Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sticks and Stones--Part II

I am writing this post in the utmost humility. A kind, dear sister approached me with some concerns about my past post, Sticks and Stones. I had talked about the need to work on our pride when someone "offends" us without sinning--not getting invited to lunch with others, having your child left off a birthday party list, not getting a phone call when you were going through that difficult time, etc. I had said that, too often, we build up resentment and feel a need to confront that person about their "error" when we are actually the ones sinning in pride. I sounded very absolute in my post, saying that we rarely need to confront others in instances like this--rather we need to pray about our pride and remember our own mistakes.

Well, this dear person pointed out that there are times to go discuss misunderstandings with others, especially if you have a broken relationship because of it. God never wants disunity or fractions within His church body. Even if you are pridefully hurt by someone who is innocent in motives, if you cannot get over your feelings, you need to approach the person in humility and repentance and tell them how you are feeling.

I was so confused and saw the correctness in both points! I had a talk with our amazing women's leader at Compass Bible Church, Stephanie Schwartz. She did such a great job clarifying this correctly to me. In the end, both points are correct, but my blog--in its focus on one side of this issue--was not correct. I have to ask that you forgive my mistake on that post and read this correction to clarify the issue.

Stephanie gave me some verses to use in my correction, so I am going to post what I have gleaned from her. She starts by offering two verses that speak to our need to forgive others:

Matthew 5:23-24, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against YOU, leave your gift there in front of the altar." If you have broken the relationship with feelings of bitterness, then your brother does have something against you that you need to go discuss. Be reconciled to the person with whom you have broken fellowship.

Matthew 6:12-14, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." Our standard is clear. Think of how much God has forgiven you and apply that to how you deal with others' infractions. This will put your prideful feelings into perspective.

So, what are we to do when we are offended? First, we are to try and overlook it if there is not a sin that needs admonishment. This is what my first post tried to explain. At times, more bitterness and disagreement are created from a person selfishly telling someone they were hurt by the other person. First, pray and give it time. God wants us to grow in maturity and be able to overlook imperfections. I Peter 4:8 says, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins." Proverbs 17:9 agrees, "He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." Stephanie says we often do this easily with our kids or people we admire and love, but we often have trouble with this when we are dealing with spouses or people who often are not the most lovable. This is the first option and is our goal if we can honestly overlook the matter and not feel resentful. This is where I focused my past post, but there is more the Bible says.

Secondly, if we are offended, and we cannot overlook it--someone has sinned against you or you are just not getting over the feelings of resentment, you must talk to the person. Luke 17:3-5 says, "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him." The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith!' Remember, if you must confront someone, you need to do so with kindness and respect. If you are feeling vindictive or our of control with anger, you need to pray and calm down before you approach that person. God may be allowing you to not "get over" your feelings of disappointment or resentment because you need to humble yourself and admit your feelings to the other person. It could be a lesson in humility. In fact, Stephanie said an amazing fact about pride: It can make us stay sinfully resentful and cause us to confront others in error AND it can make us afraid of approaching someone who DOES need to be approached and admitting your feelings in a humble and repentant way. (We so want to believe we are above feeling petty and resentful over things like invitations and phone calls, etc.) In addition, the person who hurt you might not know they did at all, and the whole problem (if you can't overlook it) can be solved with a simple discussion and honest approach.

So, the two options are to cover the mistake if you can, and discuss the issue if you cannot get over your feelings and need to repair a broken relationship. I'm glad that this was clarified for me, as I learned some great facts about pride and the need to admit feelings I might not have previously recognized. Thanks to the sister who brought this topic to light for me and to Stephanie, who, as always, graciously imparted Biblical wisdom in a loving and gentle way.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Measuring Ourselves With a Broken Ruler

In women's Bible study, we recently discussed I Peter: 1:13-21. Much of this passage discusses God's holiness and the standard He sets in perfection. Indeed, this standard is perfect and flawless because that is what He desires in us.

"Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope
fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 As obedient
children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in
ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;
16 for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.'" I Peter 1:13-16

We know that we can never be perfect people here on earth because of the sinful body that envelops us. However, we are FREE from the bondage of sin when we become Christians and followers of Christ. We don't have to sin, but because of our flesh, we will make wrong choices. That is why we need God's past, present and future forgiveness. Despite this, we are not given an excuse or license to sin. God still expects us to get ready for battle against sin! There is a common metaphor of weaponry and armor found in God's Word. In obedience and thankfulness for our salvation, we should strive and FIGHT for perfect holiness.

