Friday, May 9, 2014

A Tribute to A Life Well-Lived

If I could give you a picture of a godly woman, my grandmother, Dot-Dot as we call her, would top the list.

A few days ago she breathed her last and her body is now empty.

She is not there. 

She was what everyone would call “a good person”, but her righteousness was not her own, she trusted Christ’s righteousness alone to save her from her sins. According to the Lord’s mercy He saved her, not by her good works but by the new birth of the Holy Spirit (cf. Titus 3:5). My Dot Dot didn’t just say she had this faith, she evidenced this faith in how she lived and loved and served the Lord to the end. Thus we can have hope that while her body was left behind, she is now present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:6).

She strove to become more like Christ. She was not a foreign missionary or a great speaker. She did nothing that people would consider really great. But Horatius Bonar once said that holiness is not measured by “one great heroic act or mighty martyrdom… It is of small things that a great life is made up.” 

Dot-Dot was very loving and generous to her grandchildren. She spent time with us, let us granddaughters play with her Madam Alexander doll collection. She and Papa gave us cards and presents for birthday’s and many times paid for music camp and family camp. She was such a great listener and always interested in what was going on in our lives. Even 2 weeks before she died, she asked me to tell her about a trip I had just gone on. When I was away (whether it was just summer camp, or when I was living out of state or oversees) she sent cards and letters sharing things that were going on at home and most of all telling me that she loved and prayed for me. Her deepest desire and prayer was that her family members all come to know and love the Savior too. Speaking of prayer, anyone who knew her well knew that she was a prayer warrior. I remember her telling me a few years ago, that she couldn’t do much of anything, but she could still pray. One precious memory of her and my Papa was often going into their apartment and hearing Dot Dot reading the Bible aloud. She wrote me in a letter once that she was so glad that she and I loved and followed this same Book!

She had a good life with many joys, but yet hardships, loss, and many trials, too many to even try to mention here. But I never heard her complain. She always turned her eyes to the Lord and trusted Him no matter what! She was so very unselfish! One thing she said towards the end was “I’m so much trouble”! She hated to cause anyone inconvenience. But she graciously accepted the help she needed and was always thankful. Even to towards the end when she couldn't say much. She'd weakly ask for "water" and still say "thank you" afterwards!

There are a few "heroic" stories too though. She and my Papa smuggled Bibles into China. And not just a few tucked between things, mind you… a whole suitcase full! She was on the Gideon Auxiliary and was very faithful to give Bibles out to people she met. Every nurse, aid, etc. that ever saw her should have gotten one! She loved the Lord, He had saved her from her sin and she wanted everyone else to be forgiven too! I trust there will be many more in heaven partly because of those Bible's she gave out.

She used to call me her “dimple darling” when I was young. In the last few years whenever I would come in to see her she would say “Hi sweetie!” - I will miss that. About a week before she died she opened her eyes and said this for the last time. It was so hard the last few months, especially the last week and a half… knowing she was dying and sitting by her bedside wondering if each breath would be her last. Her words during that time centered around how much she just wanted to go be with Jesus and a few days before she died she managed to say “Come… let... us... adore Him”. I obliged her by singing the chorus. She often groaned saying "Jesus!", and I saw in her a literal picture of the Spirit groaning for the coming of the Lord.  She has lived with us in an attached apartment for almost my entire life and home will never be the same without her living there, and that’s part of the sadness that death brings. But I have SO much joy in knowing that she is now truly free and with the Savior she loves. No more groaning Dot Dot... you're finally home!

I thank the Lord for the gift of my grandmother, for His work of grace in her heart and life and the legacy I have as a result. I am so very thankful for the example of prayer and faithfulness. While I will miss her much and cry a lot in the days to come, she will continue to inspire me for the rest of my life as I seek to follow the same Lord and Savior she loves so dearly.  

Much love dear Grannie Dot,

                               - Your 'sweet dimple darling'

(photo from Christmas 2011)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Fellowship Conference Review (I'll Be Honest church network conference)

So I recently took a trip to Texas. I went to San Antonio first to visit friends and then drove with them to The Fellowship Conference held in Denton Texas, April 17-20th. The whole trip was so great, refreshing, encouraging, convicting…. I thought I would share about what it was like and give a summary of the messages. It was put on by a group/network of churches the Pastor's of which include those speaking below. You can find more information through this website:
There were about 900 people there. It was challenging at first as I didn’t know hardly anyone, but I was staying in a cabin with several other girls and it was a blessing to get to know them. I also connected with a lady that I had known several years ago that was there which was really sweet. We had meetings in the morning and evening and the afternoons were just for fellowship. Also in the morning after breakfast we had a prayer time where we gathered, someone shared some thoughts/Scripture for a couple minutes then we prayed for about 30+ minutes. The songs and hymns we sang at the meetings were different, many I had never heard before but the lyrics were rich! It was a very sweet time.

