Monday, October 24, 2011

We Trust in God

I wrote this post on Monday afternoon. The verse had been on my heart for a few days as I was preparing to have surgery Tuesday morning. It was my second surgery in three and a half years and was supposed to clear up all of the endometriosis in my body. We had no inclination that it wouldn't be enough. God had other plans, and it was worse than we (or the doctor) realized. So we are now re-grouping. I'm trying to rest and recover and also grapple with the news that I still have some heavy treatment left before our infertility journey is over. It's been a rough few days. I find it ironic that I wrote this post about this particular verse with no idea what was about to unfold a mere twenty four hours later. But God did. God was not surprised by the diagnosis. He is still on his throne and he is still our sustainer and helper in this storm. We are thankful for so many people who have cared for us and pointed us to the One who heals the sick, restores the brokenhearted, and gives barren women a home. We trust in him alone.


"Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." -Psalm 20:7

What do you trust in? We don't use chariots for transportation anymore. We don't ride horses and depend on them for our livelihood. In fact, most of us don't even own livestock. But this psalm still stands true in our lives.

Do you trust in your job? Friends? Family? Spouse? Doctors? Money? There are a whole host of things we are drawn to trust in when life presses in around us. David was no different. He is calling the reader to trust only in the God who gives us life and every good gift.

In verse 4 he says:

"May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!"

He is the one who does it. As followers of Christ we no longer have to trust in things that pass away, like money, doctors, health, people, or our stuff. It will all fail us in the end. We trust in God, the maker of heaven and earth, and the keeper of our life.

All My Sins Are Paid For

One of the defining characteristics of Christianity is that we can’t save ourselves. This belief, that our right standing before God is all God-given grace, is what sets us apart from other religions in the world. A few days ago as we were talking to a non-Christian friend about his religion, he laid out what he believed would happen to him after he died. One statement he made has stuck with me. After explaining his beliefs to us, he basically said that he really has no assurance that he will be saved in the end. He just hopes that his good works will be enough to please his god. After he told us that, one phrase just kept ringing in my ears:

“Full atonement, can it be! Hallelujah! What a savior!”

The words from this popular hymn capture the essence of our great salvation so beautifully. The hymn writer unpacks the work Christ accomplished on our behalf and his only response can be “hallelujah, what a savior!” It’s our response as well.

Perhaps one might think that a conversation about religion could make a believer question his or her beliefs. Maybe it does. But I would venture to say that Jesus shines more brightly when we see him up against the false religions that blind so many in our world.

Works of righteousness will never be enough for anyone to stand before God. Even our best days are filthy rags to him. He is too holy and too majestic to even look on our good days and let us go free. That is why my friend has to do so many good works. It’s never enough. And when he gets to the end of his life, he will still fall short.

But Jesus made a way. Another non-Christian friend of ours said that he thinks people become Christians because it’s easier to be a Christian than to follow his religion. Christians are more free and don’t have to do as many things as he does. And he is right. Christians are the freest of all people because we are no longer in bondage to our sin. We have been covered by the free grace of Christ and our sins don’t condemn us anymore. Christ did all of the work for us.

It seems so basic, doesn’t it? If you have been a Christian for a number of years it’s so easy to put aside the realities of your salvation. We get busy. We focus on other aspects of Christianity. We forget the feeling we felt when Christ first saved us. But Jesus Christ took your sins and paid for them all so you could be in his family. So often we need a jolt to be reminded of our great salvation. I know I did.

There are millions of people in our world who cannot see that Jesus is enough. They have not tasted his goodness and embraced his salvation on their behalf. Instead they live in darkness believing that the only way they will ever see light is if they work as hard as they can to get out of the darkness. The harder they work, the darker their world becomes. If you have been given eyes to see the light of Christ, praise him for the full atonement for your sins. And pray that many lost people would be given eyes to see him too. It is all of grace, freely given by our great Savior.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Way God Answers Prayer

One of the hardest things in our struggle to conceive again has been facing the fact that God's answer to our prayer at this time seems to be "not now." We cry out to him regularly, asking him to do what only he can do, which is open my womb again. We can't make him answer our prayers in the way that we want any more than we can create life. It's a humbling place to be.

