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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Lessons from Sophie - Dwelling in Safety

Note: We said 'goodbye' to our sweet Sophie the day before yesterday (July 11th, 2021). In memorium, I decided to look back on three posts I added to my blog when Sophie was very young, with the tag "Lessons From Sophie". These posts, inspired by our little dog, were demonstrations to me that Sophie modeled regarding what my relationship to Lord should look like.

After reading these, I've decided to update and repost them. May Sophie encourage you the way she has continued to encourage me. And now, after having left us, these memories from her are also a sweet comfort to me. 

This is the first of the three articles, originally posted on May 24th, 2008, when Sophie was a little more than a year old: Lessons from Sophie - Dwelling in Safety:

"Do not fear for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10

One of the first posts I wrote was about my cute little dog, Sophie (click here to go to that post). She provided a great lesson for what it means to wholeheartedly love the one who feeds and cares for her (me).

Now she has again impressed upon me what it means to trust and depend upon her master (again, that's me; though to be accurate, I really am her mistress).

I have noticed an interesting behavior that Sophie displays when she is frightened of something - the vacuum cleaner, for instance. The first time I became aware of this behavior was when Robert and I were in the garden working. Robert was operating the rototiller and, of course, Sophie was afraid of it.
How she handled her fear is how I want to handle myself with the Lord when I am tempted to be afraid of any created thing. Instead of running away from what she feared in the garden that day (the rototiller), she got up as close to Robert and me as she could without getting tangled in the rototiller. As fearful as she was of the threatening raucous monster, she was more sure of my protection of her. She seemed to know where real safety was - right beside me.

Sophie does the same thing in the house when I am vacuuming. She gets up as close to me as she can, sandwiching me between herself and the dangerous suction machine. She doesn't try to tackle the intruder herself, in fact, she doesn't even offer warning barks. Sophie just knows that she will dwell in safety if she is next to me.
For me, this doesn't always come naturally. The enemy's design is to use my fears to separate me from my beloved Savior. But, oh, how I want that trouble to draw me to the Protector of my soul instead. When I am tempted to be anxious about what is in front of me, I desire to instinctively run to Jesus and put Him in between me and the peril. This is what will truly bring great comfort to me and great glory to my heavenly Father.

Besides, knowing this wonderful truth, isn't God good to put the examples before us in such delightful ways? I see my little dog do this thing easily, like it is her only option. May running to my Lord be the only thought in my head also. Only in His presence will I find rest and safety.

"In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety." Psalm 4:8

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Lessons from Sophie - Dwelling in Safety

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Why Does He hear Me?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

"...the Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me and believed that I came from God." John 16:27

Struggling with a self-focus in prayer
In my praying, I am constantly battling the thought that I am earning "merits" so to speak - the thought that because I pray, God is pleased with me and rewards my good behavior by answering my prayer. The negative side of that thinking is also present - that if I could word my prayer just right or pray longer or more often, then I could move God's heart to act.

Nothing could be further from the truth! God's answer does not depend on how good I can make my prayer or how often or long I pray. I am not earning kudos every time I bend my knee. The only reason He hears me in the first place is because of Christ's goodness and grace. Jesus has made me righteous and acceptable in God's sight (Phil. 3:9). I cannot come to the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6) and His unmerited grace.

So then, why does God hear and answer me?
He answers for His Son's sake - to glorify Himself in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. God is pleased to hear and answer me because I come in the name of Jesus. What I do will not impress God. How can I compete with the perfection of Christ or why would I want to? He hears me because I love His Son. That is what pleases God.

Then when I come into God's presence with adoration for my Savior, that gets God's attention. And I cannot fake that love. God knows when my heart is fervent with love for Christ. He also sees when I come with self-gratifying motives. Jesus said in John 16:27, "...the Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God."

How absurd is it to think that I can impress God?
Furthermore, a completely different thing happens when I come into God's presence. He is not at all impressed by my "devoutness in prayer". The truth is that when I come into God's presence, I am changed. I am impressed. No! I am astonished by Him! "...In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11
there are pleasures forevermore. there are pleasures forevermore.
Being at His throne of grace, praying to a God who should never have loved me - according to my own faulty standards of how to earn favor with others - transforms me. He turns my gloom into rejoicing. He turns me from my self-focus to His sovereign and gracious purposes. He forgives my sin, again. I become aware once more of His glorious and eternal grace for my messy soul. I am reminded of God's love for me which fuels my adoration for my Savior.

What absurdity it is then to think that I can impress God? To think that I can gain His favor by "behaving" a certain way! How silly to think that I could be in league with the sinless Savior. I am actually, without realizing it, trying to prove to God that I am more transcendent than my Savior.

