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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hand of Hope

This email came today from a friend. To not post it, I thought, would deprive you of seeing a most precious sight. I did a little research and found out that the photo was actually taken on August 19th, 1999, so it has really been circulating longer than stated in the email.

A picture began circulating in November. It should be 'The Picture of the Year,' or perhaps, 'Picture of the Decade.' It won't be. In fact, unless you obtained a copy of the U.S. paper which published it, you probably would never have seen it.

The picture is that of a 21-week-old unborn baby named Samuel Alexander Armas, who is being operated on by surgeon named Joseph Bruner. The baby was diagnosed with spina bifida and would not survive if removed from his mother's womb. Little Samuel's mother, Julie Armas, is an obstetrics nurse in Atlanta. She knew of Dr. Bruner's remarkable surgical procedure. Practicing at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, he performs these special operations while the baby is still in the womb.

During the procedure, the doctor removes the uterus via C-section and makes a small incision to operate on the baby. As Dr. Bruner completed the surgery on Samuel, the little guy reached his tiny, but fully developed hand through the incision and firmly grasped the surgeon's finger. Dr. Bruner was reported as saying that when his finger was grasped, it was the most emotional moment of his life, and that for an instant during the procedure he was just frozen, totally immobile.

The photograph captures this amazing event with perfect clarity. The editors titled the picture, "Hand of Hope". The text explaining the picture begins, "The tiny hand of 21-week-old fetus Samuel Alexander Armas emerges from the mother's uterus to grasp the finger of Dr. Joseph Bruner as if thanking the doctor for the gift of life."

Little Samuel's mother said they "wept for days" when they saw the picture. She said, "The photo reminds us pregnancy isn't about disability or an illness, it's about a little person." Samuel was born in perfect health, the operation 100 percent successful.

See "Hand of Hope" photo here.

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Hand of Hope

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tickle Bone Tuesday

"But let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may exult in You. Ps. 5:11

Though this Tickle Bone Tuesday's clip didn't get posted as early as usual, since it's still Tuesday, I guess it's better late than never.

This clip is cute. You'll see. Though these videos make us laugh, I am so glad that I do not depend upon an outside source for my joy. Even in the midst of trials and disappointments, I can sing for joy. As long as my eyes are on my Redeemer, though my heart may break, "the joy of the Lord is my strength"!

May you have a joyful heart not only today but also on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday!

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Tickle Bone Tuesday

Friday, April 25, 2008

Theology Five - Soul Food for the Hungry Heart

Theology Proper - The Goodness of God

Not only does creation make known God’s eternal nature, His divinity and omnipotence, as perused in the last post, but also in sustaining creation, God reveals yet another of His attributes. In Acts 14:17 we learn that “…He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” This Paul said, not to godly men and women, but in reference to past generations of unbelieving Gentiles. Even though their hearts were turned far away from God, He satisfied them with food and even gladness. How good He is.

Everything about God and everything that springs forth from Him is good. Anything in our world that is truly good comes from His hand. James 1:17 states the origin of goodness and speaks also of God’s immutability, indicating that His goodness will never change in any way: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” This does not mean that He will never judge the wicked. In fact, if a judge in a human court of law refused to inflict punishment on a cold-blooded killer, we would declare his ruling “unfair” and not good. So it is with God. His judgments are always right and good.

“He is originally good and good of Himself, which nothing else is; for all creatures are good only by participation and communication from God. He is essentially good; and not only good, but He is goodness itself. The creature’s good is a superadded quality. In God goodness is His essence. He is infinitely good; the creature’s good is but a drop, but in God, there is an infinite ocean or gathering together of good. He is eternally good and immutably good, for He cannot be less good than He is. As there can be no addition made to Him, so neither can there be any subtraction from Him.” (Manton, Thomas from A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God, [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1957], p.57.)

When difficulties come, we question God's goodness
When facing trials we tend to question God’s goodness. “How can God be good? He has control to bring this trial to an end, but it continues? Why?” Job, when confronted with the incredible heartache of the loss of all ten of his children, his servants and livestock, said, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity.” (Job 2:10) How was it that Job did not question God’s inherent goodness?

