Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Recommended Articles

is an insightful, encouraging, and convicting article about Martin Luther and his wife, Katie, on how they ran their home. They left a Godly legacy - something I desire to strive after!

Mothers of young boys, this will make you smile.
Little cyclones = little boys.

The girltalk blog wrote an excellent article on why it is important for Christians to show hospitality.  Brian and I have three church families/month into our home for a formal meal, and this was a necessary reminder for me of why we do that.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

No Fretting

I've been stressed lately.  Whether it be finances, this new aerobics class I'm teaching, a fussy teething toddler or trying to help God with my future (ssooooo dumb of me), I've been letting anxiety and frustration get the best of me.
I woke early today to spend time with Jesus before my class and pulled out Lydia Brownback's Trust devotional.

I have been totally convicted.  I've been fretting.  And that is SO sinful.  She writes:
Psalm 37 cautions us not to fret because fretting causes only harm.  Fretting is anxious hovering, a sinful wresting of control from God; it's complaining with an impatient spirit.  Fretting adds fuel to the fire of our difficulties, and if we indulge in it, it won't be long before we find ourselves elevating our weak and inadequate reason above God and his word.  Once this happens, life begins to look like a complicated jigsaw puzzle where fitting all the pieces together is all up to us...Real prayer includes letting go of your insistence on a particular answer or timing.  If you have really prayed, you can simply rest and wait for God.  Trust him with you concern...  (page 60).

This was just the reminder I needed today - a reminder to confess my sin and to hold open my hands before the LORD so that I may no longer cling so tightly to my desires or worries, but let them go.  I trust my loving, sovereign heavenly Father with my life - He's never let me down.  His promises are sure.

The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the LORD upholds his hand.
Psalm 37:23
I'm off to teach my second aerobics class; I'm so nervous.  But I'm trusting...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Reformed Theology

The church Brian pastors is Zion Evangelical & Reformed Church.
And Reformed?
Most people, including too many in our congregation, have no idea what makes a church Reformed.
I remember thinking we were Reformed when we moved to Cali, but our time at Westminster led me to a much deeper understanding of what it means to live as a Reformed Christian.

I'm going to try to unpack what it means to be truly Reformed.
(With the help of my educated husband and the exceptional magazine Modern Reformation (Vol. 21, No. 1, Jan-Feb 2012)).

The Reformation began in 1517 and "involved deeper illumination into the revelation of scripture and the glorious news of what Jesus had done for his people, the church," (Allen, pg 26).  It was a time when the people of the church were led to a greater understanding of the truth of the gospel and and their need for the Bible.  The Reformation established three great truths:
sola fide (by faith alone)
sola gratia (by grace alone)
sola scriptura (scripture alone)

sola fide
A German monk, Martin Luther, grew up adhering to a system of religious piety and activity to bring pardon from God.  Gaining insight into Paul's letter to the Romans, Luther realized that Christ was given up for him - sent to die on the cross in his place! - and that this was to be received only by faith.  Luther understood that he couldn't earn God's favor, and that God doesn't wait for him to clean up his act, but he pursues those who are dead in their sins (Romans 5:6).  God descended, in the human form of Christ, to us sinners!  We are united to God, through Christ's perfect blood that was shed on the cross, the moment we put our trust in Him.  It was nothing we could earn.  We were totally dead in our sins and Christ gave us life.  We weren't half dead, wounded and crying out; we were dead and Christ gave us breath.

