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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Be Faithful in "Little Things"

Tim "happened" to run into someone who remembered me from some 25 years ago when his family attended FBC for a short time.  I'm embarrassed to say I don't remember him, even though he could recall my name after all this time.  But the incident got me thinking about our lifetime walk before the Lord.  There are times I feel so burdened that I'm not bringing God the glory He deserves, that I'm not saying the "right" thing at the "right" time, that I'm not reaching "enough" people with the gospel, that I have such little impact reflecting God's glory in this dark world.  There is such great need!  But... when you get right down to it, few of us ever have the opportunity to  see what God does with all those "little things" we might do in His name and for His glory.

Then I saw this video Challies posted on his blog today and it hit me.  Serving God is a lifetime endeavor of "little things" done faithfully, day by day.  For a few short years we are allowed to be but one small part of the advancement of God's program.  All He asks of us as believers is that we walk faithfully before Him TODAY, that we persevere in following Him, that we keep our eyes on His eternal truths, that we just be faithful in the "little things" and leave the "big picture" up to Him.  Viewing this video made me realize that in the 32 years I have been a believer, I have met and interacted in some small way in the lives of individuals in nearly every one of those situations mentioned!  In each case, whether I realized it or not, I  had represented God according to the God-given ability I possessed at that moment in my Christian walk. As difficult as their circumstances were, God's Word was able to reveal their greatest need, letting them know that the best answer to their life situation begins with Christ.  I have absolutely no idea how God used any of those experiences.  He is a mighty God, though my efforts may be feeble!

Now, 25 years later, God has chosen to use my child to possibly impact the life of an individual who has been given yet another chance to know God, to repent and trust in the finished work of Christ.  What a blessing to be given this peek at God working!  May we continue to walk faithfully before God TODAY to the best of our abilities by the power of God's grace ... no matter how "small" the task.  To God be the glory!

[Click here to see the video.]

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Pinkie" & "The Blue Boy" - Behind the Story

"The Blue Boy"
These two portraits are familiar to even the most casual art appreciator.  We're used to seeing them displayed together, but they were painted by two different artists and were not originally intended to be shown as a pair.

"Pinkie" was the family nickname of Sarah Barrett Moulton.  Her portrait was painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence in 1794, when she was about 11 years old.  She was born in Jamaica to wealthy English plantation owners and died about a year after the portrait was completed.  Her brother, Edward, later changed his surname to Moulton-Barrett, and fathered the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

"The Blue Boy",  thought to be a portrait of Jonathan Buttall, the son of a wealthy English hardware merchant, was painted by Thomas Gainsborough around 1770, in clothing from an earlier period in tribute to artist Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641). [Click on a photo for a closer look.]

In 1921, American railroad pioneer Henry Edwards Huntington purchased both paintings, to great British consternation, I might add.  He displayed the two full length portraits side by side, and they have been shown that way ever since.

The Huntington Art Museum, Library & Botanical Gardens is well worth visiting if you ever find yourself in the Pasadena, CA area.  One of my fondest memories is having my son & his wife take me there when they lived in the area.  If you have an opportunity to see "Pinkie" and "The Blue Boy", I hope you'll be able to appreciate them more now that you've heard a little bit about their background.  You may visit the Huntington online here.   Brew a cup of tea, put on a classical CD and enjoy perusing the collection online.  And remember ... there's a story behind every painting!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

New Excavation to Start at Carchemish!

Carchemish [Karkamış] was an ancient city of the Mittani, Hittite and Neo-Assyrian Empires.  Occupation dates back to the Neolithic period, with pottery finds from ca. 3000 BC and tombs from ca. 2300 BC.  The site is on the border of modern Turkey & Syria. The tell is currently located on the Turkish side, just west of Ancient Haran, where Abraham first settled after leaving Ur of the Chaldees (Gen.11-12). [Also the site where his father died (Gen.11:32) and the city where Jacob's mother Rebekah & her brother Laban resided (Gen.27:43).]  SW of Carchemish is the ancient city of Alalakh, which our Women's Bible study may remember. [Click on the map for a closer look.]

