Friday, April 24, 2020

Did You Know Passing on Your Faith is Like Baking Cookies?

When I was a child, nothing tasted better than a soft sugar cookie, warm from the oven. My mother’s cookies melted in my mouth and satisfied my need for something sweet after a day of school. Passing on our faith is like baking cookies. And just as gratifying to the soul. Here’s why I say that:

Baking cookies takes time. Ingredients must be mixed, dropped onto a cookie sheet and baked before the finished product is ready to eat. Passing on our faith also takes time. We serve as daily role models to family members so others see what the “finished product” looks like. We talk about faith and life in daily conversation with children and grandchildren: “Look at that beautiful flower.” “Feel that breeze.” “What a view!” We return excess change because honesty is not just the best policy, it’s what God expects. When we go through fiery trials and disappointments, such as our confinement during this coronavirus, we trust God to see us through and even bless us in the process. All the while, others watch and listen, learning from our example how to handle the vagaries of life with faith intact.

Baking cookies requires a variety of ingredients. Flour provides texture; sugar, sweetness; peanut butter, a distinctive taste. Salt enhances the flavor, and egg binds ingredients together. We, of course, must develop our own faith before we can pass it on, and faith development in our own lives also requires a variety of ingredients--that is, experiences. The daily discipline of Christian living include scripture reading to provide the texture of our faith; prayer, the sweetness. Our experiences create a unique, distinctive story to share, and worship enhances our lives. Like an egg, showing love demonstrates and binds all other aspects of our lives together

Baking cookies means following a recipe—and recipes differ. One calls for shortening; another, for butter. One suggests topping the cookie with chocolate candy; another, rolling the unbaked cookie in sugar. Likewise, the “recipe” of passing on a legacy of faith may differ according to individuals. We encourage someone who enjoys art to draw a picture of what they pray for. We take a prayer walk with a youth who has trouble sitting. For those in tune with music, we suggest they draw close to God as they listen, sing, or even play songs of worship on an instrument. God did not make us using one cookie-cutter. We all have personalities and preferences that affect how we learn, and we can best pass on our faith if we respect those aspects of human development.  

Baking cookies leaves a mess. No matter how careful we are, we spill sugar and flour on the counter or even drop an egg on the floor. And even though we follow the recipe, our cookies never look like the picture in the cookbook. So with sharing our faith. Sometimes we stumble over words. We sometimes say the “wrong” thing. And the person with whom we share, may not react as we expect. What we can count on is that God will use even our awkward attempts to work in people’s hearts.

Like nibbling on a cookie dipped in milk, the end result of sharing our faith is amazingly satisfying. Hearing a child pray warms my heart more than a warm cookie tickles my taste buds. Seeing a child stop to pick up someone who tripped, delights my spirit just as a perfectly baked cookie delights my eyes. I get excited when I hear that my grandchildren attend youth groups and go on mission trips. Proverbs 22:6 challenges parents to “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” We shape a life as we share our faith.

Are you feeding the faith of your family or just satisfying their appetites? Have a cup of coffee and a cookie as you pray about who might benefit from hearing your story of faith and seeing your faith in action.

#FriendsOfTheHeart #PassingFaithtoFamily
Photo by Jonathan Meyer from Pexels

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Book Review: Friend of God: The Legacy of Abraham, Man of Faith

Ray C. Stedman discusses the incidents of Abraham’s life to throw light on New Testament truths that are important for us to understand and apply to our own lives. I learned so much reading this book.

For instance, one chapter explains how the torch that passed between the pieces of Abraham’s sacrifice in Genesis 15 relates to the doctrinal themes of Romans 4 through 8. Another chapter explains the great significance of the name change from Sarai to Sarah and from Abram to Abraham.

I appreciated the author’s explanation of the original reason circumcision became part of God’s covenant with Abraham. And Stedman discusses how Abraham’s life illustrates the struggle we all face with our old nature and our new nature. There are 19 chapters with titles including: “Ishmael Must God,” “How Prayer Works,” “The Wasted Years” and “The Abundant Entrance.”

Stedman graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary and pastored Peninsula Bible Church in California for 40 years. He has written more than 20 books and is considered one of the centuries’ foremost Bible expositors. Stedman writes in a conversational manner, easy to understand. A great read and another book I want to reread because it had more to offer than I can absorb in one reading.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Four Tips to Survive

Like gentle rain, God’s grace heals a hurting heart. Maybe you’ve experienced a catastrophic loss--the loss of a loved one, a painful divorce, the loss of a job. You grieve. I want you to know that you will survive.

But grief can be mind-numbing. I’ve previously posted about the death of our infant daughter. I remember sitting on my hospital bed after Christy Marie’s birth, trying to draw strength from scripture, but the pages of my Bible turned to dry leaves. I thought of scripture such as the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead and wondered why I hadn’t thought to have my pastor pray over Christy’s body. What was wrong with my faith, anyway, that such a thing had happened?

The Sunday following her funeral, Bill took the boys to church while I recuperated at home. A radio chorus singing “As the Deer” drew me to Psalm 42 where the writer talks about thirsting for God as the deer pants for the water brooks. That was how I felt. I thirsted. I wanted to know God better, to better understand his ways. That became my quest over the weeks, months and years ahead. May these tips help you grow in faith and practice as you grieve a loss.

Tip #1 – Read and meditate on scripture such as Psalm 42.

As you take time to grieve (and it definitely takes time), let God’s Word transform your thinking. Scripture reminded me that yes, the psalmist was depressed, but he would remember the good times and hope in God. God’s Word reframes our thinking. We can pray along with the psalmists and rest in God’s promises. God walks with us. Let’s grasp His Hand.

