August 29, 2012

The Homeless and James Chapter Two

We recently visited Seattle and did a lot of walking throughout the city. One thing I noticed was how many homeless people there were. They were everywhere, on every corner of the city. They were also very aggressive in asking for money. It was overwhelming. So overwhelming that I didn't know how to react. One drugged-up woman came right up to me and started asking frantically for money. My husband gave her some and I was able to give her a hug as well. But I still felt so awful. Here I was on a vacation, with money in my pocket and here were hundreds of people living on the streets.

This is something I struggle with. 

A few days ago my oldest daughter, who has been counseling at a camp all summer, called me. I told her about our trip and my experience of being overwhelmed by the problems of homelessness, drug addicts, the mentally ill and alcoholics on the streets.

She reminded me of a time about a year ago when she and some friends went downtown and befriended a homeless man. They bought him a knapsack and wrote down some verses for him to keep. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when she went downtown again with some different friends and she heard her name being called. It was him and a year later, he still had the knapsack and the verses. She talked a little with him then went along with her friends.

She had made a difference, even ever so small. She had made this homeless man feel like he wasn't invisible. She had given him something material he needed and she had shared Words of Life with him.

This really made me think. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed with the social problems in our world that we completely ignore them and do nothing. This isn't what Jesus wants us to do. We can't save people, only Jesus can, but we can love them with as little as buying them a knapsack or taking the time to write down a few verses from God's Word. I can't tell you how proud I am of my daughter. I love seeing her grow in Christ.

God doesn't ask us to save the world or stand as it's judge. He asks us to love it by doing. When I was searching for a verse to go with my post today I came across James chapter two. I was only going to post the nice parts, the parts that encourage and make me feel good, but God really spoke to me through this chapter as a whole. Even though I'm saved by grace, I'm still a sinner and He wants to renew me through verses like this, verses that tell it like it is.

How many times have I been partial to people who make me feel comfortable? How many homeless people, drug addicts and alcoholics are sitting on our church benches? Do we even invite them? How many times has the Lord asked me to do something, but I never actually went through with doing it?

Lord, penetrate your words into our hearts. Help us live your words, not just read them.

                                                        James Chapter 2

"My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. 

For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, 

and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool,"

have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 

But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 

Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? 

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself,"  you do well.

but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 

For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.

For He who said, "Do not commit adultery,"  also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 

So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.  

For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 

If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 

and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 

Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 

But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 

You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble! 

But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 

Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 

And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. 

You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. 

Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."                                                    

August 28, 2012

Blog Month at Compassion

I'm so excited to become a Compassion blogger for 'September is blog month at Compassion!'

The goal? 3,108 children sponsored between Sept. 1 and Sept. 30.

I've supported and loved this organization for over 25 years and happy to share this with you. You can read a little about my experience at this link here... Compassion International

 If you'd like to join as a Compassion blogger too, just click this badge...

Join the Compassion Blogger Network

August 24, 2012

Quote of the Week

"Being made in His image we have within us the capacity to know Him. In our sins we lack only the power.

The moment the Spirit has quickened us to life in regeneration our whole being senses its kinship to God and leaps up in joyous recognition. That is the heavenly birth without which we cannot see the Kingdom of God.

It is however, not an end but an inception, for now begins the glorious pursuit, the heart's happy exploration of the infinite riches of the Godhead.

That is where we begin, I say, but where we stop no man has yet discovered, for there is in the awful and mysterious depths of the Triune God neither limit nor end."
                                                                      A. W. Tozer

August 23, 2012

My Redesigned Gardening Blog

Do you enjoy flowers or gardening? If so feel free to check out my gardening blog, which I have just redesigned. Happy gardening!  : )

                                  Diary of a Simple Gardener

August 21, 2012

My Trip to Seattle and a Great Book

Me at Pioneer Square

My husband and I and our youngest daughter, drove down to Seattle for a few days last week. We've driven past Seattle many times on family vacations but never stopped.  So we decided to spend a few days exploring some of the great things Seattle has to offer.

One of the places we visited was Pioneer Square. Here we took a tour of  'Underground Seattle', where I purchased this wonderful book called, "Images of America: Seattle's Pioneer Square."

Between the tour and this book I learnt a lot about the beginnings and history of this city. Here's a few interesting facts.

Seattle and the Native Americans

Chief Sealth (Seattle)
Before Seattle, there was Jijilaetch, a village of Native Americans led by Chief Sealth (which Seattle was later named for) When settlers arrived including the founding fathers of Seattle, Dr. David 'doc' Maynard and Arthur Denny...

"Chief Sealth befriended the Denny party and encouraged Suquamish/Duwamish people to help the new settlers adapt to their surroundings. Native American people played an important role in this place once called Jijilaetch and today known as Pioneer Square."