Carchemish was a large and significant city throughout ancient history,  originally controlling the main ford across the Euphrates.  Mention of the city has been found in ancient Egyptian, Assyrian & Babylonian texts, as well as in several Old Testament passages.
  • Isaiah made a reference to Carchemish (Isaiah 10:9). The city had been sacked by Sargon II of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 717 BC.
  • Pharaoh Necho of Egypt went up to Carchemish to help defend the  Assyrians against the encroachment of the  Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar II, in 609 B.C. (2 Chronicles 35:20; Jeremiah 46:2). King Josiah of Judah (the "boy King" grown up) tried to stop him, but was killed.  The subsequent Battle of Carchemish between the Egyptian/Assyrian coalition & Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonian forces is well documented.  Babylon defeated the Egyptians & the Assyrians, absorbing the Neo-Assyrian Empire into the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Nebuchadnezzar then went on to conquer Judah and Jerusalem in 605 BC.
The site of ancient Carchemish was identified by George Smith in 1876 and excavated by British archaeologists Leonard Woolley & T.E. Lawrence.  In recent times it has been a military zone and off limits to archaeologists, but the area was just cleared of 1200 land mines and a new excavation is scheduled to begin this year!

[Read news story here. From: Ferrell Jenkins blog.]

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Responding to Crisis

Natural disasters so easily touch our emotions, though I dare say we're often selective about which ones we choose to attach ourselves.  Some become deeply empathetic with the situation in one nation, yet are completely unresponsive to suffering in other parts of the world.  As Americans, I fear we too often direct our money at a problem and then feel we have done our part.  As believers we're called to go a step further, to look beyond physical needs to eternal ones.  We're called to direct our thoughts towards eternal realities ... even when there isn't a natural disaster involved.  Of course we should address physical need as God enables us.  But we must be cautious to not stop there.  There is a deeper crisis, a deeper need we dare not ignore.  Let's not limit Christian service to an emotional response to the Evening News, as tragic as those events may be.  Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) left the medical profession to become the pastor of a mission church in Wales, a choice often misunderstood by others.  His response gives insight into how we must never lose sight of man's deepest need, the need of a Savior able to offer eternal peace with a holy God.

"It is not often that I make any kind of personal reference from this pulpit, but I feel this morning that I must speak of an experience which bears on this very subject.  When I came here, people said to me: ‘Why give up good work – a good profession – after all, the medical profession, why give that up?  If you had been a bookie, for instance, and wanted to give that up to preach the gospel, we should understand and agree with you and say that you were doing a grand thing.  But medicine – a good profession, healing the sick and relieving pain!’  One man even said this, ‘If you were a solicitor [lawyer] and gave it up, I’d give you a pat on the back, but to give up medicine!’

‘Ah well!’ I felt like saying to them, ‘if you knew more about the work of a doctor, you would understand.  We but spend most of our time rendering people fit to go back to their sin!’  I saw men on their sick beds, I spoke to them of their immortal souls, they promised grand things.  Then they got better and back they went to their old sin!  I saw I was helping these men to sin and I decided that I would do no more of it.  I want to heal souls.  If a man has a diseased body and his soul is all right, he is all right to the end; but a man with a healthy body and a diseased soul is all right for sixty years or so and then he has to face an eternity of hell.  Ah, yes! we have sometimes to give up those which are good for that which is the best of all – the joy of salvation and newness of life."

[Martyn Lloyd Jones, The First Forty Years]

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

"Looking Up" - Guest Blogger

I'm pleased to share a recent post from a "Guest Blogger".  Jen Wilson and her family, long time friends and members of my church, are in their first year serving with AMG in Guatemala.  She offers the following observation as she settles into her new life serving God in the foreign mission field.  Her comments are just as applicable to those of us working in the local mission field.  She's given me permission to share her thoughts with you.