Tip #2 – Recharge by doing something productive.

After a few years, I enrolled in seminary, and studies occupied my mind. I organized and taught released time and served at my church. At the time of Christy’s death, I was so devastated mentally, emotionally and physically that I thought I’d never be able to work again. But four years later I found myself back in the classroom. The loss of a loved one isn’t something you “get over.” You simply learn to move on.

Tip #3 – Remember and count your blessings.

Look around and be grateful for what you have. I had a husband and two boys and life was good. They grew up and married and blessed me with wonderful daughters-in law. Twenty years after Christy’s death, I found myself there for the birth of my first granddaughter, a privilege God gave that rained more of God’s gentle grace on my soul.

Tip #4 – Reach out and share your heartache.

I eventually began speaking at women’s events and sharing my life story. That too, helped me heal. Women cried with me, and I cried over their losses. Two women came to me after one event and prayed for me. Another healing experience. Don’t be surprised at how long it takes to “get over it.” If you want to have a good cry, cry. But talking about your experience, even through tears, offers gentle grace and healing.

To Wrap-Up:

We often quote “All things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28). I would be hard pressed to say “good” comes from losing a child. But read on and you find “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8:29). That I understand. As you cling to God, He changes you, makes you more like Christ. He softens your heart to others’ losses. You share His compassion for others who grieve.

So if you are experiencing heartache or loss, don’t give up or give in to depressing thoughts. When we are too weak to seek God, God seeks us. When we’re too weak to walk, He carries us. Christy’s brief life is woven into the tapestry of mine. I look forward to seeing her in heaven.

I leave in God’s hands the whys and wherefores of life on this earth. After all, God is God. As Job said, “Though He slay me; yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15 KJV). God shares your grief. After all, He too lost a Child, His only Son. May the gentle rain of God’s grace, heal your heart.

Book Review: Captured by Grace

Captured by Grace: No One is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God by David Jeremiah

You may know John Newton wrote “Amazing Grace,” but you may not know his life story. He continued as a slave trader after his conversion, but as he grew in understanding scripture and God’s grace to him, he turned abolitionist. In this book, Author David Jeremiah compares Newton’s life and conversion to the life of Paul the Apostle with profound insights for our own lives.

A favorite chapter for me was “The Comforting Provision of Grace” in which Jeremiah explained Romans 5:1-11 by assigning symbols to the verses. For instance a key symbolizes “access to faith” and a music box symbolizes “rejoicing.” Quite insightful to understanding the passage. I especially appreciated the “Moments of Grace,” that wrapped up each chapter.

Jeremiah helps us understand suffering and how “outward pain helps us accelerate inward progress.” “Negative events have positive purposes.” He illustrated some points by including poems by one of my favorite poets, Annie Johnson Flint.

A “Select Bibliography” and six pages of reference notes conclude the book. Although published in 2006, the book is especially relevant today as both John Newton and Paul faced hardship and learned to persevere. This is one book I want to reread.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Book Review: When God Weeps

When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty

This book speaks to times such as we are experiencing with the coronavirus. If God is loving, why do we suffer? What purpose does suffering serve? How should Christians respond to suffering? How does God respond to our suffering?

Authors Joni EarecksonTada and Steven Estes offer much to ponder. For instance, they suggest God may let us struggle with the remnants of a sinful nature to remind us of the hell from which we are being saved. After all, when life is easy how much thought do we give to eternity for ourselves and others? They discuss whether God permits suffering or ordains it.

The book is worth purchasing just for the Appendices. Appendix A offers scripture on how God ultimately works for the good of his people, ruling over nature and over Satan and demons. Appendix B offers scripture related to God’s purpose for our sufferings. And Appendix C discusses whether God experiences grief. I will keep the book handy as a ready reference.

The first two chapters by Estes seemed long to me, but I enjoyed Tada’s writing throughout the rest of the book. Since she has lived her adult life as a quadriplegic, she knows of what she speaks. Her challenging trials have drawn her closer to her Savior. May we say the same.

Published by Zondervan in 1997, the book’s message is timeless. A thoughtful read.

The "If Onlys" of Life

Today would be the 45th birthday of our daughter, Christy Marie. Her birth and her death a few hours later greatly impacted my life as I sought to better know the God Who permitted this tragedy. Each year we put daffodils on her grave on her birthday. May this devotional thought offer hope to you during this time of unexpected circumstances. You will survive.

Guilt Trip to Avoid: I am at fault.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6

It’s My Fault by Shirley

When I became pregnant, our young sons were excited at the prospect of a baby sister or brother. But I soon experienced early contractions and had to be confined to bed and later hospitalized. Five weeks before my due date the doctor sent me home, saying that even if I delivered, the baby would be fine. He was wrong.

            Christy Marie was born early on an April Fools Day morning, but I felt God had surely played a cruel April Fools Day joke on us. Her lungs were not fully developed, and she soon found heaven’s air easier to breathe. We were devastated, and I felt guilty. If only I had not sat up when company came. If only I had prayed more. If only . . . .

            Life is full of “if only’s,” but events cannot be undone. We must accept that our Sovereign God permits deaths and tragedies. It may take years to work through grief, but the good news is that we can trust God’s grace to use difficult experiences to conform us to his Image.

            Take the Joy Ride: Solomon showed his wisdom when he penned verses about trusting God. That is truly the secret to a happy life. We will never have all the answers, but we can trust the one who does and accept what we cannot change. Write out any “if onlys” you have and tuck them away. In a year, read them to see how God has used the struggles of your life to grow you as a Christian.

#Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides