Monday, November 30, 2009
Our last Thanksgiving was spent in Cameroon with Rusty and I eating "Chicken Noodle Soup" packets in a nearby hospital while the girls were with missionary friends in Ndu, so this year was different--to say the least! We enjoyed a full feast with family, a wintery white day of snow, and a trip to a Christmas tree farm at the foot of the mountain to pick out our tree. Eleanor even got to try out the Beech Mtn. sledding hill with Daddy! We had a great time and especially enjoyed the traditions that we didn't get to observe last year, like picking out our fresh Fraser Fir together! Enjoy the pictures of our adventures!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
We enjoyed Mt. Calvary's Fall Festival this past Wednesday night. The girls--okay, all of us--got to dress up, we roasted hot dogs and s'mores over a bonfire, and even got to go on a hayride with Sophie's AWANA Cubbie friends. We had a great time...here are some pictures!
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
As I’ve thought about the overall message of Christ to the seven churches in the vision of Revelation 2 and 3 (see previous blog), I have been particularly struck by Jesus’ warning to the church in Sardis:
“…I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you…” (Rev. 3:1-3)
To give a little background about this church, the city of Sardis was the capital of Lydia, and it stood as a great and prosperous city for many years. It was known in particular for its virtually impenetrable citadel—an acropolis surrounded by cliffs of rock. Interestingly enough, though the fortress was never taken by battle, it was twice captured in the secret of night. The two captures “…while watchmen neglected their duty became a cautionary tale of misguided complacency and lack of vigilance” (ESV Study Bible). This gives the modern-day reader of Revelation 3 new insight into the message Jesus gave to the church at Sardis. Just as the prominent, powerful city of Sardis felt itself alive with splendor and impenetrable by outside forces, the church apparently thought it was doing just fine. Yet both were blinded by their own weaknesses and vulnerable to defeat. “The letter to ‘the angel of the church in Sardis’ (Rev. 3:1–6) suggests that the early Christian community there was imbued with the same spirit as the city, resting on its past reputation and without any present achievement, and failing, as the city had twice failed, to learn from its past and be vigilant” (IVP New Bible Commentary).
I can’t help but wonder how much the American church has become like Sardis. I wonder how much of our supposed “strength” comes from the past. Is our faith really strong and vibrant now? Or have we left ourselves open to attack and destruction because of a lack of vigilance and care for our souls—and for one another as the church? It’s impossible for me to say, of course. I am simply one member of the global church of Christ. But I think it’s a thought worth pondering—and, at very least, a warning worth heeding personally, and within our local body of believers.
“Remember, then, what you received and heard….The one who conquers …I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev. 3:3-6)
May we have ears to hear, and hearts to follow what the Spirit is saying to us.
About a week ago, I finally decided that I’ve evaded any serious study of the book of Revelation for too long. I’ve always been turned off by pop culture sagas and suspicious interpretations of its message, and as a result have managed to steer clear of any real scrutiny of the text. But, alas, I’ve caved in…and this past week began my own study of the book of Revelation.
To aid me in my pursuit of its message, I decided to use Matthias Media’s study on Revelation called The Vision Statement. It’s a compilation of 9 studies on the book meant either for personal devotion or small group study. I felt like I needed a little direction, but didn’t want anything too pushy about a particular viewpoint—and I have been very pleased with this guide. The book itself states in its opening pages: “Many discussions of Revelation get caught up in particular details of history, in dates and Roman emperors and who the Antichrist might be. But these are often distractions from the actual teaching of the book, which places Jesus Christ firmly at the centre.” It acknowledges, of course, that there is something to gain from different looks at Revelation as well, but this study focuses on the message of Jesus Christ—something that I’m ashamed to say I think I’ve never intently focused on in studying Revelation.
So…preamble aside (Sorry—I always feel the need to give a backdrop for my musings!), I’ve been camped out on Jesus’ message to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 the past couple of days. I use the singular form of message intentionally, because I think there is much to be gained by its meaning. Although the individual churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea certainly had individual characteristics, problems, and even commendations and/or rebukes from Jesus himself, there is something to be gained from looking at Christ’s message to all of the churches collectively. I like what The Vision Statement says:
One overall message emerges as a result of the pattern of the vision. That one message is this: remember who is in control. Do not be deceived into thinking that the world is all there is, that Jesus will not return as judge and king, that God does not have power. Do not let the troubles that come upon you in this evil age deceive you into thinking that God is not in control. He is. We know he is in control, because we know the one who has overcome evil.