"You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as
you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to
ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness
leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control
of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things
you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you
have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap
leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." Ro 6:18-22
In reading these passages, it is clear that God has a standard from which we are to measure ourselves. It is His perfect holiness.

How often, instead of looking at the perfect measurement, we take out broken rulers in order to make our fight easier or to make ourselves look better. The broken rulers are the people around us--believers and non-believers. Before we sometimes confess and repent of a sin, we can be prone to denying it or ignoring its importance. We say to ourselves, "Yes, perhaps I did tell a white lie to my friend, but at least I'm not cheating on my taxes like so and so." "Okay, I lost my temper with my son, but thank goodness I'm not throwing swear words into my conversation with my family like so and so." "Well, I didn't clean the house like my husband asked, but at least I cook dinners, unlike so and so." We are allowing pride to enter our thoughts and hearts, and we are not recognizing the fact that all sin causes us to fall short of the holy standard for which we are aiming. There is no sliding scale of sin in God's eyes. Don't let the world's mistaken "works philosophy" lead you to thinking you are basically a good person overall.

In addition to pridefully dismissing sin, we get lazy in our sanctification as Christians. We are to be getting closer and closer in our behavior to God as we walk through our lives as His adopted children. The holy standard is to keep us motivated and aware of where we need to work on gaining righteousness. We lose incentive when we compare ourselves to other Christians, rather than the example of Christ. We say, "I am doing such a good job in quiet time! I only missed one day of Bible reading, and so and so only completed one day of quiet time in God's Word." (Here you can almost hear the sound of patting oneself on the back). Instead of feeling repentance for missing that one day of Bible study or doing Bible study with wrong priorities or feelings, we pridefully dismiss ourselves as "mature" in that area because we are doing better than another soldier in the battle of sin. Another example is "I don't really have a problem with my tongue. I don't swear, yell at my family or gossip about friends. I might have talked about so and so with "Mary" this morning, but "Mary" is a Bible study leader, so it must have not been gossip." We allow certain behaviors because we see other Christians doing them, mature or not mature in their walk, and we don't check the behavior against what God desires. Remember we are all sinful and no person, besides Christ, is above making mistakes or disobeying God's will and truth.

We must toss the broken rulers that inaccurately measure our righteousness. Turn only to the Word of God and His holy standard. If we are honest with ourselves, we all have a lot of growing and maturing to do!

But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love
your salvation always say,
“The Lord be exalted!” Psalm 40:16

Monday, October 22, 2007

Encourage One Another: Shan and Jen Gray

What a big day today is for the Gray family! Their little girl, Jordan, who just turned one year old at the end of September, is having one of her major surgeries to repair and correct a cleft palate, along with fingers and toes damaged by a band that developed in-utero. Our prayers are with them, and especially dear little Jordan, as they undergo this trial today. I would, on this occasion, like to recognize this couple--their trust in our Heavenly Father and joy in all situations-- in a I Thessalonians 5:11 post.
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Jen and Shan are always incredibly strong in their faith--before God entrusted them with Jordan Joy and, most especially, after. They are commited to always seeking God in all situations--easy or difficult--and giving God the glory for His goodness.

"Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let him who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on his God." Isaiah 50:10

They have obedient lives of service--having hosted small group Bible studies in their home, hosting baby showers for others, helping with childcare ministries at church, serving in leadership in church ministries and always doing works that are behind the scenes--meals for others, prayer, watching others' children, loaning items to people in need, sending notes and cards of encouragement, and witnessing to the lost souls that God brings into their lives.

However, beyond their service, their attitude is the wonderful characteristic that separates the Grays from most "comfortable" Christians. They shine like stars to those who need to see the positive witness of a genuine Christian. "So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe." Philippians 2:15 Despite surgeries and Jordan's pain, unplanned financial paths that God has ordained, and all the normal difficulty that life can bring, the Grays have never failed to use their lives to point to God's sovereignty and purpose. They have joy in all the situations they face and honestly open themselves up to others in order to be effective witnesses and models for Christ Jesus. I can't imagine how many families in similar circumstances or doctors treating their little girl have witnessed the mighty hand of God through the Gray family. You can follow their story and testimony of faith on their blog,

