Tuesday, May 23, 2017

When God's Commands are Unpleasant




“I can’t do that.”
“But God told you…”
“Maybe I heard wrong. God would never ask me to do that.”

Perhaps these thought swirled in Jonah’s mind as he hailed a ship headed for Tarshish. The Lord had asked him to do the one thing he abhorred. The one assignment he refused to undertake. The one task he would not do.

Preach to the Ninevites.

Those wicked, violent, rich Gentiles. No. He would not do it. He would go in the complete opposite direction: to Tarshish. But as we all know, Jonah’s plans were abruptly reversed by a mighty storm and a great fish with an appetite for stubborn prophets. After several miserable nights in the fish’s belly, wrestling with God, Jonah eventually did what the Lord commanded him to do: preach to those wicked Gentiles.

How often we read this story and chuckle at Jonah’s foolishness in trying to run from the Lord. “What was he thinking?” we ask pretentiously. But have we ever run from the Lord’s will? Has the Lord ever commanded you to do the very thing you loathed doing? How did you respond? The Lord made such a request of me, and my reaction was not unlike Jonah’s.

It was a late Saturday morning and as usual we were all gathered around the breakfast table discussing the previous evening’s Bible study, held every Friday in our home. My sister Victoria, who teaches the young children, was lamenting her inability to prepare lessons every week.
“I’ve just been so busy with school, especially since end of the year finals are coming up, that I simply don’t have time to properly prepare a lesson.” She dejectedly pushed the fruit around on her plate.
Mom was quiet. Dad looked thoughtful. Turning suddenly to me, he asked, “How full is your schedule Gloria?”
Immediately sensing where he was going, I desperately tried to come up with an excuse.
“Look, I know I’m taking a Gap year, but that doesn’t mean I’m not busy too. I’ve got a book project I’m working on, an essay to write for a contest, weekly submissions for a study book some fellow Bible Bee friends and I are working on… not to mention maintaining my blog! You can’t pile Friday night kid’s lessons on top of all that.”
Apparently, my parents believed they could. And so the dreaded verdict was pronounced.
“Starting next week, you’ll be teaching the kids until your sister is done with school for this year.”
The sun seemed to disappear. Dark clouds loomed in the sky. I wanted to curl up in a corner and cry.
There are few things in this world that I hate. But teaching is one of them. Unlike my wonderfully patient sister, I have little tolerance for children, especially young ones. The thought of sitting down and teaching them for an hour fills me with anxiety and dread.
Seeing the distressed look on my face, my father tried to assure me, “It won’t be that bad. Besides, Victoria needs a break and you could use the practice.”
But I barely heard him. My mind was in turmoil.
“No!” I cried inwardly. “God, no, I can’t do this. Please no!”
All throughout the following week, I pushed off preparation for Friday, hoping that miraculously my parents would change their minds or my sister would suddenly decide to prepare the lesson herself. Neither of those happened. My first Friday night kid’s lesson went terribly. I was completely unprepared. Immeasurable was my relief when the study was finally over.

During subsequent weeks, I wrestled with God over the issue.
“Why God?” I cried every Friday morning. “You know how much I hate teaching. Why would you make me do this?”
The Lord works in mysterious and sometimes ironic ways. The lessons I was teaching the kids were based off the book of Jonah. As I began studying Jonah in preparation for Friday evening, the similarity between Jonah’s situation and mine were striking. As I told the kids about how foolish Jonah was in attempting to run from what God wanted him to do, I felt rather hypocritical. I too was trying to run from the Lord’s will. Slowly, the Lord began revealing to me the foolishness of my own attempts to escape the task He’d given me. Like Jonah, I realized you can’t run from God. His will is inescapable. Sometimes, His will requires us to do something distasteful, to “preach to Nineveh.”

Jonah’s Nineveh consisted of violent Gentiles.

My Nineveh consisted of squirmy kids.

The Lord may be calling you to a different kind of Nineveh. 