But it's a good place to be.

I have wrestled with why God answers prayers the way he does. For some, it's a favorable answer. For others, it's not. And not just in my own life. I've seen dear friends plead with God for things, only to receive year after year of unmet hopes and dreams. I've had a lot of questions and been forced to really work through what the Bible says about God's character and his good plan for the lives of his people, including my own. That's why I was so thankful to read the following quote in D.A. Carson's book, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers. If you want a pick-me-up for your prayer life, this book is totally the one for you. It has been life changing for me. It's opened my eyes to the purpose of prayer and my own sinful prayerlessness. It has helped me tremendously these last few weeks.

Carson has this to say about God's sovereignty in answering prayer (he's writing in reference to Paul's prayer to have the thorn removed):

"Suppose, for argument's sake, that every time we asked God for anything and ended our prayers with some appropriate formula, such as 'in Jesus' name,' we immediately received what we asked for. How would we view prayer? How would we view God? Wouldn't prayer become a bit of clever magic? Wouldn't God himself become nothing more than an extraordinarily powerful genie, to be called up, not by rubbing Aladdin's lamp, but by praying?...What an easy and domesticated religion."

He goes on to say this:

"There is a profound sense in which the sovereign, holy, loving, wise Father whom we address in Jesus' name is more interested in us than in our prayers. I do not mean to depreciate praying, only to say that God's response to our prayers cannot be abstracted from his treatment of us."

"I do not know the end from the beginning. Only God does. But he is interested in me as his child, in the same way that he was interested in the life and ministry of the apostle Paul. Part of this business of prayer is getting to know God better; part of it is learning his mind and will; part of it is tied up with teaching me to wait, or teaching me that my requests are often skewed or my motives selfish. Just as God's unexpected answer to Paul's prayers was the best possible answer (precisely because it was God's), so also his answers to our prayers will always be for his glory and his people's good"

When it comes down to it, I don't really want a God who answers every prayer my way. He wouldn't be sovereign and all-wise if he did. I'm fallen and not sovereign. I don't see all of the details he sees. I don't see my soul like he does. So when he says "no" to my prayer, he is really saying "I'm giving you what is best for you right now. I want you to see me better and find your greatest joy in me. My answer to you is for your good and your joy"

So whatever you are praying for today, know that God hears your prayers and has not turned a deaf ear to you, regardless of the answer you receive. We do not have a small and domesticated religion. We worship a big God, who lavishly gives us good gifts and holds back just as graciously. In all of these things he is giving us a gift, namely the gift of himself.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday is for Food: Orange Teriyaki Salmon

My sister-in-law sent me this recipe about a month ago and we recently tried it. I've said before that I have had an aversion to fish for almost all of my life, but since Daniel likes it (and it's good for us) I try to include fish recipes into our menu every once in a while. We really liked this recipe! I hope you do too!

Orange Teriyaki Salmon
Recipe by Becca Smith for
*This makes quite a bit of marinade. You could definitely get away with a little more fish in there, or even half the recipe for smaller portions.

about 2 pounds salmon; one large filet or 2 smaller ones
3/4 C orange marmalade
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 C orange juice
3 Tbs bottled teriyaki sauce
6 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs worshershire sauce
2 Tbs vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs brown sugar
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1/8 tsp ground red pepper, or 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
several cracks black pepper
2 Tbs chopped dry onion, or 1/4 C minced fresh onion
3 Tbs dry parsley or about 1/2 C fresh

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Layer a piece of heavy duty foil over a large baking sheet Lay on one more sheet in the opposite direction, leaving about 8″ of overhang on all sides.

Place marmalade and butter in a small microwave safe bowl and heat for about 30 seconds, or until butter is melted. Whisk until smooth. Combine this mixture with all ingredients (except fish) in a bowl and stir until smooth. Rinse salmon in cold water and pat dry. Place skin side down on baking sheet. Pour marinade over fish.