Shan is an incredible, godly leader in his family--as evidenced in the love they all demonstrate for God and the peace that envelopes their family. When questions arise or difficulties ensue, Shan turns to scripture, prayer and God for his direction. He is a wonderful witness to the other young dads in our Bible study and church. Jen is a godly, loving mother and wife. She is serious about her role in being a helpmate to her husband and teaching her children the ways of the Lord. She uses scripture in her discipline of her children and her knowledge of God's word is an inspiration to many of us. Her priorities are correct and appropriate, and she aims to grow in her walk with the Lord so as to glorify and please Him. In addition, she leads women in the Navigating Motherhood program at our church, witnessing to the unsaved and loving the women who need encouragement and support from someone who has faced so much adversity with the beauty and quiet spirit of an obedient woman of God.

Please be praying for this couple and their sweet, precious children. Pray especially for Jordan's healing and recovery and the wisdom of her doctors today. I know the Grays are giving all anxiety to God and are using every opportunity at the hospital today to be an effective witness to those they encounter.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. " James 1:2-4

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere

We had quite a fun couple of days this week. On Thursday, Carter and I went to the Pumpkin City pumpkin patch for a morning of fun. By far, his favorite event was riding the "choo-choo". He held Thomas the Train in his hand the entire time, and I think the pumpkin patch didn't matter at all compared to the train.
On Saturday, Ryan and I took Carter to the Irvine Regional Park. We came in his bee costume, but he wasn't very happy about that at all. The train ride took his mind off of the costume for a bit, but his grumpy countenance and a stinky diaper convinced us to put him back in normal clothes for the rest of the time. We walked around the park and went in the zoo. The highlights were the train, of course, and the hay maze. After just one time through, he was able to remember exactly which turns to take, running at mock speed through the hay bales, leaving mommy and daddy in his dust. It was a gorgeous day, and we beat most of the late morning crowds. Here are a few of the pumpkin patch pictures for you to see.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Kids' Activities in October

Since I spent time posting the praise of autumn (post below), I thought I'd offer some fun suggestions to readers with young ones. Some of these can even be done as adults with no kids! I've tried to eliminate any Halloween/scary activities. Some of the places had a haunted house on the premises for older kids, but I pray most of these are mainly harvest type activities. Make sure to enjoy the season and give thanks for the times together!

Compass Bible Church Fall Fest--Every year this event amazes me, and it's FREE! Bring your little one in a costume. Enjoy rides, insane amounts of candy, costume viewing and game booths. It is a safe, fun alternative to neighborhood trick or treating on Halloween, and it is supporting a church, not the worldly, pagan celebration all around us. Find out details at

Julian--Apple picking, here we come! South/East, near San Diego, but inland. This quaint little town relies on the tourists it draws in the autumn. Due to frost and lack of rain, many of the orchards are not doing the usual apple picking events. You can still pick apples at two or three of the orchards, but some require reservations. (look online). Make sure you visit the "old western" type downtown area for hot apple pie that can't be beat. On the 27th of October, you can go and also enjoy the elementary school carnival. It will take place behind the high school. The same day, there will be live music and a bbq. Look online at for details, directions and any reservations that might be required.

Pumpkin City's Farm at the Laguna Hills Mall--The admission here is free! Come take photos in the pumpkin patch and hay stacks. They have rides that cost money, but there are live animals to pet and visit for free. This is a great activity for infants and toddlers! You can find it in the parking lot right against the freeway. (by Sears)

Santa Ana Zoo--They are having an October celebration October 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28th from 5:30-8:00 pm. The main part of the zoo is a harvest celebration, but they will have a separate haunted house for teens and older kids (just FYI). It is free for ages 2 and under and it is $10 for anyone over 2. There will be candy, games, animals (of course) and stories. Have kids wear their costume. There is also a very short train ride for 3$ per person. Find out more at

Irvine Regional Park--They are having their 2nd annual pumpkin patch. Even if it isn't a fall celebration, this park is amazing! They have the pumpkin patch through October 31st. You have to drive into the park, which is $3 per car on weekdays, and $5 per car on weekends. They have a 12 minute park trainride, which goes through the pumpkin patch and park. It is $4 per person. Check out the coupons online at They also have pony rides for $4 each (except Mondays), a 20 minute hay ride for $4 per person, a moonbounce for $4 for 15 minutes, a haymaze for free, face painting on weekends for $4, and carnival/fair type food to buy for lunch or dinner. They also have a zoo on the premises. It is $2 for anyone over 3 years old. The zoo is small, but we love to visit the bear exhibit. Just FYI, there is a haunted house event somewhere in the park for older kids. On the 27th of October, there will be a kids' costume contest, which has to be entered by 11:00. This is a great park, so check it out even if you don't go this month.