What will your response be to the Lord’s calling? Will you humbly obey, despite the urgings of your flesh to do otherwise? Or will you attempt to run and risk God’s rod of reproof?


Will you preach to Nineveh?




~




Starting this week, I'll be doing a blog study series through the book of Jonah. Be sure to look for the next post!




Monday, May 15, 2017

Book of the Month: Mothers of Famous Men




Summary:

     Why do some children grow to be highly respected and godly individuals while others amount to nothing more than wayward miscreants? It can arguably be stated that it is because of the loving care, or lack thereof, provided by their mothers. This book is a collection of short biographies focusing on the Christian character of the mothers of famous men. The author states in the introduction, "My purpose in writing this book was not to extol a few mothers but to pay tribute to the countless number of unselfish, devoted mothers everywhere."


Pro's:

     We often hear of people like John Wesley, Augustine, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington but rarely is mention made of their mothers, the women who molded them into the men they became. I enjoyed reading the book and, as it's only 154 pages, it didn't take me long to complete. I also really liked the collection of quotes from various notable people on the influence of their mothers. My favorite, and perhaps the most famous, is below.




Con's: 

     No negative comments on this book! It's an excellent read.


My rating for this book:

5 out of 5 stars (I loved it and would recommend it to anyone)






Monday, May 8, 2017

Blogiversary Survey Results!





     Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the reader survey last week! Here's what y'all had to say:



     Apparently, the advice I'd heard from other bloggers was true: the more you involve yourself in other's blogs, the more likely it will be for others to find your blog.



     Personally, I would've rated my blog's layout and colors a 3. So I'm not sure if y'all are being nice, or if I need to be content. :P



     This question was the main reason I wanted to do a survey. Now I know what kinds of posts I should focus on creating.



     The question following this one was "How do you think this blog could improve?" I got quite a variety of answers with most saying they loved the way it currently is, others saying they'd love to see more and longer posts, and one person suggesting funner fonts.

     Thanks once again to everyone who voted and voiced their opinions! They were duly noted and I will be seeking to implement them in future blog posts. :D






Monday, May 1, 2017

2 Year Blogiversary + Reader Survey




     Yesterday was the two year anniversary of this blog. Woohooo!!! Has it really been two years?? Anyways, I thought it would be fun to host a survey (after all, who doesn't like giving their opinion). The following poll has only five questions so it won't take you too long to complete. I'd really really appreciate the feedback!


powered by Typeform


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Book of the Month: Who Moved the Stone?







Summary:

     Albert H. Ross (who wrote under the pseudonym "Frank Morison") was a prolific writer during the late 1800's and staunchly skeptical of the Biblical claim that Christ rose from the dead. So he set out to disprove, in his mind, this irrational claim. Using the synoptic gospels, Ross retraced the events leading up to Christ’s death, burial, and supposed resurrection, trying to determine if the accounts are a faithful retelling of actual historical occurrences, or if they were fabricated some time after. Ross' discoveries shook not only his world, but that of thousands who read the result of his journey: a powerful book entitled Who Moved the Stone?.


Pro’s:

     Clearly and concisely written, this short but compelling book is definitely worth reading! I enjoyed walking with the author through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as he analyzed and verified the specifics of the resurrection account in a logical but comprehensive manner. I also really appreciated how, despite writing from a skeptical perspective, Ross is very respectful of the Scriptures. He nicely balances proving the Scriptures and reverencing them as the Word of God.


Con's:

     Throughout the book, the author seems to give preferential treatment to the Gospel of Mark, occasionally even above the other accounts. In chapter 13, while examining the details of the morning of Christ’s resurrection, he strains at the phrase “they saw a young man… clothed in a long white garment,” found in Mark 16:5. Ross goes on to make the case that, contrary to the statements of the other gospels, the individual who met the women at the empty tomb was not an angel but a man. This conclusion was the only one I strongly disagreed with overall. 