How true! Each of these seven churches struggled in its own way. We can find ourselves in each of their weaknesses—and learn from Jesus’ instruction:
…If you have zeal without love—recover your love;
if you are faithful but fearful—endure suffering for the crown of life which awaits you;
if you are seduced by false teaching and immorality—repent;
if you are lazy, asleep or dead in your faith—wake up, come back to life;
if you are feeling weak and weary in your faith—remember that you will be rewarded and protected;
if your obedience is lukewarm and you are complacent in faith—turn back and find your ‘wealth’ in Jesus. (The Vision Statement)
How precious it is to know the One who has conquered it all, and made a way for us to embrace freedom and victory in himself—Jesus Christ! May we heed his wisdom, and embrace this truth.
Friday, September 11, 2009
As a professor of leadership and church ministry at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one would expect the typical Harvard Business School recipes for "leadership" from Dr. Bredfeldt. However, Great Leader, Great Teacher is a refreshing change focusing more on Scripture than business tactics--true to its sub-title. This volume is not necessarily a comprehensive survey of biblical texts which then interprets leadership in light of those texts (such as O. Sanders' Spiritual Leadership). Instead, Bredfeldt focuses more on the issue of the Bible's authority within leadership. Bredfeldt's thinking is absolutely correct when he argues that those who teach the authoritative word of God will in turn have authority or influence over those whom they are teaching. Many times Christians seem to miss this and believe that authority comes through an office or a title, while authority in the church comes through teaching the authoritative truth. Thus, pastors wonder why their congregations follow faithful Sunday School teachers more than them. This idea largely shapes the structure of the book.
In chapters one through four he exhorts pastors and teachers to commit themselves to teaching the authoritative truth of Scripture and not be distracted by secondary methods. In these chapters he diplomatically and accurately describes the problematic nature of the business school model of church leadership and summons his readers to recognize the sufficiency of the Bible. Addressing the issue of authority, Bredfeldt writes a significant polemic toward postmodernism and the "emerging church." This is understandable since some thinking among these parties (whatever "emerging" means) can be destructive to biblical authority and thereby send leaders looking away from Scripture toward culture, church history, and pragmatism. In chapters five and six he discusses the needed virtues of a leader and their necessary competencies. While both chapters are biblically solid, anyone who has read a book on Christian leadership can probably scan them because of their familiarity. Chapters seven and eight are perhaps the most practical sections of the book, but the most dangerously reductionist as well. Bredfeldt's point is to show the extremes of leadership positions, or "the ditches on the sides of road." He then tries to steer his reader toward a balanced position between existentialism, pragmatism, realism, and idealism. Next, he calls for balanced churches that do not err in being too "seeker sensitive", "program driven", "content/truth oriented" and "post-modern". This call for balance is certainly needed and appropriate, but it is always dangerous to start grouping all leadership styles and churches into four categories (including individuals' names associated with each group).
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is actively involved in church leadership and especially those who are teaching in any capacity. Pastors and ministers will find the 200 pages a light, easy read with some good re-usable illustrations. However, I believe the book would serve its greatest good in the hands of lay-teachers. This is the perfect book for Sunday School teachers, small group leaders, and others teaching regularly in the church. For these individuals, Great Leader, Great Teacher will remind them of the importance of their task, drive them back to the authoritative Word of God and steer them away from some pervading pitfalls. And in so doing, I believe Dr. Bredfeldt will indeed help the church recover a biblical vision for leadership.
Monday, September 7, 2009
When Rusty's not working, we can usually be found outside somewhere, enjoying the first cool days of fall. Here are some pictures of our latest adventures: hiking at Buckeye Lake (next to the Rec. Center where Rusty works), our first family camp-out at Price Lake Campground on the Blue Ridge Parkway, exploring Grandfather Mtn. with family, and enjoying the Mile High Kite Festival atop our own Beech Mtn. Enjoy!
