Monthly Archives: May 2015

GUEST MOM: KIM EAVES

Kim and kids pic

by Kim Eaves

I would like to share with you a bit of my story through motherhood. I am the proud mother of twelve children! Five of them are still in my home today. It wasn’t what I had planned but God has a way of answering prayer exceedingly, abundantly, more than we ask.

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, my parents divorced when I was young and before that they didn’t get along with each other at all. We had absolutely no Christian influence in our lives and our family history was a long list of worldliness and addiction.

I made up my mind at an early age because of what happened at home that I would never get married and that I never wanted to be a mother but then an amazing thing happened. God intervened and changed my life. As the song says “as I ran my hell bound race indifferent to the cost, He looked upon my helpless state and led me to the cross.” He gave me saving faith, and for the first time in my life I began to read His word. I was amazed at how good the Father’s ways are, and how really off track I had been. I saw His version of motherhood and I began to have a longing to be married and to be a mother.

This new found desire led me to marry my high school sweetheart and we both started to pray about having a family. God changed my heart so much that I went from not wanting to be a mother at all, to asking God for the privilege to have many children! It would turn out not to be easy for me to conceive but after consistent and faithful prayer, eight years later, God gave us our first born son, Alec.

After that, as many of you know, because you are part of my story through your prayer for me, I found myself continuing to struggle with infertility. Years went by with what seemed like no answer but God was hearing and He was working an even greater plan. To me it just looked like unanswered prayer and it was a difficult time to remain faithful but it was definitely a time of growth for me because what I could never have known then, but I know now, was that God was making my heart ready for the good gifts He would bring later.

God was planting seeds that would grow into a love, not only for my own children, but to open my heart to mother other people’s children. Seeds take time to grow and after 9 long years God graciously gave us our second child by birth, April.

It was right around this time, through some experiences in our Community Fellowship that we felt like we should get involved with the foster system. Once we saw the need, we just knew we needed to be a part. I knew that although these kids needed mothering, what they needed most was the transforming power of the love of Christ.

Laid before me was the opportunity to be a part of His plan for them. Since that time, I have had the pleasure of mothering 10 foster children. Although it hasn’t been easy, it has been a great joy to be a part of God’s work in their lives through both hands on love and continued prayer.

In November of 2013 after several years of fostering we had the amazing honor of adopting our 8th and 9th foster children Aidan and Alli. Through God’s mercy and direction they became a part of our family permanently, just as if I had given birth to them myself!

Even though my story is not how I would have written it, it is what God has written for me. It is absolutely perfect and I wouldn’t change it.

SO WHAT’S THE SECRET?

What is the secret of Evangelistic Churches?

Thom Rainer wants us to know that it is not a secret at all.

Churches are evangelistic when the people of that church are passionate about the gospel. As we say at Greentree, “If we want to be a more evangelistic church, then we need to be more evangelistic people”.

In this article, Tom Rainer shares the attitudes, habits and patterns in Christians who are fruitfully engaged with people for the gospel. Or in Jesus terms, those fulfilling who they truly are as “Salt” and “Light” in this dark and desperately lost world.

There are obviously actions that must be in our life if we want to be evangelistic people. Just as clearly, being equipped will help us wisely take the gospel forward. Reading Rainer’s article is a small, but good little step in moving forward as a person who wants God to use them for the gospel of His Son.

But above all – it is our heart that God must have for our lives to be fruitfully used.

1. We all can have a heart for the gospel today!

2. And everyone we meet today needs gospel truths and encouragements (whether they are an unbeliever or a believer)

Are you willing to pray and ask God to help your heart to be more gospel driven?

Are you willing to ask God to show you the people he has for you to impact?

A TESTIMONY OF BIBLE STUDY

My name is Jacque Zarrillo

When I was asked me to give a testimony about Bible reading for our women’s retreat, I immediately said yes. And when it came to writing down what I would say – well, let’s just say this is my fourth version.

I have been reading the Bible regularly, a little of the Old Testament and a little of the New Testament every day for years and when I get to the end, I start over.

When ladies’ Bible study was starting back up in September 2013, and I found out we would be studying the Book of Luke, that’s where I was in my personal Bible study, so I decided to read over the same small part of Scripture for the week leading up to when Susan would teach from that part on Thursday morning, before I would move on.