Starting from one end, gather the foil overhang together and roll them together to seal a tent-like pouch. Bake in oven for about 25 minutes. Fish should be opaque and flake easily with a fork. Test fish and return pan to oven for an additional 5-10 minutes if necessary. Serve salmon with sauce spooned over top.

Grill instructions: Preheat gas grill to 325. Place foil pouch on upper rack if you have one, or on indirect heat on the main rack. Follow the same baking instructions as if it were in the oven.
Fish can also be cooked in a foil tent over a camp fire. Season the fish as desired (you can also add a couple of tablespoons of water to help it steam in the hot fire) and close up your foil tent. Nestle your foil pouch into the glowing embers where the heat isn’t as intense as the flames. Cooking time may vary depending on the size and variety of fish, so check it after 10 minutes. If it’s not done, check at 2-3 minute intervals after that.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Christian Response to Gay Bullying

It seems the topic of bullying has been in the news a lot more recently. Maybe it's the rise of social media and a variety of avenues for young people to taunt each other, or maybe it's just getting worse. I don't know. But I do know that I've seen a lot of discussion regarding the basis for gay bullying. Often the push for tolerance of homosexuality follows the sad news that another gay student has committed suicide. As Christians, how are we to respond to such claims about tolerance? How are we to love and care for hurting people, regardless of their lifestyle, without abandoning the Bible's clear teaching about sexuality?

I attempted to answer this question in a post today on the Christianity Today blog for women (Her.meneutics). It's not an easy answer, but it's something we all must think about, especially as homosexual behavior becomes increasingly normalized.

In the post, I said:

"Christians must bridge the gap between bullying and the cry for tolerance. We cannot turn a blind eye to sinful behavior of any sort, whether it’s homosexual behavior or hateful bullying. And we also must clearly define bullying, focusing on physical and verbal abuse rather than simple disagreement with another’s actions."

Read the rest here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

God Makes No Discoveries

A few weeks ago I heard that there had been a discovery of something with the ability to go faster than the speed of light. They are called neutrinos, and the world's largest physics lab made the discovery. Apparently they move pretty fast. Fast enough to question a theory that has been around for a very long time. I don't know a whole lot about physics. In fact, I had to ask my husband what Einstein's theory even meant. But I find it fascinating that even when we have the greatest scientific research capabilities our world has ever known, we are still not finished in the discovery of our universe.

And yet, so often the scientific community (and many in academia) miss the creator of it all. We only discover because God has given us a brain, talent, and eyes to see what he has made. A discovery to us is no discovery to God. I've been studying the book of Job in a bible study over the past few weeks, and it has completely opened my eyes to new things in God's word. At the end of the book God finally speaks to Job, and the way he does is surprising, especially to us as 21st century observers. In revealing the greatness of who he is he draws attention to the wonder of his creation. It's overwhelming, really. In our busy modern times we don't often stop to take his creation in, to marvel at it, and see his greatness in it. No piece of his creation moves without his sovereign and perfect command. He cares for the intimate details of everything he has made. Job 38:36 says, "Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind?" Here God is saying that he is the one who grants wisdom and understanding. All knowledge comes from him. What seems like a great discovery to us is no discovery to him. When we are baffled and surprised that Einstein's theory can be brought into question, God isn't. He knows it all. If there is something even faster than a neutrino, he knows it because he made it.

The beauty of all of this is that God could have just given us all the answers immediately. Or he could have left us in the dark, unable to make any discoveries. But the fact that he gives doctors, researchers, teachers, and scientists knowledge of such things is cause for worship. He made us to be discovering and creative beings. He has given us a way to know his creation more fully by the knowledge he gives. He has not left us to ourselves, and his gift of wisdom and knowledge to us is another evidence of that fact.