Lake Mission Viejo--If you are a member of Lake Mission Viejo, they are having an October celebration from 1-4 on October 20th. There will be a pumpkin carving contest, a magic show for little ones from 3-3:30, game booths, moon bounces, and a costume contest. Find out details at

South Coast Plaza Pumpkins and Pancakes--This is a fundraiser for CASA (helping abused children). It is the 28th of October, from 8-11. It is $30 per person, with anyone under 2 free. They are having costume contests, live music and entertainment, an animal show, trick or treating, pancakes and coffee, a balloon artist, arts and crafts and roaming cartoon characters. Find out more or purchase tickets at

These are some of my favorite fall ideas, but you might know one you can share. Add ideas for myself and others in the comments section! I'll do this again in November, as all the Christmas activities begin!

Autumn Praise

"That my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever." Psalm 30:12

There is just something spectacular about autumn. Even the name "autumn" is beautiful. It brings visions of crunching leaves and blazing crimson trees to mind. There are so many things I enjoy about my favorite season. The anticipation of the holidays approaching is always fun. I finally get to put some decorations on the house--leaves cascading over the doorway and a harvest pumpkin in the yard. Chilly air means snuggly clothes and fires in the fireplace in the evening. The end of summer means I can break out my recipes for soups and stews once again, and coffee and tea taste better in the frosty air of morning. Once in awhile, I catch a hint of smoke in the air--someone burning a real, wood fire in their fireplace. Family sees more of each other as we get together for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sleeping at night is pure happiness, as I can pull all the covers up tight and wiggle into the warmth of bed--unlike the "kick off the sheets" nights of summer. I love the sound of football on the television on a lazy Saturday or Sunday, while cookies bake deliciously in the oven.

Just today, Carter and I paused in Costco to glance at the Christmas trees, which, though early, sent gleeful chills in me. It isn't just the lights and Christmas music, it is everything it promises. It gives us a glimpse of laughter, parties, cinnamon and gingerbread, decorations, and the big, excited eyes of our little ones. Most of all, though, it gives me the joy that is bursting in my heart when I think of the blessings God gives us this season. He gives us the tradition of Thanksgiving, a beautiful holiday given to us by the Christian pilgrims, thanking God for survival, friends and His provision (this they did in a season of much despair, adjustment and, sadly, even death). They knew their Savior had all sovereignty and power. They trusted him, despite their circumstances, and they praised Him for any and all blessings. In the celebration of Christmas, we remember that God gives us the gift of Jesus Christ, who came in human form to live a life of example for us and then sacrificed Himself to atone for our own sins and depravity. He gave us a hope and future when He rose again and went to be with His Father in Heaven.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are joyful because they are foundational on God's promises and the hope we have in Him. If you are facing a hard season in life, look past your circumstances and thank God for the hope of this season. Despite what this year has brought, God has a plan, just as sure as He will give us a glorious, refreshing autumn after the heat of summer. In the flickering glow of the red sky or the soft breeze as it tickles your face, see the fingerprints of your Creator and the love He has for you. Give thanks with a grateful heart.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Encourage One Another: Dale and Shawna Thackrah

I was remiss last week and didn't post a I Thessalonians 5:11 entry. I am going to do one early this week to make up for it. The couple I would like to recognize today are Dale and Shawna Thackrah.

Pastor Dale is in charge of the care ministry and does biblical counseling at our church, Compass Bible Church. Shawna, his wife, is a committed member of the worship team every weekend, and she also works with the high school ministry and co-leads a small group in Women's Bible Study. Both are busy for God, investing in people, God's precious flock, and not in the things of this world. "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." Col 3:1-2

The love and purpose of Christ are ablaze in their lives. I always find both of them approachable, real and truly caring. They are never too busy for a "hello" or a smile. They never have pretense or an air of superiority. In fact, they are often known for their joy in laughter and never taking themselves too seriously.

I have known Shawna for years, having been in high school youth group together. In all that time, she has always been a sweet and caring individual, always putting others before herself. In fact, she routinely says to me, "I ran into so and so from youth group this week." I have no idea as to whom she is referring. Why? I was a self-absorbed high schooler who was worried about my own recognition, and she was a loving example of Christ, paying attention to others and listening, even in the hard teenage years. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." Philippians 2:3

I don't know Dale as well as Shawna, but the fact that his job is Pastor of Care Ministry at our church speaks volumes. I have had the privelege to speak to so many members of our church who were touched by the thoughtfulness of the program he leads. In addition, his biblical counseling has shed light on issues for many friends struggling with the sins of this world. I do know that Pastor Dale always has time to smile and ask how my husband or I are doing. He pours himself out to others and still radiates joy and peace. I can't imagine how busy he and Shawna are, and I often pray for their own care and comfort, from our Heavenly Father, as they feed his sheep.

It is such an encouragement to know this couple and witness their lives. They are truly used by God, and the rewards they are saving up for themselves in heaven are immense. Thank you, Dale and Shawna, for all your sacrifice and time. It is noticed and is influencing so many others!

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. John 21:15-17

Friday, October 5, 2007

Be holy, because I am Holy

Preparing for an upcoming women's Bible study, I was studying the passage of I Peter 1:13-21. The theme of the passage is holiness. It says,
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not confrom to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. but just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.' Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious bloodof Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who
raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in

Holiness. It is a word that seems anything but us. That is because, unfortunately, it is often the case. However, as this passage explains, we should strive to identify with and master the practice of holiness. We have God's example and Spirit to help us. Are we actively seeking such holiness in our lives?

First, we are told, in verse 13, to prepare our minds for action and to control ourselves. This is not an exercise in passivity. We must prepare ourselves by knowing God's will, rules and characteristics. Think of all the tests or sports for which you might have prepared yourself over the years. Hopefully, you did not spend 5 minutes reviewing notes or running laps and think, "I hope I can pray tonight that God will help me in this area and I will succeed tremendously tomorrow." More than likely, you spent hours studying, days training, or even years preparing yourself for an ultimate goal. Not that God can't do it alone, but He asks that we seek Him and run the race in perserverance. Are we putting that kind of effort into attaining holiness?

This sounds hard. It is. It is work, but our hope in our salvation and grace before God's throne should give us joy, motivation and endurance in the midst of the training.

God tells us we can't expect to be holy if we conform to the world. (verse 14) This is such a convicting statement for all of us. We might pride ourselves on not partying, swearing, stretching our credit cards, or cheating on our taxes, but how much of a stranger are you in society? Do you know what characters are on that television show you shouldn't be watching? Do you read gossip magazines or watch media shows on television that might qualify as gossip? What line do you draw when going to or renting a movie? The line should be pure holiness.

You might say, "I can't ever see a movie then! Hollywood doesn't make movies that are holy!" Well, there might be a very, very select few, but, perhaps this means we shouldn't be joining in this practice if we can't be holy in doing it. Believe me, this is a scary thought for me. I love to be a chair potato and watch movies to relax. However, holiness is not about comfort. It is all about sacrificing the pleasures of this world and wanting to please the Father we adore and love.

The verses tell us to fear God. (verse 17) We need to realize that holiness is a command, not a polite, passive request. We also need to recognize God's qualities. Think of the strongest, most mighty thing you can imagine--a gigantic mountain in the Sierras, the roaring ocean, a thunder and lightning storm, a howling hurricane, a screaming tornado, a hissing, spitting volcano of lava and ash, an angry earthquake, a scorching sun, the chasms of the Grand Canyon, or a vast, unexplorable universe. These are God's creation. Think of who He must be in order to speak and create such wonders. We don't fear God enough because we don't take the time to understand His capabilities, His characteristics and qualities. This affects our obedience and urgency when we error in our understanding of who God really is.

What will you do to pursue holiness today? You recognize, if you are a Christian, that Christ painfully poured out His life and rose again, in order that you and I might be reconciled to our mighty Creator. (verses 18-19) Our humble thankfulness and love should spur immediate action. Make a plan with specific details. Cut out that television show, throw away the magazine with gossip that enslaves you, change the conversation when a friend starts disparaging another friend, tell a friend to hold you accountable to not practicing a particular bad habit, and PRAY FOR GOD'S HELP in revealing sin and giving you motivation and strength to change the error into holy behavior.

Be holy because He is holy. He is our precious, all-powerful, loving, righteous, merciful, gracious, perfect, all-knowing, all-present, eternal, unchanging, and HOLY God. Be holy because He asks you to be. That is motivation enough.