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Monday, December 19, 2022

The Gift of Gifts

Every good gift and every perfect gift 

is from above, coming down from 

the Father of lights with whom there 

is no variation or shadow due to change. 
James 1:17

 Of all of God's gifts, the most highly acclaimed

Came on the first Christmas, by the angels proclaimed

When they sang "Glory to God in the highest of places."

To the shepherds below, as they fell on their faces.

"For to you this day there is given a Savior."

And He is the Gift to those whom God favors.

Yes, He is the Gift that was sent from above

He was wrapped in humanity and destined to love

All those who now come to the manger to see

God in flesh now appearing, and on bended knee

They rejoice that the Gift came to loose captive's chains

To free those who know of sin's terrible pains.

The Gift went to Calvary, the Gift bled & died,

On a cross that was splintered, two thieves at His side.

The Gift went to Calvary, He went there in love,

To pay for our faults and transgressions thereof

That kept us from God, in His sinless perfections.

The Gift died to bring us God's love & redemption.

The Gift was then buried but was raised from the grave,

For us to be sure that our sins God forgave.

Oh, let us rejoice as we think on the reason

This Gift came below to restore us to Eden.

Copyright 2022

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

The Gift of Gifts

Thursday, October 7, 2021

A Well Rested Soul

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. Luke 10:38-42

From this passage of Scripture, do you generally identify more with Mary or Martha?

I am both women. I can easily become distracted and frustrated because of my busyness. When this is the case, I always experience a sense of loss - an opportunity to sit and listen to Jesus that's lost and gone forever. I regret this and must confess it as sin. 

But as for the times when I sit at Jesus' feet, I never regret those times, nor do I feel like I missed out on anything the best of my busyness holds out to me. It all has to do with the difference between the eternal and the temporal.

As far as sitting at Christ's feet daily in devotion to listen for the purpose of love for the Savior and the rest He gives, others have said it better than I: 

"We Christians must simplify our lives or lose untold treasures on earth and in eternity. Modern civilization is so complex as to make the devotional life all but impossible. The need for solitude and quietness was never greater than it is today." A. W. Tozer

"This perpetual hurry of busyness and company ruins me in soul if not in body. More solitude and earlier hours!... Surely the experience of all good men confirms that proposition that without a due measure of private devotions the soul will grow lean." William Wilberforce

"A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough for the next six months, or take sufficient air into his lungs at one time to sustain life for a week. We must draw upon God's boundless store of grace from day to day as we need it." D. L. Moody

"Nothing can be more healthful to the soul of the believer than feeding upon the Word, and digesting it by frequent meditation." C. H. Spurgeon

"There is greater rest and solace to be found in the presence of God for one hour, than in an eternity of the presence of man." Robert Murray M'Cheyne

"Remember that it is not hasty reading, but serious meditation on holy and heavenly truths, that makes them prove sweet and profitable to the soul." Thomas Brooks

"He who lives with little prayer - he who seldom reads the Word - he who seldom looks up to heaven for a fresh influence from on high - he will be the man whose heart will become cold and barren." C. H. Spurgeon

But of course, Jesus said it best in Matthew 11:28-30, and who would want to refuse such an invitation?:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

In searching for the encouraging quotes listed above, I also came upon this anonymous hymn that so aptly describes the wonderful exchange that is made while sitting at the feet of our Savior. 

At the Feet of Jesus

Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
Oh, the words I hear Him say!
Happy place! So near, So precious!
May it find me there each day;

Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
I look not upon the past;
For He’s been to me so gracious,
I’m forgiven, cleansed at last.

Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
Where can mortal be more blest?
There I lay my sins and sorrows,
And, when weary, find sweet rest.

Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
Where I come to weep and pray;
While I from His fullness gather
Grace and comfort for each day.

Bless me, O my Savior, bless me,
As I sit here at Your feet;
Now look down in love upon me,
Let me see Thy face so sweet.

Lord, give to us the mind of Jesus,
At His feet we long to live;
With Christ's love, now kindly seize us,
So we His welcome freely give.

From the hymnal Select Hymns from 1911 (slightly revised)

Don't miss another opportunity to come to Jesus for the rest your soul so desperately needs!

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

A Well Rested Soul

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

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Five Truths About Being Thankful All Year Long (by Sandi Kailey)

First, a note from Sharon: This post was written by Sandi Kailey, a young woman who came to the Lord several years ago. Sandi lives in our home and has been a breath of fresh air for Robert and me. Having been redeemed and transformed by the saving grace of God, Sandi is living in response to that grace. I asked her to write a post concerning giving thanks and I have been blessed by what the Lord put on her heart. It's now time to share it with you:

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalms 107:1)

1. God’s people should be the most thankful people on the planet 

As Christians, we should be giving thanks to God every day. The word "thanks" and related words come up 102 times in the Old Testament and 71 times in the New Testament. Seems that the Lord wants us to be thankful.

The beauty and joy of thanksgiving becomes evident when remembering our Savior, Jesus Christ, and our commitment to be under His authority regarding all aspects of our lives. 

Giving thanks is good for us, both in our trials and in our comfort (James 1:2-4). When we profess our gratefulness in all circumstances of life, we can be assured that we are living according to our heavenly Father's will. His will is for us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)! Obeying God not only brings joy, a fruit of the Spirit, but also strengthens our relationship with Him. And gratitdue easily allows God to continue transforming us into the image of Christ.

Christians should not only be the most thankful of all people, but will be the most thankful when we pause to remember our Triune God, not only what He's done for us but for who He is. This is why we celebrate with a grateful heart!

2. Gratefulness for God's sovereignty should be our mindset

Giving thanks is a reminder every day that God is in control. No matter how shaky the ground is beneath us, we can remember that God holds all things together and is not flustered by a world gone wrong. 

Max Lucado wrote about God’s sovereignty and control; “Is an eagle disturbed by traffic? No, he rises above it. Is the Whale perturbed by a hurricane? Of course not, he plunges beneath it. Is the lion flustered by the mouse standing directly in his way? No, he steps over it. How much more is God able to soar above, plunge beneath, and step over the troubles of the earth! What controls you does not control God. What troubles you does not trouble God. What fatigues you does not fatigue God.” 

God is at work in a suffering world, He is bigger and more powerful than your obstacles. We may ask, "Does this mean then that God isn’t moved by what troubles me? Does it imply that He has no time to be bothered by what shakes me?" Of course not! He is not like other little wanna-be-gods that cannot be sympathetic to our struggles (Hebrews 4:15-16). 

So how does God’s unshakable, sovereign character work for our good? An example that speaks volumes to me is the account of Peter walking on the lake to get to Jesus in Matthew 14:25-31. Peter says, “Lord if it’s You, tell me to come to You on the water.” Jesus said, “Come” to Peter.

Peter then got out of the boat with his eyes on Jesus and walked on the water toward Him. But when the wind distracted him, Peter began to sink. In his fear, he cried out to Jesus, "Lord, save me!". The text tells us that Jesus “immediately” reached out His hand to Peter and caught him. 

Jesus didn’t panic when He saw Peter sinking. He did not begin to sink Himself. He remained on the water, unshaken by the storm. And because He was immovable and unshakeable, He was able to save Peter from sinking to his death. 

Jesus responds “immediately” to our struggles. Yet being God and sovereign over all powers, forces, circumstances and obstacles, without being at all influenced by them, He is able to rescue us when we cry out to Him as Peter did. Though He was not disturbed by the storm, He was sympathetic to Peter’s human tendency to fear and demonstrated love and care for Him by saving him from a potential disaster. His unshakable sovereignty works in concert with His love and compassion for His children.  

"Just imagine if our Lord cowered as we do or panicked as is our tendency. He cannot for He is above and before all things. Therefore He is able to save to the uttermost both body and soul (Hebrews 7:23-24). Is this not something we can be enthusiastically thankful for?" (A quote from one of my mentors.)

3. To be real, thankfulness must happen when the rubber meets the road.

So, let me ask you, Christian, are you thankful for the control and authority God has over your life? Are you completely trusting His plan for you? I recently had to ask myself these questions.

In June of this year, I lost my job due to Covid19. It was very sudden. I wasn’t expecting it. I had to scramble to figure out what I was going to do until I could find another job. How will I deal with being home all day? Staying home and not working is not what I’m used to. 

This was a perfect time for me to put all my trust in God and know that I am exactly where He wants me. I had to thank God, even in my frustrated, confused and discouraged state. God reminded me to “take heart and have peace; Jesus has overcome the world” (John 16:33). 

Yes, we will have trials. For me, it has been a job loss. But Jesus wants His people to have peace in loss. Our God is in complete sovereign control so in our distress we can look to Him for help.

God also tells us in Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you: and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned and the flame will not consume you.” We have an assurance that the promise of God’s protection and His help is available for all who trust in His name. Can we praise Him and express our gratefulness in worship to Him for providing such comfort and aid?

4. It's helpful to look to those who are an example of giving thanks in all things. 

By way of inspiration concerning being thankful, I am including this brief story of a godly man who thanked God for what he had and even for what he didn't have.

In the late 1800s, George Mueller operated an orphanage in England that at one time housed 1,000 orphans. One morning there was no food to eat, but he called all the children and staff together and prayed, thanking God for the provision of food, even though no food was on the table.

A few moments later a baker knocked on the door. He told Mr. Muller that God had led him to bake bread the night before and give it to the orphanage. Before the bread was given to the children, a milkman knocked on the door. He said that his milk truck had broken down and he wanted to give the milk to the orphanage. 

George Muller gave thanks, even when it took faith to do so. We too can trust God to keep His promises and provide for our needs (Isaiah 49:13).

5. It's necessary to be intentional in thanking God

God is a God we can always trust and lean on in any trial we face. For many now in 2020, this means trusting and thanking Him during the current Covid19 lockdowns, etc. 

For me, this meant that I had to put my entitled pride aside and call out to God. I had to commit to pray with gratitude for this season He has me in. Thankfulness in prayer is an expression of our desire to work with God’s grace to face our problems, confident that He cares about us and will not stop loving us. The cross reminds us that this may involve hard work and hard times, but Jesus' resurrection assures us of ultimate victory. 

Unfortunately, giving thanks is too often demoted to a secondary place in the prayers of Christ’s people. We are quick to make our requests and slow to thank God for His answers. Because God so often answers our prayers, we come to expect it. We forget that it is only by His grace that we receive anything from Him.

We should be giving thanks to God for what His Son has done for us on the cross. His sacrifice was the ultimate gift! Let us praise God for loving His children so deeply!

With Thanksgiving around the corner, let us focus on thankfulness to our Savior. No matter how busy or hectic our schedules may be, let us pledge our obedience to start purposefully, daily, giving thanks for how He has blessed us and for who He is. Start right now where you sit! 

Let us adopt George Muller's mindset of gratitude 

by giving thanks even when there seems to be 

nothing before us to be thankful for!

To assist in being intentional in thanksgiving to the Lord, take a look at this post from Revive Our Hearts website: Growing in Gratitude: A 30 Day Challenge (this is a printable download, intended to cultivate a more grateful heart over a period of 30 days). 

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Five Truths About Being Thankful All Year Long (by Sandi Kailey)