Where I'm standing in the photo above, is the middle of Pioneer Square. Before that it was the center of Jijilaetch and it's longhouses, where many Native Americans lived.

One very sad fact I read about was that once Seattle began to grow, the Native Americans were banded from entering the city limits. The land that was once their home, was now forbidden to them.

Seattle as a Saw Mill Town

The city of Seattle began as a saw mill town. As you may know the Pacific Northwest is abundant in trees. This area was no different. The land was very steep and hilly and so it was easy for the loggers to roll the timber down the hill to the saw mill which was near the water. This path became known as skid road. The book says here:

"The dirt road started as a skid road, where the logs cut from the old-growth forests were greased to skid down the sloping road to Yesler's Mill for processing. Skid Road's name changed over time to Mill Street and eventually to Yesler Way."

The mill brought more people and prosperity to Seattle and it grew.

Seattle's Seedy Past

One interesting and seedy fact I learnt about Seattle's past is that there were many brothels in town and these were the businesses that made the most money. The city decided to tax them and therefore much of the city was built on those taxes!

One house of ill-repute in particular was run by a women named Lou Graham who only hired well educated women who could read and write, speak more that one language and play at least one musical instrument. The book says here of how she advertised:

"Lou's principle method of advertising took the form of carriage rides up and down main streets on Sunday afternoon. Dressed in their best finery, the young ladies of her establishment were regularly put on display."

This part of Seattle's history I found unsettling. It doesn't matter how much you finely dress a woman up or educate her, prostitution is still selling a human being and therefore I believe, slavery. But I won't get into that now.

One more thing I found extremely interesting is that the building Lou Graham sold her women at is now the home of the Union Gospel Mission! What a turn around for that building! Here's a picture.

Union Gospel Mission

Seattle Fire 1889

In 1889 a small fire broke out that grew out of control and burned down  125 acres, 30 city blocks, of the city. Here are before and after photos of Yesler Way.

Yesler Way before fire

Yesler Way after the fire
After the fire Seattle rose to the occasion and began to rebuild. The book says here:

"Seattleites resolved to build fireproof buildings and banned wooden structures. New buildings codes were adopted, and with the help of several architects, including Elmer Fisher, John Parkinson, Charles Saunders, and E. W. Houghton, Pioneer Square got an elegant new lease on life. The large number of buildings designed in a short period of time by a handful of architects and designers resulted in a unique harmony of Richardsonian Romanesque style in the Pioneer Square neighborhood. More jobs were created by the fire than lost, and Seattle's rebuilding efforts resulted in another population and economic boom. Seattle's population grew to 42,837 by 1890."

Seattle in the early 1900's
After the fire:

"City council passed ordinances to elevate the city from 10 to 40 feet to help with the plumbing problem, modify the street grid to help alleviate traffic congestion and improve flow, and prescribe building materials for fire safety."

Leveling the streets higher, left the first floor of buildings underground, which became underground Seattle. Here's a diagram that shows the streets elevated and new sidewalks placed above old sidewalks. Stairs were eventually built down to businesses underground.

Diagram from the book
Here is a modern day example of the use of the underground. Magic Mouse Toys has two levels to shop. As you can see there are stairs going down to the underground part. Great store by the way!

Magic Mouse Toys
Seattle and the Gold Rush

Seattle grew even more when the gold rush in Alaska and the Yukon began. Many businesses were opened selling gear for prospecting and Seattle became known as the 'Gateway to Klondike'

Alaskan Outfitting Establishment
The book goes on to talk about the railroad, prohibition, the depression and the renewal, thanks to Wes Uhlman, who was Seattle's mayor in the 1970's and Bill Speidel, founder of the 'Underground Tour' who worked hard in preserving Pioneer Square from being demolished and turning it into what it is today, a beautiful old city to visit.

August 14, 2012

Praying for your Children

It's hard being a parent, and sometimes trying.  So it's refreshing and comforting to know that God is for us, not against us when it comes to raising our children. We are not alone.