Many Christian denominations would agree with most of that.  But what differentiates Reformed theology is that this faith alone isn't just a gateway to heaven; it transforms our daily lives.  If we live each day by faith alone, we take each trouble and trial that is sent our way as having come from the hands of a Sovereign, loving, heavenly Father who is working everything for our good (Romans 8:28).  He is the One who gives us hope, comfort and the strength to persevere in all things.  We lean on Him for everything and never would want to offend Him - everything is done in faith!
Let me give you an example from Dr. Horton:
He wrote in Putting Amazing Back into Grace that if a couple donates a million dollars to an organization without faith, then it is done in SIN!  Our whole lives, every act, is to be done in faith in our Savior.  We need this awesome gift of faith to transform all areas of life.

sola gratia
 To prevent some from saying that even faith is a work, the Reformers taught that faith is a gift of God (For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God... Ephesians 2:8).  "We do believe, but only because he grants us grace to do so.  We do love, but only because he first loved us," (pg. 27).  This is such awesome news for all of us who fell with the first Adam (which is every human!).  We are blessed with new life in Christ by no merit of our own.  

"The Holy Spirit creates it [faith] in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments" (Heidelberg Catechism Question 65).

I've loved my The Promised One: Seeing Jesus in Genesis bible study and am reminded of Noah and Abraham as we discuss this topic of grace alone.  God chose them - they didn't do anything special; they weren't even good men (as one of Aidan's children's bibles states).  It was completely by God's grace alone that He saved Noah's family from the waters and chose to make Abraham's descendents as numerous as sands on the seashore (the line of Christ).  This makes me want to jump and shout for joy, knowing that Christ has chosen and revealed Himself to sinful me based on nothing I've done - by grace alone.  sola gratia

sola scriptura
 This is an essential concept in our Post-Modern world that now accepts all theology and all thinking just simply because "I thought it..."  Our culture accepts, "If I feel this way, then it must be truth."  and "If that's what I think, then that's truth."  UGH.  We have lost our respect for the authority of God's Word.  Before the Reformation, scripture was greatly respected, but only higher authorities (i.e. the pope) were allowed to interpret it - sometimes even in languages that the congregations couldn't understand!  Luther believed that all were subservient to the Bible's authority, including those higher authorities.  The Bible is the only authority and its principles are the only ones we should live by.

A Reformed Christian places their all in Christ, knowing they are saved by grace alone through faith alone revealed in scripture alone for the glory of God alone

[Modern Reformation is a publication of White Horse Inn Media (on the Westminster Seminary California campus).  Subscribe today to begin reading more about Reformed theology and joining others in praying for a Modern Reformation.]

Friday, February 24, 2012

Closet Organizer & "Tractor"

I am so thankful that Brian took part of his day off to put an organizer in Aidan's closet.
Although he worked in peace while Aidan & I ran errands this morning, he had two great helpers when we got home.
 Aidan loves to be with his daddy.
Leo loves to be wherever we are!
Brian put screws in for Aidan to push in with his very own screwdriver.
His eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills are developing well - we're thankful!
Yay, Aidan!  He pushed in all the screws.
Daddy pushes them out for Aidan to repeat the process.
It keeps him from trying to help Daddy with his screws.
But sometimes it's just too tempting - Daddy's screwdriver looks like a lot more fun than Aidan's.
So Daddy lets Aidan try his screwdriver out.
Daddy also has another helper; this helper loves to cuddle.
Anytime, anywhere.
Leo loves to sit on Daddy's lap.
Aidan wants Daddy to notice his screwdriver.
Leo wants Daddy to pet and play with him.
Mommy wants Daddy to get the closet organizer put in.
Daddy is the most patient, kind daddy.
He is the best daddy.
Mommy decides she'd better help Daddy by occupying the boys.
Leo goes outside.
Aidan goes into his playroom, but sneaks out every other minute to check on Daddy's progress.
We love our little helper!
Yesterday we were out at a friend's farm.  Aidan spent the entire time looking out the window at the cows and repeating, "Mooooo" and "trac-tor" over and over again.
His first word this morning after waking up?
And while eating breakfast? 
He might turn into a true Iowa boy.
Well, he has cowboy boots now.
 The Rauks gave him a pair of John Deers!
He can't wait to ride with Miss Karla in the planter this spring.
Thanks, Rauks!  Such a wonderful, generous gift!
It's SO fun to have a little man now who can do, talk, and communicate.  What a blessing!
And thanks, Brian, for putting up the closet organizer!  I am so excited!