What started happening is Jesus started jumping off the pages in a three dimensional way. I was getting to know him more intimately than ever before.

I began to see myself as one of the disciples following him around and started to believe nothing will be impossible with God.

This slowed-down, intensified Bible reading started informing and transforming my prayer life. I would find myself praying, “I am your servant, Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.” Or when Jesus taught about forgiving your brother seven times in the day and the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” I found myself crying out for increased faith also.

I began to identify with the woman of questionable character, realizing I had many sins that are forgiven. The more I see how much I have been forgiven, the more I am filled with love and gratitude and worship for the One who has paid the price for that forgiveness, causing me all the more to want to be living before Him, and spending time with Him.

And then I come to where, “An argument arose among them (the disciples) as to which of them was the greatest.” And this, just after Jesus tells them, the ones who are following Him, that, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” And I think to myself, Unbelievable! How could they argue about such a thing? That Wouldn’t Be Me! So I wonder why this little story is included.

Then I see a similar scenario take place again, only this time at the last supper Jesus ate with His disciples. He finishes telling them He is betrayed by one of the 12 and He is going to suffer as it has been determined, and once again the Bible includes, “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.”

Then I start thinking about how Jesus tells us, “let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.” And then He says He is among them as one who serves.

But in my heart, I keep going back to the argument and the dispute about who is the greatest. Well, Jesus is addressing me and the attitudes of my heart here, and I sooo didn’t want it to be, but it’s true. As a follower of Jesus, I would have been right in the middle of the argument and dispute.
What that looks like for me today, is me comparing myself to others, thinking, I can’t believe she did that! I would never do such a thing. Or, I can’t believe they said that and they’ve been a Christian how long? I am so thankful the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

So as the Holy Spirit uses the Word of Christ to convict me, I can rely on my Savior Jesus to cleanse me from All unrighteousness, knowing that He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion, and so by the Spirit, putting to death the deeds of the flesh, having full confidence that we are being conformed to the image of Christ. Not covering up sin, but confessing it and repenting of it and thereby not being a slave to it any longer.

So let’s cry out to the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit to be mastered by the Word of Christ!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 5.25.15

 “How Love Lives”

Matthew 5:27-30

The Sermon on the Mount is not simply what Jesus said, it’s how Jesus lived

This is Great Commandment living; it is what life looks like when we love

God with all that we are, and love our neighbor as ourselves

Jesus makes a series of six clarifications about the law in chapter 5

“You have heard that it was said . . . But I say to you . . . ”

Something was wrong with how people saw righteousness

The so called righteousness being paraded in Israel was a facade

The Pharisees were diligent rule followers, but that was missing

What is the righteousness that Jesus is calling for?

It is not that we must try harder, with higher standard – like a track meet where the high jump bar keeps being raised

That was what the Pharisees had been doing for years with their increasing complex regulations. But success in keeping more rules doesn’t make anyone righteous (Colossians 2:20-23)

The righteousness God wants, is to have all of our heart committed to him

Paul tells us love is the fountain of obedience and righteousness (Romans 13:8-10)

When we come to Christ by spiritual birth, a love for God is created in us

The process of growing in righteous living, is a process of that love growing in us

Let’s bring all this back to our text

Love for God and neighbor is not complete because we stop all actions of sexual sin

Love for God follows the intention of love in our heart and mind

Guarding against lust is not trying harder, it is loving more fully

This section of the Sermon on the Mount (vs 21-48) emphasize two truths

1. All sin is a serious matter

The text is saturated with a sense of seriousness:  lust is adulterous, the admonitions to tear out, cut off, lust is deserving of hell

The sin of lust is not noticing attractiveness in someone – it’s when we have pursuing thoughts (this includes romantic fantasies that replace our spouse with someone else)

2. We have an urgent need to take action

Throughout the Bible, faith and love are defined by action

Sin is destructive, we should respond to “small sins” like we respond to a little bit of cancer – we act decisively to eradicate every trace

This language of “tearing out” and “cutting off” is making the point that we are to do whatever is necessary to eliminate all traces of sin from our lives

Jesus doesn’t want us to simply push sin away; he tells us us to “throw it away”

Culture and technology have made the avoidance of lust a bigger challenge

Easy access to pornography means we need more accountability (we give up our ‘right’ to secret passwords etc)

The prevalence of sensuality means we need a plan to fight it

We need plans to minimize exposure to sensuality and plans to change routines that make us vulnerable

We need people who will encourage us in purity

We need to learn how to bounce our eye and replace invading thoughts

The Sermon on the Mount may seem extreme to you

Is the Sermon on the Mount unreasonable?

People generally think lust doesn’t hurt anyone, and after all it is hidden

Lust is not hidden to God, and he is to be the foremost object of our devotion

Lust does hurt people: it is a selfish expression that exalts our wants over attitudes that carry love

Our heart must push God and people aside to express lust

Is the Sermon on the Mount impossible?

Even some Christians think it is impossible to stop lustful thoughts

All godliness is impossible without the Holy Spirit and a spiritual birth

The day is coming when lust will seem unreasonable and impossible

For true children of God, our inevitability is that we will be like Jesus (1 John 3:2-3)

The Sermon on the Mount is about Christ

It tells us how Jesus lives before the Father

If we adore Christ, the Sermon on the Mount is how we want to live

We rejoice to learn these truths that shape us in his image

When we hear lust is like adultery, we respond “Jesus, thank you for truth”

When we read every thought matters, we respond “Jesus, yes purify all of me”

When we are told to cut off and tear out, we answer “Lord, I want nothing in my life that offends you or rebels against you”

We must see sin for what it is: God hating, relationship breaking and character deforming

We must see holiness for what it is: the pure beauty of Christ that will fill heaven with uninterrupted joy

Practical steps to stop lust are necessary

But these steps will be empty and powerless without love for Christ

GUEST MOM: EILEEN ARENTZ

 I Think I Have a Book Problem

by Eileen Arentz

The first photo of Eileen with an open book

Books are a big problem for me.

Overstuffed shelves, bulging boxes, precarious piles… yes, I have to confess that my lifelong affinity for books appears to have become an addiction, at least to my family.

I don’t quite see it that way, but they have a point; do I really need every one of my oft-neglected books that sit dusty and forlorn, day after day, hoping to be opened and read?

Sadly, the answer is of course not! But before I get on with the painful business of sorting, then tossing or shelving my avalanche of books, please allow me to introduce you to several books that have deeply impacted me, and are already labeled KEEP.

A Praying Life  by Paul E. Miller
My favorite book on prayer! It is a deeply personal, convicting and motivational praying life memoir. I found the most challenging chapter to be Following Jesus out of Cynicism, especially because I had stopped praying for a situation that I had concluded to be hopeless. When I responded with tearful repentance God did something dramatic that revived my hope.

Nothing is Impossible with God (Reflections on Weakness, Faith, and Power) by Rose Marie Miller
Rose Marie is Paul E. Miller’s mother. She writes with warmth and honesty and models a life of daily repentance. At nearly 90 years old, widowed, and still traveling to and from London to minister with East Asian women, Rose Marie is a remarkable woman with an earnest prayer – not to depart from a simple and pure devotion to Christ.

Morning Exercises by William Jay
A hefty reprint of vintage Bible studies/devotions written by one of the most outstanding pastors of the nineteenth century and a contemporary of Charles H. Spurgeon, who once exclaimed;

“O for More Jays. We would gladly give some two or three dozen of the general run of doctors of divinity for one such a Master in Israel as William Jay of Bath.”

This is a daily devotional, no longer in print, that I would not trade for two or three dozen others!

The Insanity of God, A True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nik Ripkin with Gregg Lewis,
The book I’ve read most recently. Although the first half was harrowing and painful to read, the second half shifted my focus to the triumph of Jesus over sin and death, and his saving and enabling power in the face of great evil. Considering the sacrificially obedient lives of persecuted believers around the world has flooded me with Biblical hope and motivation to pray.

The Insanity of Obedience, This sequel, sits at my bedside waiting to encourage and challenge me to further trust and obey my Lord Jesus.