I recently came across this list of Biblical prayers for your children at this lovely blog... Sweet Tea and Simplicity

I hope these prayers encourage you, as they have encouraged me.  : )

Pray that your children will fear the Lord and serve Him.  Deuteronomy 6:13

Pray that your children will know Christ as Savior early in life.  Psalm 63:1

Pray that your children will hate sin.  Psalm 97:10

Pray that your children’s lives will bear the fruit of the Spirit.  Galatians 5:22-23

Pray that your children will respect those in authority over them.  Romans 13:11

Pray that your children will be kept from the wrong mate and saved for the right one.  2 Corinthians 6:14

Pray that your children and their prospective mates will be kept pure until marriage. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Pray that your children will learn to submit totally to God and actively resist Satan in all circumstances. James 4:7

Pray that your children will desire the right kind of friends and be protected from the wrong kind. Proverbs 1:10, 15

Pray that your children will be hedged in so they cannot find their way to wrong people or wrong places, and the wrong people cannot find their way to your children.  Hosea 2: 6-7

Pray that your children will be caught when they’re guilty.  Psalm 119:71

Pray that your children will have quick, repentant hearts.  Psalm 51:1-3

Pray that your children will honor their parents so all will go well with them.  Ephesians 6:1-2

Pray that your children will have a responsible attitude in all their interpersonal relationships. Daniel 6:3

Pray that your children will be teachable and able to take correction.  Isaiah 54:13, Proverbs 13:1

Pray that your children will live by the spirit and not gratify the flesh.  Galatians 5:16

Pray that your children will trust in the Lord for the direction of their lives, including their occupation.  Proverbs 3:5-6

August 9, 2012

Quote of the Week

"We can depend on God to fulfill His promise, even when all the roads leading to it are closed. For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ. And so through Him the 'Amen' (so be it) is spoken by us to the glory of God."                                                                       Matthew Henry

"For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us."    2Cor. 1:20

August 6, 2012

The One True God

This is a study on God.

Paul Washer has put together a wonderful study on who God is. I'm almost finished this and have learnt so much from it. Every section makes you dive into Scripture, requires you to read countless verses, and brings you closer to God and who He is.

You can not do this study without your Bible! I've never looked up so much Scripture before! I love how I can now see more clearly how the Lord uses all Scripture to reveal Himself to us.

How blessed we are to have the Bible so readily available. It's such a precious gift.

This is also a great study for beginners of theology because it is simply laid out and consists mostly of searching the scriptures and writing them down. No hard questions to stump you or discourage you from continuing!

It includes 14 chapters on the attributes of God:

1.  God is One
2.  God is Spirit
3.  God is Great and Perfect
4.  God is Eternal, Self-Existent, and Immutable
5.  God is Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and Omniscient
6.  God is Holy
7.  God is Righteous
8.  God is True and Truthful
9.  God is Faithful
10. God is Love
11. God is Creator and Sustainer
12. God is Lord Over All
13. God is Lawgiver and Judge
14. The Names of God

Here are a few photos I took inside the study. First from chapter 9: 'God is Faithful' and then from chapter 8: 'God is True and Truthful.'

Sorry about my messy writing! :)

August 2, 2012

Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books

I discovered so much great stuff in this book. It's made my post a bit long today, but I hope you get a chance to read it through. : )

At least don't miss out on what the book has to say about women and theology, which I share at the end of my post. 

This book is divided into two sections:  

Part 1: A Theology of Books and Reading
Part 2: Some Practical Advice on Book Reading

I admit I enjoyed the first part of this book a bit more than the second. I felt I learnt a lot more from the first six chapters.

But as a reader, I did relate to the practical advice in the second half and especially loved that he reads books with a pen too!

I loved what he said here:

"...the markings in a book's margin's are the evidence of a thinking reader. We don't read to read; we read to think."

I couldn't agree more. He goes on to say: 

"I mark phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and pages that I think articulate a point very well. I call them gold."

I loved that. "I call them gold" When I read, whether it's fiction or non-fiction, and come across a sentence or phrase that stirs me I underline it or write it down. I love that I now have a name for these great words of wisdom. Gold!

So here's some gold from this book. : )

In the first half, 'a theology of books and reading', he emphasizes the importance of the Christian reader to know the Word of God. He encourages us to study and meditate on it day and night. He says here of Scripture:

"Scripture is the ultimate grid by which we read every book. Scripture is perfect, sufficient, and eternal. All other books, to some degree, are imperfect, deficient, and temporary. That means that when we pick books from the bookstore shelves, we read those imperfect books in light of the perfect Book, the deficient books in light of the sufficient Book, and the temporary books in the light of the eternal Book. 

Man-made literature may be inspiring, but it is not divinely inspired - not in the way Scripture is inspired. Man-made literature may be empowered by the Holy Spirit to embody biblical truth, but it's not breathed out by God...We could say that in contrast to God's Word all other books are temporary." 

"All flesh is like grass and all it's glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord remains forever..." 1 Peter 1:24-25

Knowing God and His Word will help us discern when we choose to read all kinds of books. He says here:

"Faith in Jesus brings with it a critically important benefit for the Christian reader - discernment...

Christian discernment begins when the veil is removed and we behold the glory of Christ. When this happens, we truly become 'spiritual' and thus possess 'the mind of Christ'

"But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For 'who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?' But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Cor. 2:15-16

We now read, think, and live our lives by the light of the spiritual truths of the gospel....