Give Up the Gimmicks

Brian and I have long and detailed discussions about our philosophy of ministry.  
What should ministry look like?
What factors determine pastoral success?
What factors should determine pastoral success?
How is church growth measured?  Numerically?
How should church growth be measured?
What (if any) 'gimmicks' should be used in ministry to draw/keep people?

I enjoyed reading this refreshing article on The Gospel Coalition site:

Mr. Cosby writes:
All too often, youth programs have turned to entertainment-driven models of ministry in order to bring in youth. Success has become the name of the church-growth game. The devastating effects, however, are not only seen in the number of youth leaving the church after high school, but also in a spiritually and theologically shallow worldview among many American teenagers. The irony is that these same teens actually want to grow and learn hard truths. They want to know how to think about suffering, how to pray, and why Jesus had to die.

The same is true for all of the Church - senior pastors, program coordinators, etc., not just youth pastors.  Entertainment driven ministry doesn't endure - it can't compete with the real entertainment industry!

He continues:
Youth need the means of grace that God has provided his church---the local, intergenerational, community of sinner-saints---to supply both the content and the method of ministry. This is the biblical model given by Christ and witnessed in the early church, and remains, I believe, the most faithful and Christ-centered approach to youth ministry today.
Yes.  Exactly.  God, through His Word, has given churches all that they need for life transforming, people-keeping ministry.  Gimmicks can't compete with the life changing power of grace.  If gimmicks could compete, statistics probably wouldn't show that 94% of teens leave the church after high school and that 70% of 23-30 year olds don't attend church.  People (youth included) want to know how Christ changes and impacts their lives.  Life is tough - people want true, life giving answers.  Give them Christ; skip the gimmicks as Mr. Cosby suggests!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Practical Steps for Putting on the New Self

It's no secret that I'm the most selfish person I know.  And I hate that!  Having read through Jerry Bridges' The Practice of Godliness, I am still not Godly (selfless or humble or content or thankful or joyful or holy or self controlled or faithful or peaceful or patient or gentle or kind or good or loving) in the perfect way God requires.  While working to cultivate these traits of the new self (Ephesians 4:20-24), I am trusting Christ's imputed righteousness to me that makes me perfect in God's sight and trusting the Holy Spirit for help while still living in this imperfect body.

Bridges gave some super helpful tips (I first learned them from my sweet, wise, well-educated hubby) on how to fulfill the commandment of putting on the new self (the person we are in Christ).  While we recognize that the fruits of the Spirit are inner dispositions produced only by the Holy Spirit, we do have a responsibility.  Here's how to fulfill it:  (This example was from the love chapter, but it can be applied to any of the Godly characteristics.)

1. Saturate our minds with Scripture (pg 211)
The WORD is the Holy Spirit's primary tool for transforming our hearts and minds.  We must be people of the WORD.  We must read it, meditate on it, and pray it.  Renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2) with Scripture that describes love and specifically shows us its importance.

For example: I am meditating on (trying to memorize) the following verses to cultivate love for others in my heart and mind:
I Corinthians 13:1-7
Romans 13:8-10

2. "Pray for the Holy Spirit to apply His Word to our hearts and to our daily lives" (pg 212)
Pray!  Ask God to work in a mighty way in your heart and mind to help you desire and live out the fruit of the Spirit (Phil 2:13).  When you fail to be kind, loving, content, etc., confess your failure to the LORD and ask Him to continue to help you grow in that area and be more sensitive to such occasions.

For example (love):
Pray, "May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you," (I Thes 3:12).

3. Obey
This is the most difficult step for me, especially as I feel the tension in my heart between the fleshly desire to be angry, discontent, unloving, etc. and what I know in my mind to be the Godly response.  I am so comforted by my favorite verse Philippians 2:13: for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.  It is God who gives me the desire and the will to obey!  So so awesome.  So I pray that God would do that in my heart and then I obey, as if He has already done that work in my heart (even if I don't feel it yet).  But this has to be done with reliance on the Holy Spirit - the only One who is strong enough to enable me to act in future grace!