How can God be good if He allows trials for His children?
If we question God’s goodness, it may be because we do not have a deep enough understanding of it, or we have too high an opinion of ourselves. Job was willing to accept adversity from God’s hand because He was secure in his knowledge that God is good, even when our circumstances are not. Job knew several things about God’s goodness: 1) that God is always and only kindly disposed toward those He loves; 2) that His purpose is always and only for the good for those He loves; 3) and that at times He allows tribulations to bring about those good purposes. God’s goodness is at the heart of Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Even His lesser gifts, like our senses, display God's goodness
God’s goodness extends to and affects every part of our being. He has given us physical life and it is good. The simple delights He created within our physical make-up and in our world demonstrate His goodness. We enjoy the varied and satisfying flavors of the food we eat not only because God created the flavors, but also because He gave us the sense of taste to experience those flavors.
Our eyesight is yet another good gift. But God did not have to create beauty in nature for us to gaze happily upon. Roses did not have to be lovely in appearance and sweetly perfumed. God could rightfully have left us with only the thorns. After all, that is what we earned at the fall. He is incomprehensibly good to be so good as to not withhold these blessings for such ill-deserving creatures. Such benevolent gifts we may consider occasionally, but rarely do we give thanks, and most often we take them for granted.

Do we appreciate the music that God composes and puts within the breast of the nightingale or mocking bird? Such sweet songs from heaven, but we have our sound systems cranked up so loud that we can not hear them, or our complaining keeps their refrain from entering our ears.

Here, at my house, in the midst of asphalt, concrete, houses, autos, and noisy children there is a resident mocking bird. I am amazed when I hear him sing his repertoire of songs. In listening to him, rarely, if ever, do I hear the same melody twice. He has the good and God-given ability to imitate any other bird species (or even noise) that he hears but has no song of his own. It is my understanding that the mockingbird is capable of remembering hundreds of bird songs and singing any of them at will.

The highest of God's good gifts given
Why does he do this? Because God is good. It is one of the many myriads of delights He has pleasured us within our world. But these are the lesser gifts, for when He created mankind, God gave him the highest and most joyous of gifts – the ability to commune with his Maker. In my writing about God – discovering and noting His attributes on paper, and now in your reading of these – this is perhaps the greatest proof of His goodness. He lets us know Him. It is His highest and most ardent desire that men and women would know Him.

The highest of God's good gifts lost
But our knowledge of God was marred at the Garden; man’s communion with Him was lost when Adam and Eve disobeyed their only command. Even then, however, God’s goodness was seen: “The goodness of God is seen in that when man transgressed the law of His Creator a dispensation of unmixed wrath did not at once commence. Well might God have deprived His fallen creatures of every blessing, every comfort, every pleasure. Instead, He ushered in a regime of a mixed nature, of mercy and judgment. notwithstanding all the evils which attend our fallen state, the balance of good greatly preponderates. With comparatively rare exceptions, men and women experience a far greater number of days of health than they do of sickness and pain.” (Pink, A.W. The Attributes of God (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House,1957), p. 58-59.)

Immanuel restores God's highest good to us
But God, in His greatest display of goodness toward men and women, indifferent, defiant and ill-deserving as we were, (yet expecting, even demanding His blessings), provided a way for us to commune with Him once again. Immanuel, God with us came into the world, born of a woman to redeem us and return to us that greatest good that was relinquished by man in the Garden. Utmost, infinite goodness was displayed on the cross because reconciliation was secured for you and I. Adam's condemned race was changed for all time, never again to languish, helplessly separated from its Creator. What provision! What mercy! What unfathomable goodness!

Before the cross, Jesus told a rich young man that there is only One who is good (Matthew 19:17). He was referring to His Father and also to Himself, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily…” (Col. 2:9). In Christ we discover all the inherent goodness of God. And that “One” who is good sacrificed Himself on the cross, securing my salvation so that I might experience His goodness. He took on all my sin, all my corruption. As a result, I can now know His goodness and even be considered as one who is good (righteous) in God’s eyes because I am “in” the Son of His love. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

His goodness should change us
How can we, now that we know of His inexpressible goodness toward us, ever live for ourselves again? Should not this change everything about us for His glory? May we be willing and ready to demonstrate our gratitude as we continue to partake of His infinite goodness, mercy and love.

With that in mind, it is time to shift gears again and peer into yet another theological study – soteriology – the doctrines of salvation but specifically, our union with Christ. This in the next Theology - Necessary Soul Food for the Good Woman post.

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Theology Five - Soul Food for the Hungry Heart

Monday, April 14, 2008

Theology Four - Soul Food for the Hungry Heart

Now that we have defined "theology", it is time to actually study it. We begin with "theology proper" - that is the study of God's attributes. I pray you will be encouraged as you consider our awesome God.

Theology Proper - The Personality of God
Since theology is about knowing God, we must, first of all, ask ourselves, “Who is God?” It is interesting that we ask “who” and not “what”. 