Sad Mrs. Sam Sack by Aileen Brothers and Morton Botel
A treasured book from my childhood. Rereading it as an adult has given me a clearer picture of its theme by vividly reminding me of the Biblical admonition to Do all things without grumbling or disputing, Ephesians 2:14

ESV Study Bible, published by Crossway
This is my most treasured book, and I often use it as resource for my personal Bible reading and study. In fact I have several copies so that I can share it with others [including you, just let me know].

Before I get to work let me share a great idea…why doesn’t someone develop an app for a book-sitting service [modeled after Airbnb] that would connect people who want to rent out empty bookshelves to bibliophiles like me who cannot bear the thought of their orphaned books ending up in a recycling bin somewhere? Perhaps call it Bookbnb or Shelfbnb?

What comfort that would bring, and perhaps someday, if my dream of an entire library room in my home comes true, we will be joyfully reunited… until then I need to stop musing and start sorting.

Thanks for listening.

RULE FOLLOWER or GOD LOVER?

stay in love with God

by Debbie Huber

I love to bake. 

Baking is a little more of an exact science than is cooking a main course. With baking, it is important to follow the recipe fairly specifically.

I like recipes that are clear and give lots of specific information so the finished product will look just like the picture on the internet or in the cookbook. It makes the people to whom I serve it happy as well!

I can be a recipe or rule follower when it comes to obedience to God as well. It is so much easier to read “10 specific steps to a godly marriage” and then check it off my list. Won’t it look like the “picture-perfect” marriage then?

But why should I obey God through His word?  Is it just to do the right thing to get the proper end product?  Is it to make others around me happy and have them see me as responsible and doing what is right?

It is good to be responsible and it is good to do what is right, but my motivation should not be for myself. I want to obey God because I love Him and trust Him.

The Bible teaches that genuine love in my heart for God is generated by an awareness of His love for me. And nowhere is the love of God revealed more clearly than in the Gospel.

The more I am captured by God’s amazing love toward me; my heart increasingly burns to do His will and thrives on it.

Why should I submit to the headship of my husband?  Why should I respect Him?  Because I love and trust God.

The more we read and know the glory of God, (His beauty and His greatness), the more satisfied we will be in God alone.  And obeying Him and following Him will be irresistible. 

LIVING HOPEFULLY: Part 7

This is the final article in our series on Hope. Today we look at a third biblical picture that guides us in what it means to live hopefully.

Biblical Hope Makes Us Like a Tree

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose hope is the Lord. He shall be like a tree planted by the waters; which spreads out its roots by the river and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Living Hopefully brings vitality to our life

This is the fruit of what we have already seen when we reject spiritual carelessness and embrace biblical obedience.

Satan tries to sow seeds of doubt concerning how worthwhile it is to live wholly for God. But the only things to grow from that seed are weeds.

Spiritual vitality that grows like a mighty and fruitful tree comes from being rooted in the entirety of salvation’s promise. This is exactly what biblical hope is – confidence that the entirety of salvation’s promise will be fulfilled.

Ask yourself, “What should it mean to my life if gospel hope is totally and irreversibly true?”

If you have no vitality or fruitfulness, check your hope status – and check how well rooted you are in biblical obedience

Yes you may believe, but is that belief causing you to pursue God more fully, or is it something you merely use to convince yourself that you are “Okay with God”.

What is the practical application of hope that is like a “tree planted by the waters”?

Don’t try to plant your hopes or your life in dry places.

These are places that are not dependent upon God. It is to trust in yourself and to pursue the temporary things that the world offers as its hope

Living water is only found in the Holy Spirit.

He flows through the Word, our worship, and other believers in whom He dwells (your church).

It is not complicated, if you life with distance from God, you are planting yourself in dry places.

The result will be what always happens in dry places – no vitality or fruitfulness.

Once you are in a fruitful place, get that fruit to market

Invest your life in the work God is doing around you

If we think the fruit of our life is just rotting on the ground – why bother?

But if we see people eating this fruit, it encourages us to grow even more fruitful.

To live hopefully we don’t need anything new to be made true for us, we simply need to live by what Christ has made true through his glorious gospel!

WHY DO WE NEGLECT SOMETHING SO GOOD?