For example (love): "We must do those things that love dictates," (pg 212) such as not doing our neighbor harm, meeting their needs, forgiving their wrongs against us, putting their interests above our own, and reaching out.

Bridges ends the love chapter with, "As we do our part, we can count on God to perform His, not because our working obligates Him to work, but because He is a gracious and loving God, and He wants us to become gracious and loving children of His," (pg 213).

I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit was sent to help me when I fail so miserably by trying to do it on my own.  God is so good - He foreknew all that we would need to live lives of Godliness.
If you haven't read this book yet, head over to Amazon and purchase it!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Laundry & Mud

Mondays are laundry day.
I have a very special laundry helper.
He rides atop the mounds of laundry as we go back and forth from the bedrooms to the washer.
 He's becoming very good at balancing.
That tongue means he's concentrating really hard.
He does a good job staying on as Mama rounds a corner!

I have a love-hate relationship with this warm February Iowa weather.
I love it because it's above 32 degrees and doesn't chill me to the bones.
I hate it because it gives me
an extremely muddy Leo Lund.
And he runs when he sees the red bucket of water coming to clean him up.
I couldn't get his mouth clean.
So I cut off all the muddy hair.
He doesn't look so hot now.
Oh well.

P.S. Aidan recently began saying/calling for "EEEOWWWWWW".
Love it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mardi Gras Redeemed

Happy Mardi Gras 2012!
My sweet California friend, Aimee, threw an awesome Mardi Gras party a few years ago.  She's a native Lousianian so her food and Hurricanes were delish!
So when we decided to host the Young Couples Fellowship for the month of February,  I themed it Mardi Gras, emailed Aim for ideas and recipes, and bought fun decor at Dollar Tree.

However, Mardi Gras is actually a very sinful holiday.  It's associated with lots of drinking and impurity in preparation for giving one of those sins up for Lent (a very Catholic tradition).  
We sought to redeem it:
We don't believe that the excessive partying of Mardi Gras or the excessive fasting of Lent is the way to live for the glory of God (I Cor 10:31).  Instead, the "good life" is thankful appreciation of all God's gifts - such as Hurricanes!

So without further ado, our Redeemed Mardi Gras 2012:
Guests decorated themselves in Mardi Gras attire upon arrival.
 Waiting for food to be served!
Karla was queen of the stove.  She rocked the ettouffee and King's cake.
Dan & Heather were quite the bartenders.  They made awesome Hurricanes, New Orlean's Style.
(Thanks for your help, Rauks and Laus!)
What's on the menu?
Shrimp Ettouffee
Sausage Jambalaya
King's Cake (with a hidden bean)
Veggies & Dip
Other snacks
Bethany found the bean in her piece of King's cake.
She was queen for the evening and shared her privileges with Baby Mac.
(Sorry the picture is blurry; I still wanted to use it!)
 Chattin', games, & food
Ping Pong!
I'm so glad our basement is the church's youth room because there is lots to do down there!
Greg & Kevin are bustin' some moves on the Wii.
Way to shake those booties!
 Wii Dance Cheerleaders.

Kurk & Jenn
Aaron & Vic
Kyle & Lisa
Cody, Bethany, and Baby Mac
Brian & Heidi
Greg & Jen
Lance & Christine
John & Megan
Kevin & Karla
Host & Hostess

We are thankful to the LORD for these new friendships.  We pray that our monthly times of fellowship grow us closer to one another and also to our LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Straight to the Heart Series

Since becoming a pastor's wife, I have become intrigued by I & II Corinthians in a whole new way: they were a very messed up church, but Christ loved them and served them as His bride.  Kregel Publications was having a blog tour for a devotional, I & 2 Corinthians by Phil Moore (part of his Straight to the Heart Series).  I signed up right away, eager to learn more about the church God sent Paul to faithfully and lovingly serve.

