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Friday, April 24, 2009

Normal - Isn't That a City in Illinois?



For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an unrealistic idea that has persistently reemerged in my thinking. That is the pie-in-the-sky notion that goes something like this: “When I get past this (name whatever irritation or inconvenience you are currently experiencing – “both children in diapers”, “not enough kitchen counter-top space”, “pain in my knee”, “a house that never stays clean”, “a temporary commitment and deadline”, “doing my laundry at a laundromat”, etc.), things will be “normal” again and life will get easier.”

But what is normal? I know of a city in Illinois that is named “Normal”. And I once heard a woman say that “normal” is really only a setting on the clothes dryer. I’d have to agree with that. Life happens during all of our little and big abnormalities. In fact, those inconvenient abnormalities make up life. Life requires a constant adjustment to all the “whatevers” that the Lord chooses to use for our sanctification. If we put living on hold until after the circumstances pass…well, we will just be missing out on what Jesus called the abundant life.

How we handle these “abnormalities” is what matters. Job 5:7 says, “…man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” Jesus told us that each day would have enough of its own trouble and therefore not to worry about tomorrow. This world is not perfect. How could it be…you and I live in it?

Why not, instead, look past the annoyances to the One who said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Instead of wishing the trouble away, welcome it as an agent for your change toward Christ-likeness. Don’t contemplate life beyond your trouble. Instead find your life and your joy there amidst the trouble for the Joy Giver is there with you.

This calls for a radical adjustment to our thinking. Thinking “inconvenience or nuisance” implies that my life is interrupted. Rather think this is an “opportunity to depend upon God” for I am His - my life is not my own. Ask Christ for His strength in the task and thank Him when He gives it, then recon that you will be doing this all again tomorrow (remember what Jesus said - "each day has its own trouble"). Do not be surprised; rather know that amidst all the changes, the unchanging Savior is present – Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever. Can you praise and worship Him there in the midst of the annoyance? If so, you will have joy that transcends the disturbance and goes way beyond the desired “normal”.

Once this ever-changing, non-normal, whatever-life is past, we will dwell in the presence of unparalleled perfection and consistent beauty for we will be forever with the Lord. We will never have the desire for “life just to be normal again”. Who would want mundane normalcy in the stunning and indescribably majestic presence of our Lord?

What we must remember is that we can experience His stunning and majestic presence here, even in the midst of the routine irritations of an imperfect world. Dwell in that Presence now for the honor of the One who is perfecting you for that splendid, never-ending, glorious day. Why settle for “normal” when Christ and heaven can be found in the midst of our mundane inconveniences?


Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Normal - Isn't That a City in Illinois?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Partiality - Not an Attribute of God


Most of you, by now, have heard about Susan Boyle and her incredibly beautiful singing voice. I wanted to embed the video of her performance on Britain's Got Talent on my blog, but it is no longer available for display other than on YouTube. Click here to view the link in case you have not seen it.

However, I was able to get the vocal of Susan singing Cry Me a River embedded here.


But the reason I decided to make a post about Susan Boyle is based on a text in James. The women's Bible study that I co-teach has been studying the book of James this past year. James 2:1-5 says:
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "You sit here in a good place," while you say to the poor man, "You stand over there," or, "Sit down at my feet," have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
After having seen the reaction from the judges and the audience when Susan Boyle appeared on stage for her audition for Britain's Got Talent, it became even more clear to me how fickle the human heart can be. It was only after she began to sing that everyone who had disgracefully judged her just seconds before, changed their opinion of her and instead displayed approval. It really was a sad exhibition.

Some apologized. But what if she had croaked out her song? The following comment, from a secular blog, pretty well sums up what I am thinking:
The unspoken message of this whole episode is that, since Susan Boyle has a wonderful talent, we were wrong to judge her based on her looks and demeanor. Meaning what? That if she couldn't sing so well, we were correct to judge her on that basis? That demeaning someone whose looks don't match our impossible, media-reinforced standards of beauty is perfectly okay, unless some mitigating circumstance makes us re-think our opinion?
As a Christian, would you even speak to this individual, let alone welcome him into your life? Or would you and I shun him as one who is not worthy of love? Think about the fact that we were in no better condition when Christ welcomed us. Apart from His compassion, we all would still be in our sins, doomed to a life apart from anything good. 
It is sad to say that we, in our churches, do this very thing. If someone does not come up to our preconceived idea of what a person should look like, talk like, dress like, etc. we have no intention of going any further to discover who that person really is. We remain in our comfort zones, excluding that individual from the grace God would display through us, were we willing. And then we are relieved and think we are vindicated if that person turns out to be what we judged them to be in the first place.

