alone, to participate and to read other thankful thoughts--Thank you, Iris!)
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Envy and Surmising: Have You Let Them In?

Proverbs 14:30--"A sound heart is the life of the flesh:  but envy the rottenness of the bones."
Proverbs 23:17--"Let not thine heart envy sinners:  but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long."

"Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?" the Bible says (Proverbs 27:4).  Does your normal "contented" state of being somehow go out the window at Christmas?  Do you look around at others and want what they have? No matter what our status:  marital, financial or other, this time of year we are encouraged to think about "what we want" that we don't have.  After Christmas you may hear the question, "Did you get what you wanted for Christmas?"  Though these questions in themselves may be innocent, Envy is anything but.  The Bible doesn't look at it as innocent, and so we should take a good hard look within and make sure it hasn't slipped in the door unnoticed.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7--
"4Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth."

Let me ask you, "Is it hard for you to invite others to your home because you don't think your home is as nice as someone else's?"  Do you find yourself saying, "If only I had _____" (you fill in the blank)?  Do you find yourself wracking your brain to figure out how you can find the money to get that "thing"......"We have to have come everyone else can afford to go, or do, or have?"
Yesterday, I began an allegorical story about a family and I introduced you to two sisters, "Bitterness and Self-Pity," who are actually twin sisters, and who almost never go anywhere without each other.  Today, their brother and another sister are joining us, but it's no pleasure to be around them, let me tell you. Where Bitterness leaves off, and Self-Pity usually hurts only herself, Envy takes action.

1 Timothy 6:6-8--
"But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content."

Envy is wicked.  She spits and spews out venom from her mouth, and scorches all her relationships with the burning desire she has to have what others have.  She is never satisfied.  For all around her she sees the happiness, the richness, the pleasure, the beauty in relationships and things which she does not think she has, but she wants, (but in truth, she will never be happy, no matter how much she has because of her own envy and covetousness).  It doesn't matter how much Envy has, she always wants more.  (Do you see any family resemblance between her and her cousin, Ingratitude?  Sometimes I do.) 

In the beginning, we may allow Envy to come to our homes and lives to peek in the window, or sit at our table briefly.  We would never openly invite her in.  But we're hardly aware of her presence, as she looks over our shoulder or drools over the things we see.  She says things like, "Oh, isn't that beautiful!" or "Wow, is she ever lucky!"

Definition of ENVY (from Merriam Webster's online dictionary

: painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage

Glass half-empty or half-full??
You may have seen her next to you when you were looking at your best friend's photos of the trip she took recently, or when you went to the Bible Study and Christmas Tea and all you could see was the home of the hostess and her lovely, "perfect" it seemed to you, home filled with beautiful furniture and decorations.  It almost made you decide not to attend anymore.  Was that Envy?  She's hard to recognize sometimes.  She loves to disguise herself.  Envy likes to look "appropriate," so she oftentimes waits just a little while before buying that thing that she has envied, and she even covers up her true character at times by ridiculing something that someone else has, but that she secretly wants, to "prove" that she doesn't want it at all.  In her heart, though, she believes that she "deserves" what she envies in someone else's life, and that if only she had it, then she would be happy.  She covets what she sees, and her eyes are never full.

Envy's brother, Surmising Accuser, is the sneakiest family member, though.  I am certain you have met him, and perhaps even in some fine Christian homes!!  Sometimes he is known by other nicknames, such as Assuming, Conjecturing, and Guessing, or nicer names such as Realistic.  But, he gets everyone around him in trouble, tripping them into sin, all the time!  Constantly prophesying and predicting, he will tell you what people are thinking--what you are thinking--what they will do, how they feel about things that have happened--why, he will even tell you how they feel and think about things that haven't happened, but he surmises that they will happen!  The worst part about him is that he never assumes anything GOOD! 

He follows up his assumptions of wrongdoing in others with an accusation, hence his middle name, Accuser.  He assumes the worst:  in people, in situations, in outcomes.  He guesses how things are going to happen, and states them as fact, without much mercy or grace.  He conjectures that the responses of others will be negative or bad--in word and deed, that all will go wrong, and he predicts that things will turn out badly every time.  He doesn't stop at thinking, but he reports his predictions.  He causes those he reports to to think evil, too.  He thinks he is speaking truth, but he has forgotten to speak the truth in love (if it is truth), and to think on "whatsoever things are of good report."

Philippians 4:8--
8Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

He often looks pretty good, quite "righteous"!  He appears to be the best of the family, and it can be difficult to actually cast him out, because of appearances--he's not really doing anything wrong--or is he??

May we be alert to any sign of the presence of this "family of  bad characters" lurking around this Christmas, and be quick to cast them out.
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