My rating for this book:

4 1/2 out of 5 stars (I liked this book and would recommend it to older audiences for theological reasons)





Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Messy Love of Easter - Guest Post



   The wonderful Belle from Seeing Everything Else agreed to do a guest post for this Easter. After reading, be sure to check out her blog here, for which she consistently posts encouraging and convicting articles. 


~


Horrifying. Scandalous. These aren't the words we usually associate with Easter.


Our normal thoughts fall more along the lines of pastel flowers, cute chicks and bunnies, and Precious Moments kids kneeling gently beneath a brown ceramic cross.


And those are sweet. Those are cute. Those are clean. But they're wrong.


Because Easter, the whole of this great story, isn't cute. It isn't clean. There are no pastels; no, it's stained in vivid hues of crimson and black and wretchedness and anger and violent love. Because Easter is nothing without the cross.


But so often we're tempted to check out. We know the story, or at least, we've heard it many times. But we forget. We forget how shocking it is. How dreadful. Our sin is a horrifying, messy thing, and to think that the answer to it would be cute and clean and easy -- It couldn't be. We violently removed ourselves and were swept away from God and life and light; and only a violent love, willing to do and endure all for us, could win us back.


So lay aside your prior knowledge, your prior suppositions for a moment. Read back through all the accounts (Mat. 26-28, Mark 14-16, Luke 22-24, John 18-21); it'll probably take about half an hour. Blow away the dust of familiarity, and read this as a story. (The Greatest One which ever was.)


As you read, can't you feel the tension, the dread, the rising anger at this injustice?


One of His closest friends comes, solely to betray Him. Peter pulls out his sword, he'll fight back and save Him! But he's rebuked, and the disciples scatter in terror. Later in that supposed-justice-hall, witness after witness rises up with eyes burning, spewing hate; but none of them agree, perhaps they won't -- but cries of "Blasphemy!" "What more do we need?" ring out. Pilate is wary of their charges, wants his sleep, warned by his wife, wonders at His silence; perhaps he'll just laugh at the Jews and send them all home -- then he shifts responsibility to Herod. Oh, Herod has wanted to hear Him, to see miracles! He sends Him back. Pilate is still unwilling, there still are special traditions, surely the people singing Hosannas a few days before will now cry for His release? -- Give us Barabbas, the murderer.  How terrible, how wrong, how gut-wrenching is this! And we haven't even gotten to the whipping, to the torment; we're not even yet to Golgotha.


We desired a murderer and thief, rather than Him. We desired our own name and prestige and comfy place in the empire, rather than Him. We desired our own rules and regulations and self-righteousness, rather than Him. Everyway and everywhere, rebellion and darkness. The Life itself, facing death on a tree.


Do you see that cross? Have you looked at it? It's not cute, it's not sweet, it's not clean. It's awful, horrible, terrifying. Splintered and broken just like we are, red with bloody pulp from the raw mess of sin, and fastened inescapably and immovably, with every movement and cry digging itself deeper in.


Look at it, shield your eyes, fall on your knees; not for some nice prayer, but from revulsion, for up there is you and me.


Or, it should be.


But it's not.


Because up there on that terrible tree is the Hero of the Story. He who didn't deserve it, He who did nothing -- nothing wrong! He's the one fastened there. He's the one screaming in agony. He's the one with His own blood blinding His eyes. He's the one there, struggling for every breath. He's the one crushed and overwhelmed by every sin that ever has and ever will be committed. The weight of all the injustices, all the horrors, and all the atrocities, poured and pummeled upon Him.


Why? -- this isn't right! This injustice, this horror, how, why would such a thing be?


For God


So loved


The world


So loved. Messy, verbalized love, that was the Word being clothed in flesh. Messy, violent love, that went to all lengths, even the giving of His life, to get us back. Messy, victorious love, that destroyed even death.


Horrifying and beautiful, scandalous and merciful. Not words which go together. But somehow, in that hinge of all history, they combined. The cross is messy. But it makes us clean.