No, the sin of partiality is wrong no matter what. We become judges with evil thoughts when this happens. God is no respecter of persons. He looks upon the heart. Since we cannot do that, we must give way to love, compassion and mercy.

And consider what it means that God sees the heart. That is a very frightening thing. He saw me for what I really was. We were all unlovely to Him. All of us were guilty in His sight. All of our works were like filthy rags. We were altogether unclean, haters of God, lovers of sin. This is the condition we were all in when He chose to redeem us from our vain manner of life.

Had God been a partial being, such as we are, He would never have chosen to save any of us. We would all face His wrath. And He would have been justified in doing that. No, God saved us in spite of ourselves.

Knowing that, can we as followers of Christ, learn from what we saw in Susan Boyle's appearance? Can we learn to look on others with compassion and kindness as our Heavenly Father looked upon us in our forlorn and ungodly state? Can we then decide to offer mercy and Christ-like love to the ones we find unlovely?


As for me, I have been very convicted by all of this and am stunned when I think of it in terms of my acceptance before God. He has taken a poor, ragged sinful wretch, welcomed her into His heaven and given her all the blessings in the heavenly realms. In Him, I have redemption through Christ's blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished on me with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7-9)

I pray like Paul for those of us making a claim to know Christ:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)
Once this kind of knowing is a reality, there is no telling what would come of it in our churches and in our homes and who we would welcome, just as our Lord has indeed welcomed us!

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Partiality - Not an Attribute of God

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lug-a-Chug

Aren't I cute?

If you've wondered why there had been no posts for nearly two weeks, it's because we have a new addition in our home - a little "chug" puppy. "What", you ask, "is a chug?" A chug is a cross between a chihuahua and a pug.

So, now I lug-a-chug around with me in the house. This little guy's name is Tucker and he is nine weeks old now and weighs all of two and a half pounds. Sophie (our two year old beagle mix) is learning to love Tucker. The two of them have a great time romping around in the living room in the evenings.

I will be posting some pics of the two dogs at a later date.
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Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Lug-a-Chug

Saturday, April 18, 2009

You Will Suffer

Please take ten minutes to watch John Piper remind you of your calling in Christ to a life that so magnifies Him that you will know what the Savior meant when He said, "A slave is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you..."






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Posted by Sharon Kaufman

You Will Suffer

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Safe At Shore

My husband, Robert has taught a midweek Bible study for many years. He recently assigned some extra reading - a small booklet written by C. H. Spurgeon entitled Around the Wicket Gate. What a great read - so encouraging and motivational.

I offer this excerpt from chapter two, Jesus Only:


Faith saves us because it makes us cling to Christ Jesus, and He is one with God, and thus brings us into connection with God.

I am told that, years ago, above the Falls of Niagara, a boat was upset, and two men were being carried down by the current, when persons on the shore managed to float a rope out to them, which was seized by both men.

One of the men held fast to it and was safely drawn to the bank; but the other, seeing a great log come floating by, unwisely let go of the rope, and clung to the great piece of timber, for it was the bigger thing of the two, and apparently better to cling to.

Alas! The timber, with the man on it, went right over the vast abyss, because there was no union between the wood and the shore. The size of the log was no benefit to him who grasped it; it needed a connection with the shore to produce safety.

So, when a man trusts to his works, or to his prayers, or alms givings, or to sacraments, or to anything of that sort, he will not be saved because there is no junction between him and God through Christ Jesus; but faith, though it may seem to be like a slender cord, is in the hand of the great God on the shore side; infinite power pulls in the connection line, and this draws the man from destruction. Oh, the blessedness of faith, because it unites us to God by the Savior, whom He has appointed, even Jesus Christ!
If this has encouraged you and you would like to order Around the Wicket Gate for yourself, go here to Chapel Library.
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Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Safe At Shore