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Lawhead, Stephen R. Hood. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
After our marketing was complete, we headed back to the car and drove a couple of miles to the Greenway Trail for a jog. It was the perfect weather for a mid-morning jaunt, and we thoroughly enjoyed trapsing through parks and next to streams and even through a tunnel of arched evergreen branches at one point. The air smelled like nature's own potpourri, scented with the leaves of trees and flowers and the morning rain. Rusty and I are always amazed at how beautiful the mountains are, no matter the season or weather. Each change has its own beauty.
Well, anyway...in honor of the much anticipated advent of fall in the mountains--and my recently acquired fresh produce from the market!-- I'm posting a link to the recipe for one of our favorite quick breads: Chocolate Zucchini Bread. When the weather gets cooler, it always puts me in the mood to bake! This recipe is moist and tasty, and makes two loaves so you can put one in the freezer and break it out when the first one is gone (or if you're like us, you probably won't need to freeze it before the other one is gone!). I usually leave out the melted unsweetened chocolate so that it's less like a dessert and more like a snack, especially for the girls, and it is still slightly sweet and delicious. A slice of bread, a cup of tea, and a chair out on the deck overlooking the mountains...there must be something like this in heaven! :) Enjoy!
Saturday, August 22, 2009
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
Love. An old and familiar topic. Is it really a new commandment? Isn’t it an old one dating back to the Mosaic commands of the Pentateuch? Sort of. It’s there. But Jesus puts a different spin on it here. Not only are we to love our neighbors as ourselves (Lev. 19:18); now we’re supposed to love them like Jesus would, with the intended result that they will see Jesus through our lives, and know that we are his disciples.
It’s easy for me to feel pangs of immediate defeat when I even begin to measure my “love life” up against Christ’s. He loved perfectly; He loved unto death on a cross! He is love! Still, God commands us to love this way. My only conclusion is that he will give me the power—through his Holy Spirit—to love in a way that is fleshly impossible. And one tool that he often uses to accomplish his work is his Word.
So I turned to another familiar passage: 1 Corinthians 13. I figured it couldn’t hurt to have a refresher on the characteristics of godly love. But—as so often is the case—it wasn’t the verses I was thinking of that were so convicting to me. It was 1 Corinthians 13:3: If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Yikes. So I can give someone everything I have and even give my life for them without loving? Absolutely. One commentator says about this passage: “Love cannot be measured by actions alone; motives must be assessed to determine what is loving.”
When reflecting upon how this truth applies to my own life, I must ask myself: When I give my time to my kids but do it with an attitude of irritability and resentment, am I really loving them? When I let out harsh words toward my husband, but inwardly justify it by the thought that I would really do anything for him, am I really loving him? When someone hurts me and I decide to “kill ‘em with kindness”, am I really loving them if my heart isn’t in it? Tough questions. But ones that we must ask ourselves if we want to grow in love the way Jesus loved.
So today I’m praying for myself—and for those I know and love—that we will demonstrate our commitment to Jesus to the world not only by how we help each other in the kitchen, watch each other’s kids, write on each other’s facebook wall, or pick up each other’s clothes and toys, but also by the attitude of our hearts. May the words of [our] mouth[s] and the meditation[s] of our heart[s] be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
Friday, August 14, 2009
We returned late last night from the last (we think!) of our summer vacation road trips. We spent several days with family on Hilton Head Island, then returned via Simpsonville, SC so we could visit with more family that we hadn't seen since our return from Africa. It was fun--we had great weather, lots of pool time, a trip to the shipyard, some good seafood, and the girls had a blast playing with their cousins. Rusty and I snuck in a Starbucks date, an afternoon tennis match, and a couple of runs without the jogging stroller. Rusty did, of course, manage to find a place to stick his fishing pole in the water while we were on the island as well. However, after a couple of interruptions from alligators, he ended his efforts. :) We had a great trip, but as always, it was good to come home--even to our temporary one! :)
Which brings me to other news some of you may be wondering about. We still have not found a full-time job for Rusty now that we are back in the U.S., but the Lord did bless us with a part-time one that just started today. Rusty will be the weekend manager for the Buckeye Lake Rec. Center on the back side of the mountain. It's a great fit for us because he'll still be able to job search/interview/visit potential churches during the week but still make some money on the weekends. We're thankful for the opportunity and he is looking forward to beginning the job.
We're thankful for your continued prayers and encouragement as we wait for the Lord to lead us to our next place of ministry. Hope you enjoy the pictures of our island fun!