But how can I impress God when Jesus is beside Him, seated at His right hand - the flawless, glorious, magnificent and incomparable Son of God? In truth, my effort to impress God with my "devotion" is really an effort to marginalize my Savior. What a flagrant sin that is when understood in this way!

God hears me because I love Jesus
God's love for me is real. He loves me - the Bible tells me so! He delights to hear from me when I come to Him with sincere devotion to Christ. Would you not love the one who adores your own child, the one who desires to see your child benefited and spoken well of to others? Would you not love the one who avails himself to see that your aspirations for your child are carried out because he recognizes that they are good, needful and important? Would you not then offer to that friend your resources knowing that your child would be greatly honored ultimately?

Photo by Tim Cooper on Unsplash

This is why God avails His resources to me. I long to see Christ glorified, lifted up, benefited through my life, my body and my all. This is why God hears me. He knows when my heart is truly set on loving His Son and that is when I pray according to His glorious will.

And He answers the prayer that is according to His will (1 John 5:14-15). When I pray this way God sees that my heart's motive is love for Christ. He answers my prayer for His Son's sake - for His glory. He loves to hear and answer the prayer that is carried into His presence on the wings of love for Christ. It is music to His listening ear.

Praise be to God for this precious truth! Lord, may I love Your Son in this manner. May my every prayer be influenced, permeated and saturated with sincere adoration for the One through whom I come.

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Why Does He hear Me?

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

How Children can Learn Respect for God and Others at the Table

My Dad used to say to us kids (in support of my mom who cooked the meals), “You kids have two choices for dinner this evening: Take it or Leave it."

If we chose to “leave it”, we didn’t eat anything till the next meal was served. No snacking allowed! If we chose to “take it”, that meant that we ate everything on our plates. I don’t remember ever choosing the menu option to “leave it”.

Sitting at the table daily with my dad and mom, older sister and younger brother (yes, I was a middle child), profoundly influenced me for good.

One of the most important things I learned at the table was respect for God, for the various people and their functions in the family, as well as respect for the family unit in general. Eating family meals together taught me:

Respect for my mom who prepared three meals every day. Lunches were packed daily for Dad to eat at work and for us kids to eat at school. Breakfast and supper were eaten at the table. Now that I prepare meals for my own family and realize what hard work it is just to get good food put on the table, I stand in awe of my mom who committed to serve her family in this very basic but extremely important way. (Learn here how we can serve our husbands and children by providing nourishing meals as did my mom.)

Respect for my dad who went to work every day to bring home "the bacon" and insisted that we all spend time eating that bacon together around the table. My father had some priorities as the head of the home and seeing that we all came together for meals was one. He knew that it was important that we connect with one another and also that we commune with one another. He understood the value of family "community". He was a wise man and I thank God that he was my earthly father.

Respect for the way things were done in our home for the well-being of all in our family. I learned that a family functions together. My dad, a Christian man, was committed to leading the family, even in this seemingly minor way. He grew up on a farm and knew the importance of real food, ie, eggs for breakfast rather than sugary sweet breakfast cereals, etc. As a Christian husband, he took the lead in this and my mom, being his complimentary counterpart, made the meals happen three times each day, every day. They functioned like a left hand helping the right more dominant hand. The example of how a husband and wife can work together in the home was lived out daily for me.

Respect for the food itself, as it was real, nourishing and was provided by God’s creative and loving hand. I learned that one of the first gifts God gave to Adam and Eve was food - delicious, nutritious food. Food is God's love made edible. He gave plant foods to man in the garden of Eden before man chose to disregard God's one directive. Later, after the flood, God also added animal foods to man's diet. This is what real food is and this is what we ate every day at the table. 

Respect and gratitude toward God for having provided for us. We never went hungry, though occasionally we ate a meager but filling meal of beans, etc. However, Mom always made it seem like a meal fit for a king as she worked her magic in the kitchen turning even that meager meal into a delicious gift to her husband and children.

Respect for the health of my own body and the health of my future children. That may sound a little strange. But again, my dad had his priorities and he was wise. One of the reasons we always had breakfast around the table was Dad wanted us to start out the day by being nourished so that we would have the nutrients needed to excel in body and mind. He would tell us that it was important for our health individually and for the health of the next generation, "What you eat now will have an impact on the health of your children in the future." And he was right. (Link here to read an article about this.)

How I’d love to see families cooperating like this again. I fear that this simple, slow-paced, thoughtful way of living has been hijacked by the almighty dollar and a general busyness that is ultimately unproductive. It saddens me that we may never recover such wise and skilled parenting.

Thank you, Dad and Mom! I’m so glad that you taught me to respect others at the table. And I’m so thankful that there were only two options on the menu for each meal. Your hard work and dedication will never be forgotten.

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

How Children can Learn Respect for God and Others at the Table