Thursday night meeting: Mack Tomlinson (from Denton, Texas) preached on what the role of the Holy Spirit was in the life of Christ. As Christ was fully dependant on the Spirit in all He said and did, so should we. We need the Spirit’s help and we need to be seeking Him.

Friday morning prayer was led by Mack and he talked briefly about Phil 4:4-7. The Lord is near, so don’t worry, pray! And pray with thanksgiving.

Friday morning meeting: Kevin Williams (from England) preached on Genesis 4:1-7a – Cain and Abel’s sacrifices. One was accepted, the other was not. Why? Because one had faith in a blood sacrifice and the other was merely performing an outward sign of religion. It is only through Christ that we are accepted.
Listen here:

In the afternoon I went and listed to Mack go through all the books that were on the book table and talk about what they were about. Then went and played Ultimate Frisbee with some other young adults.

Friday evening we first had a missionary who serves in the Middle East share. He talked about how persecution and suffering are interwoven in the Christian faith and it is the means by which God grows us. He challenged us to remember our days are a gift and to use them wisely.  Afterwards, Ryan Fullerton (Louisville, Kentucky) preached from Galatians 3:1-6. This was probably my favorite message. In this passage Paul was rebuking the Galatians for trying to live the Christian life apart from the power of the Spirit. We receive the Spirit when we are saved, and we need Him more and more as we grow in Christ. And we receive more of the Spirit by looking to Christ. It’s full dependence upon Him that we need!
(Towards the beginning of the message all the lights in the room went out [just sunlight from the windows]… he didn’t miss a beat!)
Listen here:

Saturday morning prayer was led by a man who’s a missionary to underground churches in China. He shared some various passages on the importance of prayer and I most remember this quote: “The battle for missions is won or lost in rooms like this.” Are we striving in prayer as we are called to in Scripture?

This missionary also preached at the morning meeting - since he’s an underground missionary, his message was not recorded, so I’ll give you a more extensive run-down on what he said.  He spoke on the basic missions principles that we find in Acts: 1. The Context of Missions (it springs from the local church, this is where missionaries should be sent from), 2. The Messengers (the first missionaries, Paul and Barnabas, were men grounded in the truth and mature in the faith – we need to be training men and women for ministry!), 3. The Message (We need a Biblical Gospel! It’s Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of sins; and mainly: Repent and believe!), 4. The Ministry of Missions (we bear a cross and follow Him. It’s by much tribulation that we enter the kingdom of God. Missionaries are called to plant churches and train leaders to take over leadership of them), 5. The Power of Missions (it’s all done by the power of the Holy Spirit and through prayer. All the knowledge and teaching in the world is worthless otherwise).
(Note: What this man is doing for Christ is amazing and it springs from his very serious relationship with the Lord. I had a chance to talk to him briefly afterwards…!)

Saturday evening we heard a short update from a missionary in Mexico, then Charles Leiter (Kirksville, Missouri) preached a message from 1 Corinthians 1:17-31 and the “weakness and foolishness of God”. So often God appears to be the weak and foolish one, but really He’s the strong one! He has a purpose and plan and it’s all to gain more glory for Himself and conform us more to the image of Christ. He gets ALL the glory, we are nothing!
(I was overwhelmed by gratitude for the Lord saving me after listening to this message! Praise the Lord for His marvelous grace!!!!)
Listen here:

Sunday morning prayer was led by Clint Leiter who shared 3 words that we should be continually praying: Revive, Restore, Refresh. We daily need God to give us “life again”, “abundance again” and to help us to “flourish again”.