This devotional is separated into four sections of I Corinthians (Remember Whose Church It Is, Sex in the City, Remember Whose World It Is, Church in the City) and three sections of II Corinthians (Remember Whose Mission It Is, Cash in the City, Remember Whose Power It Is).  As you can see, the sections have a catch-y, repetitive nature.  The devotions are written in sequential order so you can read the books I & II Corinthians along with this devotional.  It is written with some overlap (but it's not repetitive in nature); the author often takes a large chunk of Scripture (I Corinthians 8:1-10:33) one day and then breaks it down other days (9:1-23 and 9:24-27).

The first five devotionals were very good; I felt like it was exactly what Brian and I needed as a boost of encouragement as we serve one of God's not-so-perfect-churches (but aren't they all not-so-perfect?!).  For example, in the first devotion on I Corinthians 1:1-9, Mr. Moore shows how the gospel transforms Paul's view of his messy church as Paul was reminded of God's promises for future work in the hearts and minds of the people.  And Mr. Moore writes, "But if seeing God at work could give Paul strength to love, persevere and give thanks for the troublesome Corinthians in 55 AD, it is more than able to give us strength to cope with our our setbacks and disappointments today..." (pg 21); the author is always giving application to the readers.

But after the first five devotionals, I noticed my pen stopped underlining nearly altogether.  The author started writing detailed and unusual stories at the beginning of the devotionals.  For example, he compares God to Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.  I'm not sure this is wrong, but it's not necessary.  God cannot be compared!
To whom will you compare Me?  Or who is My equal?” says the Holy One.
Isaiah 40:25 

So throughout the rest of the devotional, I was peeved by little things like this - unnecessary comparisons, unusual stories, etc. I'm not not recommending this - it's OK but, if you're going to spend the money, get a devotional that is truly Reformed so you know you're getting sound theology and not Rikki-Tikki-Tavi fluff.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dream Home?

When I saw this pinned under 'Dream Home' on Pinterest,
my first thought wasn't, "Wow, that's beautiful!"
My first thought was, "How lonely."
I think I'm a city gal.
I thought I was a country girl at heart.
But I'm realizing I like the busy-ness of the city.
I love people.
I go crazy if I don't see friends at least a few times a week.
But, don't get me wrong, I'd love a refreshing and relaxing vacation 
to this 'Dream Home'.

I'm still loving Pinterest.
This is the project I want to tackle next:
Instead of covering canvases with fabric, you cover shoe box lids.
My living room walls are so bare; I can't wait to go pick fabric this week.
But first I have to dig in the closet to see if I have a variety of shoe boxes.
I am a thrower - I usually don't save them.
If I don't, Aidan and I may "need" a new pair.
Just kidding.
I'm on a budget.

If you're not 'pinning' yet, let me know and I'll 'invite' you! :)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Promised One

Zion's Women's Bible Study has been reading The Promised One: Seeing Jesus in Genesis by Nancy Guthrie.  I have learned so much; it has been amazing to see Christ in all of the Old Testament stories.  No, it wasn't just about an old man who built an ark, put the animals in two-by-two and was saved from the deadly waters.  Instead, we learn that just as God's grace was poured out onto Noah and his family, God's grace is poured out on us, as believers, when we turn to Christ in faith.  Noah was a sinner like you and me, but he was preserved and protected by God's grace and goodness.  This is just a tiny example of what I have been learning - I wish my Sunday school teachers had shown me Christ in Genesis.  Unfortunately, too many churches just take the stories at face value or try to find moral goodness from them.  But, as I have been reminded over and over again in this study, the bible is a story.  It is the story of Christ.  It's all about Him.  Creation, fall, redemption.  We see Christ in it all.
"...beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them all the Scriptures the things concerning himself," (Luke 24:27).