As we were driving to school a few weeks ago, I was struggling with a few things. I was also overwhelmed at the daunting thought of what was ahead of me that day. I was struggling with being in Guatemala when friends and family at home were having children.  And, also loved ones at home were dying.   I was overwhelmed with the daunting thought of all that needed to be done that day: language school, cleaning, cooking, and shopping.  All stuff in a normal day, but we are in the midst of a language barrier here. I was praying that I would have a better outlook on the day, and that I would not be thinking of things at home, but rather of things here in Guatemala.  I was praying that I would see outside of my world, that I would see the bigger picture.  Not many of you reading this have actually been to Guatemala, but some of you have.  Pictures do it no justice.  Let me tell you what happened when I opened my eyes.  We were coming off a mountain into the city where we go everyday for language, and as we rounded the corner right in front of me was the most spectacular view of a volcano.  It was just purely magnificent!  And at that moment, I thought to myself, I need to keep looking up!  I see this beautiful volcano everyday and many others like it.  I see the natural beauty all around me every day here in Guatemala.  You need to look up to see the mountains and the volcanoes. When you look down you see the trash and the filth.

Where am I going with this?  When we look at the little things, the “trash” that is around us every day, we can (I can) get so overwhelmed that I forget what needs to be done.  And I forget the purpose of why I am doing things. Is it still hard to be away from home and not grieving with friends?  YES!  Is it still hard being away from home and not rejoicing with friends?  YES!  Is it hard being 3000 miles from family as my father-in-law walked into the arms of Jesus?  YES!!  BUT, we have the hope and promise that we will one day be together again. We are here in Guatemala serving our loving sovereign Lord.  We have a hope!  We need to share that hope with a lost and dying world.  We need to focus on Jesus and not on the “trash” that is lying in our path.  We need to focus on the people around us and their souls, not on the daunting daily tasks.... We need to look at opportunities that God places in our lives.   Who do I talk to in the grocery store?  Who do we talk with when our washing machine is being fixed?  Who do we talk to at the market when we buy our fruits and vegetables?  These are people who need to hear of the love of the Savior who came just for them.  And when I am focusing on looking up, I know I can definitely see a difference in how I look at the day ahead of me.

Are you looking up?

[The Wilson family blog]

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Intentional Parenting

 Here are a few practical parenting ideas from Rick Holland's blog. [Rick is a pastor at Grace Community Church, a Director at The Master's Seminary & the father of 3 school-aged boys.]  It's helpful to consider various ways to apply the command to bring up our children "in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Eph.6:4)  Christian parents must be "intentional" about child rearing, thinking through ways to incorporate God's truth into the lives of their children. If you don't actively and purposefully teach your children, the world will do it for you!  But if you start when they are young, by the time they are teens you will not only have built biblical truth into their lives, you'll be pleased to discover you  have also established strong communication patterns with them.

Here are a few things Rick does with his boys ...
  • I take each of the boys out for breakfast before school once a week. This is as simple as a muffin at Starbucks or an earlier morning at IHOP. I’m going through different things with each of them. They are in very different places in spiritual understanding because of their ages. We have read books together, gone over chapters of the Bible that address what they are working through in life ... I try to end with a verse I’ve isolated for them that we simply read and pray through.
  • We try to talk about the biblical instruction they are receiving at church. Driving home from church on Sundays includes a debriefing of what they learned in their youth ministry groups and the regular service sermon... Kim and I try to create and follow as many rabbit trails as we can to see what is at the end of their thinking.
  • Dinner times are great because they are magnetized to the table by their appetites. It’s fun to throw out a topic and see what they think. I’m not so interested in using this time for instruction as I am to simply see what and how they think.
  • Then there is “Monday Man School.” On Monday nights we try to get together to talk through issues of masculinity. This can include things like how to tie a tie, how to iron a shirt, how to skin and cook a rabbit, how to treat a lady (this an ongoing lesson), what to do when you get embarrassed in front of others, how to admit you're wrong and why that’s important, how to match clothes, how to shave (better), and sometimes we just watch a football or basketball game together.
  • An important footnote is that there are always interruptions and exceptions to these activities. We rarely have a perfect week where everything happens, but we’re trying to make those the exceptions rather than the norm.
Then there are always the informal discussions that come up when you have kids. You can never let the antenna down... look for opportunities to speak into their worldview to encourage or correct it."

[Related Post: "Dinner Table Devotions" (Ideas for conversation starters at the dinner table.)]