The apostle Paul in Romans 1:18 affirms that mankind knows certain things about God, namely that He is a person who has certain attributes or characteristics. Man knows by creation that God is eternal, divine and all-powerful. Jesus said in John. 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” 

In other words, we can know Him because He is a person with personality and He reveals Himself to man. Of this A. W. Tozer writes, "We have almost forgotten that God is a person and...can be cultivated as any person can. Religion, so far as it is genuine, is in essence, the response of created personalities to the creating personality, God."

"We have almost forgotten that God is a person and…can be cultivated as any person can. Religion, so far as it is genuine, is, in essence, the response of created personalities to the creating personality, God."

Tozer continues, "God is a person, and in the deep of His mighty nature He thinks, wills, enjoys, feels, loves, desires, and suffers as any other person may. In making Himself known to us He stays by the familiar pattern of personality. He communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills and our emotions. (Tozer, A.W. The Pursuit of God, Camp Hill, Christian Publications, 1982, p. 13).

God is not a force, contrary to popular opinion. He is personal and we can know Him. He has all of the elements which together form personality – intellect, will and emotions.

God has intellect

He has intellect with which He thinks and directs: David said, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand” (139:17-18a). David found it astounding that of all the lofty things God can think on, He chooses to think on man in personal ways.

God has emotions

God also has emotions that express His desires: “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy.” (Ps. 145:8). And God has a will by which He determines all things in and of Himself: “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, "What have You done?" (Dan. 4:35)

God has a will - He decides
From the beginning of creation, we see God deciding to do certain acts and not do others. He has a will. He decides. And no one can stop Him when He determines what will be, other than Himself. 

He decided to create and then decided what to create - light, the sun, moon and stars, animals of all kinds, air, rocks, earth, earthworms, vegetation, the sea with all its creatures, many of which are yet to be discovered, having never been seen by the human eye, the heavens with its uncharted expanse and so much more. 

Last of all, God created man in His own image with the same ability to decide as He has, but with limitations that cannot undermine His own will. Man is the creature. God is the Creator and God alone. Genesis 1:26 says, "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness' ". And He did.

God also has the freedom to change His mind. Exodus 32:14 says, "And the Lord relented from the disaster that He had spoken of bringing on His people." 

But no one can change God's will for what He has planned, From Isaiah we read, "For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?" Isaiah 14:27

God refers to Himself as "I" 
Also, God refers to Himself by personal pronouns, the way you and I talk about ourselves and other persons. In Exodus 3:14, when commissioning Moses to free His people from slavery, He said in describing Himself, “I AM WHO I AM”. Thus, in the text He ascribes to Himself personality as well as many other attributes: self-existence, self-sufficiency, immutability, inscrutability, truth, and everything else that the I AM is. But He uses the personal pronoun “I” and establishes with Moses the unchanging wonder that He can be known as a person, divine though He is. God, from the first moment He revealed Himself to Moses, began a dialogue with him that has never ceased, for he is now in God's very presence communing with Him, face to face.

God, from the first moment He revealed Himself to Moses, began a dialogue with him that has never ceased, for he is now in God’s very presence communing with Him, face to face.

When God created man, He created him in His own image, with personality because God has personality. In the Garden God communed with Adam and Eve, person to person, instructing them about creation and their stewardship over it, about their relationship with each other and with Him. When we trace our roots back to the Garden we find that from the first breath man took, God was breathing out words of life and communicating with us in personal ways. This was His desire (emotion), His design (intellect) and His determination (will).

As a person, God is good
In exploring God’s personality we find that He tells us in His word that He is eternal, immutable, incomprehensible, love, good, infinite, omniscient, omnipresent, perfection, self-existent, self-sufficient, creator, invisible, holy, gracious, wise, sovereign, omnipotent and infinitely more. But getting back to Moses, God tells him in 
Exodus 33:17 that he has found favor in His sight and that He knows him (Moses) by name. We then hear Moses say, “Please, show me Your glory” (Exodus 33:18). God responds, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you.” (Exodus 33:19) Of all God’s glorious attributes, He chose to show Moses His goodness.

Keeping in mind that God is a person, in the next post, we will look upon what Moses saw, hidden as he was in the cleft of the rock, viewing only God’s backside. But God is desirous (emotions) that we partake from His determined revelation (will), the thoughts He has given us concerning His goodness (intellect). This so that we might know Him more fully, empowering us to live godly lives that bring glory to this One we can know intimately.

"...seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." II Pet. 1:3-4.