Our homes would have more peace if we did

Our souls would be healthier if we did

Our lives would have more wisdom if we did

We know deep inside that we would be glad if we did

. . . read our Bibles faithfully and open-heartedly.

Many Christians struggle to have a consistent habit of Bible reading, even though we all have the privilege of owning at least one.

We can give various reasons why we don’t read our Bibles. But in the end, the fact is many who claim to be Christ’s followers just don’t do it.

In this article, John Piper answers a few of the reasons why we don’t read our Bibles – including “I don’t have time”, “I find it confusing” and “It doesn’t seem relevant”.

The only thing better than reading his article, would be to go ahead and read God’s Word.

GUEST MOM: LAURIE ANGERMAN

Ladies, I hope you had a good Happy Mother’s Day!
…I do believe every day is a day to celebrate mothers’, isn’t it?

I am a mother of three grown sons, and a grandmother of 2+ (one is still being knit by God).
However I am not able to write about how to be a good mother.
I could fill the page with advice on what NOT to do.
So, I will just tell you what I have learned since becoming a mother.

Has anyone ever heard this from their child…?
“Mom, everything is NOT always about God!!”

I have heard this from my children many times while seeking to address life issues through the lens of the gospel.

Truthfully, my response to life and discipline is often the same.
“Can’t it be about ME sometimes?”

Being a mother has taught me, well, a lot about ME.
And ME isn’t so wise. But God is!
I am thankful that the Holy Spirit reminds me of this daily.

Being a mother has taught me that The Word must consistently be a part of my day.

It has taught me to wear the carpet out on my knees in prayer, not pacing it while worrying.

It has taught me the value of sisters and brothers in Christ that will speak biblical truth to me, even when it hurts.

It has taught me the value of a church that faithfully teaches me biblical truth.

It has taught me that my emotions often deceive me so I can’t base my decisions on my feelings.

I must base my decisions on God’s word that will not deceive me or mislead me.

It has taught me that from the time I rise until I put my head down on the pillow, my life is ALL ABOUT GOD.

This life is not easy for anyone.
As much as being mother is a blessing, it is very challenging, to say the least.

We become so consumed with our long list of daily duties and troubles that we can easily lose sight of God and His purposes.

Despair often knocks at the door of our hearts.

Right now many mothers are struggling with great difficulties and even severe hardship (joblessness; working full time and feeling stretched to far; loneliness as a single parent; a marriage that is in trouble or has ended; chronic sickness; troubles with children that are rebelling with seemingly no love for God, but instead a love for the destructive lusts of the flesh; children that are suffering physically and emotionally).

Oh, how easily we can fix our eyes on what is seen, not the unseen. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

We often end up joyless, believing a lie that we have been forgotten and forsaken.

We head in the wrong direction, toward the darkness of despair.
If you are going in that direction, what should you do?

You must intentionally STOP, pray, read the Word of God, seek Christ centered relationships, and get to church regularly. You will never be led astray by these common graces God uses for good in our lives.

So you see, I can’t write anything telling anyone how to be a great mother or a great anything….however, through Christ’s example and His mighty power in us, we are equipped to be loving servants to a world that is in need of His great love, no matter what our circumstance in life.

That is what being a mother, sister, friend, neighbor, co-worker, church member, child of God is all about. Whatever road we travel, seek to make it all about Him. He will make your paths straight.

My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.
Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
                                                                               Proverbs 3:1-7

 

FOUND IN HIM

This book is so good I am surprised I have not written a recommendation for it before now.

“Found in Him” by Elyse Fitzpatrick walks us through what it means to be “in Christ”.

This is a book filled with rich truths that expand our theological rooting, yet it is approachable enough to be used by several small groups in our church.

Surprisingly, there are not many books written specifically on the topic of being “in Christ”. I say surprising, because this is one of the most important and helpful truths about the Christian life. It is foundational to understanding our identity and how the gospel works.

Elyse Fitzpatrick does more in her book than provide us with important truths about Christ; she does it in a way that lifts our hearts in wonder at what our glorious Lord has accomplished – for us!

I have bought “Found in Him” in both hard copy and eBook versions; I have read it twice, given it away, used it in small group and recommended it to lots of people. I hope you will discover its value for yourself.