We can test every book that we read - to treasure what is true, good, and pure in God's eyes, and to reject what is evil."

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2 

It's so important for Christians to be discerning, especially with so-called 'christian' books. He says here:

"Spiritual dangers are more venomous in a so-called 'Christian' book. 

'For no heresy has ever sprung from pagan belief, from Aristotle, and from books of other heathen,' wrote Martin Luther. 'No, these necessarily emerge from the church.' He takes it a step further when he writes 'heresy and false doctrine are taken and adduced from no other source than Scripture.' 

Luther is quick to affirm here that Scripture is pure and unadulterated in itself. But when a truth of Scripture is pulled out and wrapped in the hands of someone within the church, heresy is born.

Heresy is dangerous because it camouflages itself as the truth, it resembles the truth, it emerges from within the church as a mistreatment of Scripture." 

Here's a bit of 'gold' I've saved over the years on discernment that can help keep us away from heresy:

Charles Spurgeon:

"Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right."

Augustine of Hippo:

"If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself."

Oswald Chambers:

"Every doctrine that is not imbedded in the cross of Jesus will lead astray."

The author, Tony Reinke, then encourages us to read more than just Christian books. And reminds us that everything that is good comes from God and not to dismiss non-christian books which may contain good in them.

He says here:

"God is behind all truth, even the truth that is expressed in non-christian literature. Truth cannot be fabricated."

He then quotes John Calvin:

"All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not to reject it; for it has come from God. Besides, all things are of God; and , therefore, why should it not be lawful to dedicate to his glory everything that can properly be employed for such a purpose?" 

Throughout the second half of the book the author encourages us to read all kinds of literature, business books, history books and so on. I really liked the chapter on fictional literature, since I really do enjoy reading it, especially classics. He quotes Leland Ryken here:

"Literature is a form of discovery, perception, intensification, expression, interpretation, creativity, beauty, and understanding. These are ennobling activities and qualities. For a Christian, they can be God-glorifying, a gift from God to the human race to be accepted with zest."

Reinke goes on to say:

"By appreciating the beauty of literature, we honor God, the giver of all beauty."

There is a great debate on what is acceptable literature for Christians to read. I myself are not comfortable reading to many sorted details in a novel, but when done in a respectable and God-honoring way it can be life-changing for the reader.

As I write this I'm thinking of Francine Rivers 'The Mark of the Lion' series, which has some very uncomfortable scenes, but are none-the less powerful to the story and God honoring. The Bible itself has horrible stories of lust and greed and murder, all for the reader to see their need for God's grace and mercy. The author says here:

"God's 'amazing grace' is especially displayed when it 'saves a wretch.' To some degree, the author must paint a picture of the wretchedness of sin in order for grace to emerge in its brilliance. Thus, grace-filled literature is often not 'clean' literature. In fact, God's redemptive grace is hard to capture in 'clean' fiction. This is especially true of conversion stories, because conversion is about contrast."

Again we must use discernment when reading fiction as well as non-fiction and that only comes with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Woman and Theology:

Theology: the field of study and analysis that treats of God and of God's attributes and relations to the universe; study of divine things or religious truth; divinity; the systematic study of Christian revelation concerning God's nature and purpose.

Finally, I thought I'd leave you with these quotes from the book about women and theology. This really struck me because many women today tend to shy away from books on theology:

"Theologically weighty books about Christ are essential for the soul - for men and women. And although women purchase the majority of books released by Christian publishers, women are far less likely to read theological books..."

He goes on to quote Elyse Fitzpatrick:

"Many women are intimidated by the thought of studying something that is 'theological' in nature. They are afraid of being bored, looking foolish, becoming unattractive to men, or becoming divisive...

She then offers this challenge: 'Let's become known as a generation of women who delight in, tremble before, receive counsel from, drink, devour, digest, muse upon, and absolutely cherish God and the truth that He's revealed about Himself and about ourselves. Let's not worry about whether we look dumb or too smart."

Tony Reinke concludes:

"If women commit to reading books of solid theology, their knowledge of Christ will grow, because 'theology (of the right sort) is about knowing God and His Son intimately. Knowledge of Him (not just about Him) feeds, transforms, and vivifies the soul. This is the most delightful pursuit any woman could ever know."

I would encourage all my female readers to read outside your comfort zone and get to know God better with the help of some great theologians.

I never thought I'd be able to read Augustine, Lewis, Tozer or Spurgeon and understand what they were talking about. But I realized all I needed was one thing in common with them and that was our love for God and a thirst for the Truth. Ok that's two things, but if you have them, theology can come alive for you. :) 

"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

Buy it HERE on Amazon