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Theology Four - Soul Food for the Hungry Heart

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Theology Three - Soul Food for the Hungry Heart

Definition of Theology
There have been two posts so far about theology and as of yet, no definition given. It is important to put an accurate, but practical definition to this word that so many women find chilling and untouchable.

For that reason, I will not consult a dictionary, but instead a “real theologian”. In reading various books, I have found that the real theologians are in agreement with the definition of “theology”. For instance, Martyn Lloyd Jones defines theology this way:

"As theology is ultimately the knowledge of God, the more theology I know, the more it should drive me to seek to know God. Not to know “about” Him but to know Him! The whole object of salvation is to bring me to a knowledge of God."

Referring to one of the practical ways our theology, our knowledge of God, is demonstrated, Llyod-Jones continues, “If all my knowledge does not lead me to prayer there is something wrong somewhere.” Theology, then, should be leading me somewhere, specifically into a relationship with God.

Theology changes me
As I understand it, theology is a study that produces a profound inward change because of the relationship it leads to. It produces a change in my ideas about God and my inclination toward Him; it also produces a change in my activities, my attitude and my motives. Ultimately, when my body is laid to rest, my address will be changed. My habitation will be with the Lord forever and ever.

But, how does this happen? That's a good question. It happens because theology is a study of God from His own reference guide or autobiography. And in discovering this God - the God of life, love, hope, reality, mercy and grace, I am changed - made brand new. This change will be made more clear as we consider what theology is.

The source of theology is Scripture
Getting back to the source of our study, if I want to get to know God, what better source than His own description of Himself which was given to me for the very purpose of discovering Him? The Bible, in fact, is the only source of truth about God. All other writings about Him either expound on the truth of who He is taken from His word or are vain imaginations founded on "a god" that man creates in his own image.

In His word, as I study theology, I discover Him. And He not only tells me about myself but also what He expects of me - just how I should relate to Him. From the very first page of Scripture, with the very first man and woman that walked the earth, I find that there was communion between that man and woman and their Creator. God created us to relate rightly to Him.

Theology inspires "one thing"
In the book of Luke, I read again about that relationship, this time between the infinite God and two of His finite creatures named Martha and Mary. We see Jesus with them at their home in Bethany. Luke 10:40-42 relates to us a conversation between Martha and Jesus concerning her and her sister, "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.' ”

Mary and Martha were theologians. They were learning about their God. Mary sat at Christ's feet, attentive; Martha, distracted as she was from Him, did go to Him. Though her dialogue was that of a complaint, she addressed it to Jesus who then told her what she needed to hear. She listened and adjusted her relationship with Him.

"To gaze upon the beauty of the Lord is theology"

The one thing that Jesus tells Martha of in Luke, David in the Psalms, hundreds of years earlier, also knew of. That "one thing" is really the definition of theology. "One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. For He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble; He will conceal me under the cover of His tent; He will lift me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord." (Ps. 27:4-6)

Theology transforms me from a rebel to a worshipper
To gaze upon the beauty of the Lord is theology. When experienced, this "gazing" renders us worshippers of our magnificent God. That, in a nutshell, is what theology is and the change it makes within us. Gazing upon our beautiful God changes us from rebels to worshippers.

Theology then, is knowing God relationally in such a way as to influence our mindset, our ideas and activities, our wills and emotions. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says that theology ought to result in conversation with God. Theology, properly taken in, should put us at Christ’s feet as disciples, ready and willing to be taught personally by Him and prepared to truly worship Him as a result.

Theology is something that is constantly and consistently changing us as we gaze upon the Lord. II Cor. 3:18 says, "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." Theology leads us to be still and listen to God, to discover His will and redirect our whole being to obey, worship, love and enjoy Him when we otherwise would not if we lacked this knowledge that we call theology.

Who then is God? What can we know about Him? How can we know Him personally? And how will this knowledge be a stabilizing anchor in a woman’s life? This study will attempt to answer those questions by briefly exploring two avenues of theology. First, theology proper will give us insight as we look specifically at 1) the personality of God and 2) His goodness. And soteriology, in particular, 3) the believer’s union with Christ, will also help us acquire the life-changing information we seek.

Theology leads us to life and the Lover of our souls
If theology leaves you with only facts about God that could be scrawled on a cold classroom chalkboard, something you can erase, and when erased, forgotten from your mind, heart and will, then your theology is a dead study, and not really theology at all. Theology is unique to all other studies because it leads us to life. It is a living, breathing study that leads to the Giver of Life, the Lover of our souls and the One we bow before because we have actually gazed upon Him. This is theology!

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Theology Three - Soul Food for the Hungry Heart