Sunday, March 25, 2012

Keeping My Heart

Proverbs 4:23-27

My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ears to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your eyes;
Keep them in the midst of your heart;
For they are life to those who find them,
And health to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.
Put away from you a deceitful mouth,
And put perverse lips far from you.
Let your eyes look straight ahead,
And your eyelids look right before you.
Ponder the path of your feet,
And let your ways be established.
Do not turn to the right or the left,
Remove your foot from evil.

Today I am pondering the things I put before my eyes and the impact they have on my heart and mind.  What a beautiful reminder from God's Word.  Time to put aside some things that weigh my soul down and immerse it in truth.  

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tomato Rice-A Healthy Alternative to Rice-A-Roni

We love Mexican food.  Not real Mexican food, American distorted Mexican food.  Tacos, enchiladas, and the like.  Since my journey to cook healthier, I have bemoaned pre-packaged anything.  Even things you but in health food stores are made with vegetable and soy oils.  Thus started the search for home made recipes to replace the Mexican rice that we all love.  Of course, it is a bit more time consuming, and I highly recommend making your own stock, but it is worth it in the end!  Here is a recipe I found for Tomato Rice:

2 Cups Chicken or Beef Stock
2 T. Coconut oil
1 Small onion, minced
1 C. Long-grain rice (organic if you can find it)
1 t. Salt
1/2 t. Ground Cumin
1 Medium tomato peeled, seeded and chopped (I skip the peeling and seeding and just chop away)
1 T. Tomato paste
1 T. Chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the stock until just simmering.  Remove from heat, cover and set aside.  Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan.  Add the onion and rice and cook over medium heat just until the onion is softened, about 5 min.  Stir in salt, cumin, tomato, tomato paste, and cook for 1 minute more stirring to incorporate.  Gradually add the warm stock, stirring to blend.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and cook until the rice is tender and all of the liquid is absorbed, around 30-40 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and stir in cilantro.  Serve immediately.

Invisible Bonds

"God's method of binding souls to obedience is similar to His method of keeping the planets in their orbits--that is, by flinging them out free.  You see no chain keeping back these shining worlds to prevent them from bursting away from their center.  They are held in the grip of an invisible principle...And it is by the invisible bond of
Love to the Lord who bought them--that ransomed men are constrained to live soberly and righteously, and godly."~William Arnot

Friday, March 23, 2012

Who is the Pharisee?

I've had this post rolling around in my head for a long time.  It is a delicate issue and has taken a lot of thought to be able to express in words.

There are a few "buzz-words" in Christianity that are ill-defined.  One of them is legalism.  When we think of legalism in the Bible, we almost immediately think of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees were a religious group that were extremely adamant about keeping all aspects of the given law.  Despite that point, Jesus pointed out that they were lacking, or lost.  I think that the idea of the Pharisees can not only cause us to stumble, but can also divide us greatly.   We know that Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but rather fulfill it but Salvation by grace alone through faith alone doesn't give us free-license to do whatever we want to do--I think we can all agree on that!  Jesus wasn't condoning adultery when the he stood up for the woman the Pharisees dragged before Him.  He confronted their hearts (aka motives) and then dealt with her by telling her to turn form her own sin.    Like the Pharisees, we can be very focused on God's Word and what it teaches--and that's a good thing.  But like the Pharisees, we can also do it for the wrong reasons and without love.  That's a bad thing.  But there is something else is far more successful at dividing the Church: judging the heart.

A few Sundays ago as I was sitting in church listening to a sermon about the attitudes of the Pharisees, our pastor made a statement and the first thing that flashed through my mind was:  I wish ________ (insert name here) could have heard that!  I have a feeling that I am not alone.  If you tell me that you have never sat in a sermon thinking: "I wish so-and-so could hear this!" then, well, I don't believe you.  We've all done it.  I recognized the irony in my thought almost immediately and felt ashamed.  And then my mind wandered to the many times that I felt anger or "judged" by someone else's convictions.  For instance,(and please excuse me for this illustration, it simply seems to be the most obvious) my mind will say that so-and-so always wears dresses so she must be judging me for wearing pants.  Logically, that is not true, yet my sinful mind wants to convict that person of judging me when chances are, they haven't.  It is possible that this person does it because it is what she believes God desires from her, yet she doesn't see pants as wrong.   I actually know many women who believe that way.   Paul addresses this issue in his letter to the Romans.  Evidently, the Roman church was struggling with judging the convictions of others.  Notice I say the convictions....not the sins!  Big difference!  The Bible instructs us to judge sin and deal with it.  It even gives us clear instruction on how to search our own hearts before confronting the sins of others.  (Matthew chapter 7)  But it never condones judging the heart.  That is for God and God alone!  No one but God can see into your heart and know the motives for what you do.  I believe that this is what Paul was addressing in Romans chapter 14.  How beautiful it is to be able to sit alongside another believer who had different convictions than you and be in perfect unity despite it!

That brings me back to the Pharisees.  The things they did were good.  Yet Jesus, who was qualified to judge their hearts, addressed the motive behind their obedience.  Why did He do that?  Was it so that we could recognize a Pharisee when we see one?  Um,  If you have followed my logic, you will see that the only ones qualified to address YOUR heart and YOUR motives are you and God.  More than that, when we think of others who hold different convictions as "Pharisees" we committed a great irony.  Since you are not qualified to judge the intentions of others, you have labeled them with a title that you yourself deserve.  Being a Pharisee is about judging the heart.  Ouch.