So while many were scrambling at the surprise revelation that something else may be faster than light, God was not. He made the light and the neutrino. And he made everything else in this world we live in. May we have eyes to see his power in the beauty of discovery and always give him the worship he deserves.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday is for Food: Baked Potato Soup

I haven't posted a recipe in a while primarily because I haven't been cooking as much since we've been out of town a lot recently. But when we were with some friends and family a couple of weeks ago they mentioned that they actually used some of the recipes I have posted! It gave me new inspiration to keep sharing thoughts from my little kitchen.

I found this recipe on my blog friend's blog. It is amazing! I actually made it a few weeks ago when we had a cold front come through. And by cold front I mean it was in the 70's. I know for some of you readers out there it is soup weather already. But for us Arkansas folk it's still in the mid to upper 80's. Maybe I will start blasting the air conditioner just so I can make soup! It's October and I feel like I should be making soup and fall-like meals. Oh well.

So here is the yummy baked potato soup recipe. I could eat it all of the time. It's that good. But I think anything that includes bacon and cheese is good.

Baked Potato Soup by Chelsea Bass

What you need:

3 bacon strips, diced
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 cups chicken broth
3 large potatoes, baked, peeled, and cubed
1 cup half-and-half

How It's Done:

Begin by baking potatoes. While in the oven, cook bacon, chop onion, and mince garlic. Saute the onion and garlic in bacon grease or butter/margarine until soft. Add in chopped bacon, flour, salt, basil and pepper; mix well. Gradually add chicken broth.

Bring to boil. Boil and stir for two minutes and then reduce heat. Add half-and-half.

Once the potatoes are done, peel and dice them and add to the mixture. Heat thouroughly, but do not boil.

Serve with a spoonful of shredded cheddar cheese and a piece of warm bread.

Enjoy! Happy Friday!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"God Said It. I Believe It."

"And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness." - Genesis 15:6

Last week I talked about my tendency towards doubting good news and struggling with believing what I cannot see. The story of Abraham has ministered to me greatly in the past few weeks. He had to wrestle hard with what it means to believe God and take him at his word (and, like me, he didn't always do that well). This morning I read about God's covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 and how Abraham believed God's promise to make him into a great nation. Abraham was essentially believing that what God said was true. This belief, this complete trust in God's word, was the basis of his faith. Abraham's belief was a recognition of his utter dependence on the One who would do all that he said. He trusted that God would act on his behalf. He believed God's word was true.

His story is no different than mine. I have to daily fight to believe that what God says in his word is true regardless of my circumstances. As I read the story of Abraham this morning, I was reminded of a children's song my niece used to listen to. It was about God's word, and while I don't remember all of the lyrics, one line has never left my memory:

"God said it. I believe it."

So simple and short, yet so powerful. This line holds the same truth for me as it did for my little niece. If God said it, then I will believe it. But how often do I question his word? It starts in the small things and moves on to the bigger and more obvious. When we doubt him in the seemingly insignificant areas of our life it makes doubting him in the most important areas that much easier.

Often we think Abraham had a greater advantage than us. He heard directly from God. God performed an amazing miracle in his life by granting him a child at an age when all hope of ever conceiving seemed lost. God dealt with him personally. Surely it made believing easier, right?

But God has spoken to us in even more amazing ways. We live on the other side of the promise. The one who was going to bless the nations Abraham fathered has come. The promised seed that the patriarchs, and everyone else in the Old Testament, looked forward to has come and has made a way for us be righteous. He acted on our behalf. God's word has come true in the life, death, and resurrection of his son, Jesus. Hebrews 1:2 says that "in these last days he [God] has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom he also created the world." Abraham only had a veiled promise of a hope to come. The veil has been removed from our eyes and we now have the promise.

This is why we can trust God. All that he says he will do he accomplishes. He never fails. He never recants. And he is always faithful to his promises. Like Abraham, we are not always able to see all of the details of God's plan for our lives, but we can trust that the greatest promise for us has already been fulfilled at the cross of Jesus Christ. Our sins have been paid for and we have been given the righteousness of Christ. By virtue of this very transaction at Calvary we have hope that God will always work for our good (Rom. 8:28).

His word is true. He has said it and by his grace I believe it.