Sunday morning sermon was by Tim Conway (San Antonio, Texas). When he got up he said he had notes from several sermons and really didn’t know what exactly he was preaching. But this, out of all the sermons was the most convicting! In sum: Jesus taught us to pray “Your kingdom come” – but do we really mean it? Do we really pray and seek for people to be saved? We have a responsibility to be reaching the lost, to be sharing the Gospel. Pray with passion, and let it overflow to your life! (Really convicting!)
Listen here:

I am so grateful for this opportunity to have gone. The messages were all great – I’m sure by listening to them you’ll be encouraged, inspired and convicted too! If you ever have an opportunity to go to this conference in Texas (or to hear any of these men speak) DO IT!  (For a heads-up, there will be a conference in Portland ME August 7-9, 2014 – more information forthcoming! If interested, contact me and I can let you know when I hear more.)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Reading List! (May 1, 2014)

Finished this month:

Spiritual Depression: It’s Causes & Cures by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
This is going on my “x-number of books every Christian must read” list! Personally this was a very encouraging book. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones does a great job looking at causes (and roots) of “spiritual depression” and oh my word there is SO much amazing truth that I was reminded of! Now I have some rules about my books: 1. Only underline in pencil; and 2. Use a bookmark to save your place - do not ever lay a book down with its binding open and do not dog-ear book pages - only if it’s something really good that I want to be able to find again sometime. This book has 9! I’m pretty sure that’s a record! It’s hard to pick a favorite quote, but this one sums up the book really nicely:

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you… The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why are thou cast down’ – what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself… and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’.” (p 20-21)

The Joy of Fearing God by Jerry Bridges
Jerry Bridges is one of my favorite authors. He’s very simple and clear in how he writes and is a humble and sincere man of God. I heard him speak at a conference last fall. One session was about the transcendence of God and he spoke from Isaiah 40 (see also the chapter “Transcendent Majesty” in this book). I went outside afterwards and cried… just so overwhelmed by the awesomeness of God! So, while this is, in many ways, a very simple book, it’s deep and beautiful. And it was convicting too! How I need to fear the Lord more, and realize that that is the way to joy!

“Properly fearing God is more than just a feeling or attitude – it’s a feeling or attitude that changes our lives.” (p.31)

The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung
This book is ALSO going on my “x-number of books every Christian must read” list. Yup, you should read it. Kevin DeYoung takes a tough and controversial subject (the Christian’s relationship to the law and the process of sanctification) and does a great job examining what the Bible says about how we should live. If nothing else, chapter 7 will be more wealth to you than gold (it’s all about our union with Christ – simply glorious!). This book was of naturally quite convicting in a lot of ways… it’s so easy to be apathetic and lazy in our Christian life and not “work out our salvation”. We forget that abiding in Christ also means “keep His commandments” and vice versa. Great reminders and encouragement. I mean, if this doesn’t fire you up, I don’t know what will:

“In effect God says to us, ‘Because you believe in Christ, by the Holy Spirit I have joined you to Christ. When he died, you died. When He rose, you rose. He’s in heaven now, so you’re in heaven. He’s holy, so you’re holy. Your position right now, objectively and factually, is as a holy, beloved child of God, dead to sin, alive to righteousness, and seated in my holy heaven – now live like it!’” 
(p. 105)

The Rose Guide to End-Times Prophesy by Dr. Timothy Paul Jones
Sound interesting? It certainly was!!! I got this last weekend and read through the 300+ pages in less than 2 days (granted I had quite a bit of time one day to just sit and read!), but it was really fascinating! Dr. Jones gives a really balanced and non-biased presentation of the different views Christians hold of the end times. I learned much more about what each one believes and why. If you’re interested in studying this topic, this is a great resource to start with!

ConvergenceSpiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist by Sam Storms
This book was written for both cessationists (those who believe the “miraculous” gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased) and charismatics/continuationists (those who believe they continue today). I’ve heard some of Sam Storms’ story on a radio program series, but reading about his journey was still surprising in some ways. He brings a lot to the table for discussion that are roots of this controversial issue and has concerns and exhortations on both sides. In my opinion, his Biblical arguments are very good and it’s a beneficial book to read! It will certainly challenge your way of thinking, but I hope you’ll be open to it.  

“Biblical balance is pursuing everything the Bible demands with the degree of emphasis and energy that the Bible commands.” (p. 105)
“Praying and thinking are not two mutually exclusive options. The person who only thinks and does not pray is just as bad and dangerous and unbalanced as the person who only prays and never thinks.” (p. 185)
“The sure and certain way to go down in God’s eyes is to go up in your own.” (p. 200)

A Treasury of Prayer – the best of E.M. Bounds edited by Leonard Ravenhill

Additional books I want to finish this month:
Spurgeon on Prayer & Spiritual Warfare (by Charles H. Spurgeon)
The Lamb is All the Glory by Richard Brooks (book on Amillennialism – something I’m interested in learning more about)
How I Know… God Answers Prayer by Rosalind Goforth

(Yeah… I’ll be reading a lot about PRAYER this month, but hopefully DOING a lot of it too!)  :-D