I started thinking about Nicodemus.,  He was a Pharisee, yet he had a desire to know what Jesus was teaching and to know whether or not it was truth.  When I read his story, I have a hard time believing that he was that terrible of a person-Pharisee or not.  Nicodemus was the one who eventually stood up to the Pharisees and asked the question:  Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?  John 7:52  Nicodemus got it.  After his encounter with Jesus, he understood what it meant to judge someone without knowing all of the facts!  Eventually, he reappears in chapter 19 providing spices with which to embalm his Savior.  He is a changed man.  Thank you Jesus for not dismissing him or giving up on him!

I have a feeling that a little bit of pride-lovin' Pharisee lives in each of us.  I wonder, however, how the Body of Christ would look if we could all do what we can to kill our inner Pharisee?  I wonder, if we could simply accept the convictions of others without feeling judged, or better yet, just sit and talk with them and attempt to understand them.  Get to know them.   I am sure it would take us moving far out of our comfort zone, but God never instructed you to even build a comfort zone!  It isn't horribly important that we all agree on everything, but the proper response to feeling conviction would be to search it out for ourselves and find what we believe to be true according to God's Word.  We also need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in the matter.  If we are firm enough in our own convictions, then we really shouldn't feel judged by what others believe (unless they admit that they are judging us then in reality, it is more their problem than yours!)

How different would we be if we understood that the only one we are qualified to judge as a Pharisee is ourselves?  

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I am not sure where to begin.  I took a long break that was desperately needed for reflection and time in God's Word.  I needed to be quiet and listen instead of speaking and God certainly used that time in many ways.  He has reminded me once again that He, alone is sovereign.  He is reminding me through the book of Daniel and other means that the greatest idol to overcome in our lives is ourselves.  The knowledge burns, hurts, but yet it is encouraging to know that He will continue to grow us, sanctify us, and make us more like Him.  He does this (obviously) through His Word, but not only that, He uses the Body of Christ. 

A while back I read a blog post lamenting the loss of mentors.  Back then I dismissed it, but now I am beginning more and more to see that we need EACH OTHER to help us overcome the idol of self.  In reality, the refusal to listen to sound advice from our elders, or even our brothers and sisters in Christ is elevating the idol of self.  Granted, there will be times when we might disagree, but are we willing to really consider what others have to say?  Or do we simply "tolerate" it and give it no thought at all.  Can we throw "self" under the bus and simply say teach me God?  

I am encouraged by several great examples I have seen in the public forum of the Internet where something that was not entirely accurate was put out with the best of intentions, and  brothers and sisters came along and spoke the truth in love about the situation.  What encouraged me was not only their willingness to endure wrath from readers, but the willingness to bend, the willingness to admit error for the sake of God's glory. 

I do admit that my greatest flaws have extended into this area.  I value great conversation (some would call it debate, some would call it argument.)  But I have seen in the past, the times when I was unwilling to bend.  Times when I have been set in my ways and unwilling to say to God: show me what You have to say about this.  I anticipate that at some time (probably in the near future) I will fall into this trap again, especially since I am writing about it now. 

What post-moderns seem to value most today is self-esteem.  It is taught religiously in schools.  We are taught to stand up for what we believe in, and while in and of itself that is not bad, we are not taught to seriously consider our own limited knowledge and capabilities.  Secular humanism tells us that whatever we want to believe/say/do is right and it would be intolerant or unloving to question that.  The Bible teaches something vastly different.  It teaches us that we need each other to keep us on the straight and narrow.  It teaches us to look deeper into our motives and question and allow the Holy Spirit to probe our intentions and our hearts.  It tells me that as I am writing this, I might have some ulterior motive other than to simply speak truth and bring glory to God.  God wants to shine His light in the darkest corners of our hearts and we DESPERATELY try to keep Him from reaching those places. 
I see great value in mentors.  I also see that part of the reason that we shun them is the culture we live in, and part simply the depths of our own sinfulness.  We lament over the state of the Church all while building light-proof corners of our own hearts.  I do it.  I have done it.  I will undoubtedly do it again in the future. Honestly, I still struggle with all of this and hence my unwillingness to blog regularly.  Let's face it, I don't have all of the answers.  But more than that, I do not want to put something out there that contradicts God's Word, especially in a public forum.  Even if it is unintentional.  It's not that I believe that God won't forgive me, but the Bible takes the role of a teacher very seriously and holds it to higher standards than the rest of us.  I don't find myself all that qualified to meet that standard.  And once again, I will admit that I do not know if I will continue to blog or not.  It doesn't really matter one way or the other.  It is not a self-denigrating thing, it is simply a stop for rest in the journey.  But I just wanted to share this today because of where my study in Daniel is taking me.  I am thrilled to be on the journey with all of you.  

Monday, January 9, 2012

Creation Singing God's Praises

When you watch this it will move you.  If you are His, you can't help but lift your hands in the air and praise Him right along with the rest of His creation.  Can you even imagine the day we will all stand before Him singing together?  It brings a tear of joy to my eyes.  So did this video.  It's almost 15 minutes long but the most amazing and moving thing I have EVER seen or heard. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Real Beauty

While we were driving to our home school co-op today, this song came on the radio.  I was thinking back to when I saw the video to it and couldn't hold back the tears.  I've been there.  I understand the pressure.  I want my girls so desperately to understand that God made them beautiful the way they are. The cry of my heart is for them to know that they are perfect the way they are, and loved because of who He is.   The world puts unreal standards of beauty on it's young women.  Even as an old woman, I am occasionally swept into the notion of wanting to look skinnier, prettier, younger, etc.  But REAL beauty shines from the heart.  I hope you enjoy this song and share it with your daughters.

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