This morning, my studying brought me to the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50).  Brian mentioned Joseph in the sermon on Sunday, and I've been thinking about him a lot lately.  I feel like Joseph.  We've all felt like Joseph at one time or another.  We can relate to him.  There are so many circumstances in life when it's easy to ask, "Can any good come out of this?"  Yet Joseph didn't ask that question.  He knew the answer was a resounding YES!  Joseph was a fruitful sufferer.

Joseph understood that when God's people suffer, it isn't wasted suffering.  During his best years of life, Joseph was locked in a prison.  It would have been easy to think that something had gone terribly wrong in God's plan.  But Joseph's mind doesn't go there:  "Yet when we hear Joseph speak during his years in captivity, it is not complaint or self-pity or rage that we hear.  Over and over again, we hear him speak of God in great submission and confidence," (pg 243).  He knew that God had not forgotten or abandoned him.  (In Genesis 39:1-23, eight times it says "The LORD was with Joseph.")  Joseph knew that the jealousy, the pit, being sold into slavery, and eventually imprisoned was all part of God's plan to get him to Egypt.  In fact, he "...emerged from prion celebrating what God was doing through his life by means of the suffering," (pg 244).  And when Joseph's cruel brothers showed up for grain?  Joseph was gracious and forgiving: "His recognition of God's invisible hand at work in his circumstances - even in the cruelty of his brothers - left no room for bitterness," (pg 246).  Joseph clung to the promise:
"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good..." (Genesis 50:20a).

The purpose of this story isn't to make us say, "Whoa, Joseph was a really Godly man, and I want to be like him."  No, he draws our eyes to the One who said, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger," (John 6:35) as he sells grain to people from all over the earth during the seven-year famine.  God allows (and even sends) pain and suffering into our lives; God summoned the famine (Psalm 105:16-19).  Joseph didn't view God as a passive observer who quickly makes something good out of a disaster.  "He has a purpose and design in what is happening to us from the beginning, and even though what is happening to us might not be good, God intends it all for our ultimate good," (pg 250).  The purpose of suffering is to draw us closer to Him, the One who satisfies our hunger.

Author Nancy Guthrie bore a daughter with Zellweger syndrome, a fatal genetic disorder.  The baby girl's life was filled with pain and suffering; she died just before her six month birthday.   Despite having a vasectomy, they bore a second child, Gabriel, who also was inflicted with Zellweger syndrome.  Gabriel lived to see his six month birthday, but not his seventh.  

After such incredible suffering, Nancy is able to write, "Only when I turn my gaze to the cross of Christ can I begin to believe that God really can use something desperately evil and painful for incredible good. When we look to the cross, we see the most innocent victim, the most immense suffering, the greatest injustice, the most hurtful betrayal, the greatest physical and emotional agony.  Surely putting the pure Son of God on the cross was the greatest evil of all time.

"But was it not also the greatest good ever accomplished?  Because of the cross, guilty sinners like you and me don't get what we deserve - punishment.  Instead, we get what we don't deserve - the mercy and forgiveness of God.  When we look at the cross, it fills us with confidence that God is sovereign over everything - including evil and suffering," (pg 250).

May we know, as Nancy does and Joseph did, that Romans 8:28 is true:
"We know that for those who love God all things work together for good."

And place our confidence in the glory ahead:
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us," (Romans 8:18).  
"...we can be confident that there is the purpose and promise [of glory] for all who are willing to share in the suffering of Christ," (pg 252).

Watch an interview with Nancy Guthrie: Suffering, Hope, and the Centrality of Christ

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Giggles in the Snow

This boy loves to play outside.
Aidan loves to sled.
A sweet lady from church gave him an infant sled that we pull him around the yard in.
And Leo is always alongside; he can get Aidan giggling so hard just by his quick moves.
Happy boy.
The boy is getting so steady on his feet with his big boots and snowpants on.
Look at him climb the hill!
He laughs...
and laughs.
At what?
Leo is digging a hole.
Aidan can think of nothing more hilarious than watching the snow fly behind Leo.
My boys - love them so!
Especially the one in the orange.
Happy 19 months, Aidan John!