So wake up this Easter to cleanness, to wholeness, to life. Not all cutesy or pastel; but real, solid, vivid life painted with purple and white and gold and royalty and saints and redemption. Because we are nothing without Christ. But, now, through the cross, through the empty tomb, Jesus has given us life, and that more abundantly. (John 10:10)


Fall on your knees and worship Him for His wondrous, powerful, messy love.


He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.


For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.


For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.


Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.


(Isaiah 53:3-5, Romans 5:6-8, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:24)






Saturday, April 8, 2017

// Christian? //





Sitting amongst the cream of my generation
my soul was filled with lamentation.
Here, supposed Christians
flirt with temptations
display carnal affections
consider vain imaginations
lust for worldly commendations
seek ungodly occupations
forget Scriptural meditations
shirk Bible memorizations
reject sound admonitions
ignore godly exhortations
despise Biblical limitations
on the road of continual degradations
are these really Christians?

So to any reading my composition
let it be a call for self-examination.
Do I obey the Lord without indignation? 
Honor my God without fluctuation?
Serve my King without hesitation?
Love my Savior without reservation?
Cry out to Him amidst temptation?
Am I on the road of heavenly sanctification?
Am I truly a Christian?



"Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?"
- 2 Corinthians 13:5





Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Playing With Perspective

     I haven't been doing much photography of late so I decided to get back into it. The theme of this photography spree is perspective, particularly, looking at things from a different perspective. 


Inside a grain silo

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book of the Month: Alone Yet Not Alone





Summary:

   Autumn has come to the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania and the Leininger family is harvesting their crops in preparation for the long winter ahead. But their lives are suddenly shattered by a series of raids encouraged by the French and led by Allegheny Indians, culminating in what became known as the Penn's Creek Massacre. The two Leininger sisters, Barbara and Regina, are captured and sent to live with separate Indian tribes. Will they remain true to their faith while living in a pagan society? What has become of their family? Will Barbara and Regina ever meet again?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Touching History - Philadelphia, part 2

     In the previous post about our trip to Philly, we saw Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell (check out that post here). Today, we'll take a look at three more of the dozens of historical sites in Philadelphia.


     Standing right next to Independence Hall, is the Library Hall of the American Philosophical Association (APS). The organization was started in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin and numerous others. Still in existence today, it's purpose is to "promote useful knowledge."


     The building displays a marble statue of Ben Franklin holding an inverted scepter in one hand, an open book in the other, and is wearing a toga (because togas are a must-have if you want to look philosophical).  :) 


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Book of the Month: Faith and Freedom Series





Summary:



Guns of Thunder (book 1)
     In the first book of the Faith & Freedom series (the sequel to the Crown & Covenant series), we're introduced to the great grandson of Duncan M'Kethe: Ian. Colonial America is on the eve of the French and Indian War but between tediously tilling the family plot of land, defending the corn from hungry birds, and attending grammar school, Ian has little time to worry about the pending conflict. But when his best friend, Roland, is captured by the French during the Raid on Canso, Ian enlists in the army and along with his Indian mentor Watokoog, sets off with the colonial army to capture Louisbourg and hopefully free Roland.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Touching History - Philadelphia, part 1

     Being near to many of our nation's key historical locations has afforded our family numerous fascinating field trips. In this blog series, Touching History, I'll share with you some of the places we've visited.


     Recently, we took a trip to New Jersey and stayed in Philadelphia for a few days.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Book of the Month: Crown and Covenant Series




Summary:


Duncan's War (book 1)
     Duncan M'Kethe loves his family and his faith and is willing, even eager, to defend them from the vicious talons of King Charles II. Yet his father insists that the Scriptures instruct us to love our enemies. How does he balance this with defending his fellow Covenanters?

Monday, January 2, 2017

My Year In Pictures




     This year was full of amazing moments and several sad ones as well. But I wish to do as the hymn writer Johnson Oatman said: "Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings see what God has done." 
     So crack your knuckles and prepare your index finger for a lot of scrolling!