Monday, November 23, 2009

It's not called Turkeygiving.

I’ve always found it interesting that Thanksgiving comes just before Christmas. Before the busyness of the Christmas season, before the giving and receiving of gifts, before gathering in celebration with family and friends, before the warm remembrance of the humble birth of our Savior, our minds and hearts are moved toward giving thanks.

But as I visit the stores in the month before Thanksgiving, I see that it really is the forgotten holiday. Thanksgiving decorations are sparse, if at all. All I see from November 1st, and sometimes even before that, are glittered ornaments, Christmas trees, giant, fancy wreaths, and oh, I did see one nativity scene at Target.

But for Thanksgiving, there’s practically nothing. No framed copies of the Declaration of Independence, no cornucopias, no pilgrim salt and pepper shakers, no turkey-shaped candles. Okay, that last one might get a little weird looking as it burns down.

I guess there’s no profit in being thankful, or so the world believes. Sad, isn’t it? That the people who live in the freest country in the world have largely forgotten to give thanks for it?

Have we forgotten that Thanksgiving is about observing another birth: the birth of our nation, borne of the strength and courage and faith of men who had a vision to provide a nation unto God where people are free to worship and serve Him according to God’s will, rather than being mandated by a government of men?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m as thankful for my turkey and stuffing and gravy and the sweet potatoes with the little browned marshmallows on top as much as anyone else. But I do hope that we remember the bigger picture – that we live in a country where we have so much in abundance that we take for granted many things that in other countries are considered luxuries.

And yet Thanksgiving seems to be a mere quick stop over between Halloween and Christmas.   A time only to stuff our faces and take a nap.  When the food that is served has become so important that some people get bent out of shape if a certain "Thanksgiving" food isn't served.  It is about being thankful and we can be just as thankful having spaghetti and meatballs or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as we can a full turkey dinner.  Sometimes even more so. 

I hope and pray we slow down this Thanksgiving and take a look around and really notice what, and who, and Whom we’ve been blessed with, and give thanks to God for all of it. I hope we cultivate hearts of thanks during this time and carry those thankful hearts into the Christmas season. And I hope we keep a sober pace as we move into Christmas and truly celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior.

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

Psalm 100

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Foodie - Whipped Cream

Ahhh!  This is my last Friday Foodie before the Thanksgiving celebration. I always laugh (okay, a slightly sarcastic laugh) at the amount of slaving that goes on in my kitchen for days on end - preparing, shopping, cutting, freezing, brining, peeling, boiling, roasting and baking - to host a proper Thanksgiving feast, only to have everyone sit down to dinner and within minutes everyone is already mopping up the last bit of gravy and has commenced to moaning about being so stuffed they’ll never eat again….until they remember the pumpkin pie. Which brings me to, in a round about way, today’s foodie.

It seems that everyone has their favorite recipes for the day, but I’d like to share one recipe that you may not have, and it’s only 3 ingredients.  It's smooth and creamy, light and airy, real honest-to-goodness whipped cream. So easy and truly makes the pumpkin pie. Or any pie. And if you like, sprinkle the dollops with a little cinnamon or nutmeg.

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Prechill a high-sided bowl and beaters for an electric mixer. Pour all the ingredients in the bowl and whip just until it holds soft peaks. Use immediately, or store covered in the refrigerator. Make it the same day you’re going to use it, though, so it doesn’t break down and start to get watery. This will make approximately 2 cups whipped cream. Double or triple the recipe’s ingredients if needed.  Extra for eating right off a spoon is nice, too. 

So tell me, what are some of your favorite Thanksgiving foods?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Walking with Jesus, Not the World

One of my earliest memories is of going with my mother and sister to visit my mother’s friend at her house. All of us kids were relegated to playing in the basement while the two adults stayed upstairs to read tarot cards for one another. So what’s the big deal? It’s just a game, right? I also remember there being a Ouija board in the house. So what’s the big deal? It’s just a toy, right?

I won’t go into all that went on in our house as we grew up, but suffice it to say, God’s enemy did not see those things as mere toys, and because there were minds open to the spiritually dark world, there was spiritually dark activity in our house. As well as I know the peace and presence of God now, I knew the feeling of evil forces then. I have felt the overwhelming fear that comes with the presence of a demon and I know just how real it is.

I’m grateful that not everyone has had first-hand knowledge of such things, even more so those of you who have grown up in a home with parents who loved the Lord. The reality of the power of satan may be as real to you as living on the moon. But we are told throughout God’s Word that demons are as real as you and me. And not only that but we are warned in 1 Peter 5:8 to, “Be sensible and vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking someone he may devour;”

And again, Ephesians 6:12 warns believers that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the world's rulers, of the darkness of this age, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

This is our battle and yet do we remember that in our day to day lives? This battle exists because there are two sides - for good and for evil, that are vying for how we walk, or don’t walk, in Christ and for our witness in Him.

Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that, “The thief does not come except to steal and to kill and to destroy.” The world is the enemies’ playground. He will use anything or anyone that is appealing to us to keep luring us into the things of the world that will then prevent us from living our lives uncompromisingly for the Lord.

So what are the enemies’ ways? He is a liar and a deceiver. As he did with Eve in the garden, he will whisper in our ears that this thing isn’t that bad, is it? And the enemy has no problem mixing in a little of the truth with the lie to make it more palatable to us. He will take his time, gradually introducing temptations and half-truths. And if we aren’t carefully discerning, we’ll take those compromises one by one until our conscience is seared and one day we look up and see that we have wandered far from the truth.

Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil; who put darkness for light and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

We may view some things that the world is offering up as no big deal, as mere entertainment, but does the enemy?  Does God?  With all the media outlets available to us right now, we are being absolutely bombarded with the world’s perspective and those things that God calls evil are being portrayed as good, and what God calls good is being slandered as evil. And the worst part? Even many who have called themselves Christians are living no differently than the unsaved in the world do. We have forgotten to be spiritually discerning. We have forgotten to walk in the Spirit. And because of that, many in the body of Christ are falling away – not from their salvation, but from living lives that glorify God. Many are eating, drinking and being merry, and forgetting that tomorrow they will die and stand before God.

And though we won’t be judged for our sins if we have received the forgiveness for them through the blood of Christ, we will face the bema seat of Christ – the judgment seat, for reward or loss according to what we have done in Christ. “For we must all appear before the judgment (bema) seat of Christ, so that each one may receive the things done through the body, according to that which he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

Yes, God is infinitely more powerful than his adversary, but it is up to us who we give that power to in our lives. We have two choices: to continue to live and look like the world, or to live for the Lord.

“Therefore girding up the loins of your mind, being sober, perfectly hope for the grace being brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ, as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance, but according to the Holy One who has called you, you also become holy in all conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:13-16

Jesus lived in the world but He was not of it. He didn’t allow the corruption in the world to change Him, but instead He changed the hearts and lives of those in the world. He was set apart for the work of His Father.

Now that we are in Christ, we are called to come out of the world to be a holy (set apart) people for the glory of God. Why? Because the ways of the world are not God’s ways, they are the enemies’ ways and they will hinder any spiritual growth and victory that we could experience in Jesus. James warned us, “Do you not know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever desires to be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

“But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (Jude 1:17-20)

This world is full of people who mock the things of Christ and it may seem easier to blend in with the world, looking and sounding like them as Peter did while Jesus was being tried, than to be the object of their mockery.

But we are called to be a light in the darkness, illuminating Jesus Christ for the lost. Now is the time to put away the things of the world. Now is the time to redeem the days and live for Christ, doing all He has called us to do to run the race and not only to run, but to finish in victory.

Rather than living our lives as the unsaved do, without giving any thought to what we do or say or where we go, let us set aside those things that would stumble us or our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us give sober thought to those things that we allow into our lives, to their origins, to their creator, to their consequences. Let us be spiritually discerning instead of eating up whatever the world offers us.

I’m not at all speaking of legalism, but I am speaking of returning to our first love, Jesus Christ. Christ died for us because of love; we received Him because of love; are we now living for Him because of love?

There is so much to do before the whisper of our days is gone. Each day is given to us only once. How will we spend them?

God has given each of us in Christ gifts to use to build up the body and glorify God. Are we being good stewards of those gifts, or have we set them aside, along with our treasures in heaven, for the temporary junk of this life? None of us knows if we will have tomorrow to pick up our gifts again to bring glory to our Master. Perhaps we’ve tried to mix the ungodly things of the world with the truth of God.

If you look up today and find that things of the world have littered your way, or that you’ve wandered from the Lord altogether, be of good cheer.  You are only one prayer of repentance away.

Don’t forget the greatest purpose to which you were called: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 12:30-31)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gifting at Christmastime

Hello, bloggy friends.  With the holidays upon us, I'd like to share with you a couple of ways that you can help some precious children enjoy their Christmas a little bit more by blessing them with some basic items and toys that they would not otherwise have the ability to receive.

The first is Operation Christmas Child which is sponsered by Samaritan's Purse.  You can fill a shoebox with the needed items such as school supplies and hygiene items along with small toys and a personal note and then take it to a drop off location in your area.  You can find the instructions here.  The week to drop of your shoebox of smiles is November 16th - November 23rd.  So get a-crackin'!

The other organization I'd like to recommend to you is Compassion International.  Even if you don't normally sponsor a child through them, you can still contribute to their Christmas Gift Program.  100% of your donation will be pooled with all the monies collected and representatives will buy gifts for all the children in the child sponsorship program.  I couldn't find a deadline to give for this on their website, but they are obviously always in need of donations. 

Both of these organizations are based on giving in the name of Jesus Christ and are a wonderful way to not only share the joy of Jesus through giving, but it's also a great way to get our children and grandchildren involved in the joys of giving - and to remind us of those same joys.  

Let the giving begin!

God bless,

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Foodie - Turkey Brine

So I have two Friday Foodies before Thanksgiving and that’s not nearly enough time to share with you all my favorite Thanksgiving recipes. There’s my favorite Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, the dressing with dried cranberries, the buttery baked sweet potatoes with lightly browned marshmallows, of course, the green beans with toasted pecans, and then there’s the turkey. So since I can’t fit all that in in two weeks, I’ll give you two recipes that you may not have, the first being the secret to the juiciest, most flavorful turkey you’ve ever had: brine.

This is so easy and it makes a huge difference in the flavor the turkey. You can make it a couple of days before and have it ready, or even make it way ahead of time like I did and freeze it, and then thaw it out a couple of days before Thanksgiving.

Oh, I wish you could smell that. 

Turkey Brine

1 gallon water
3 tablespoons ground cloves
3 tablespoons ground ginger
7 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns
12 bay leaves
1 pound kosher salt
12 ounces honey
12 ounces maple syrup

1. In a large stockpot, bring the water, cloves, ginger, peppercorns, bay leaves and salt to a boil. Lower to a simmer and stir in the honey and maple syrup until well blended. Turn off heat and let cool to room temperature.

2. At this point you can freeze it, refrigerate it for a couple of days, or use it immediately.

3. Rinse off your turkey, inside and out, with cold water. (Don’t forget to remove those giblets.) Get a container that is large enough to fit your turkey and place it inside, and pour the cooled brine over it. If you need to, add water until the turkey is covered. You might need to place something on top as a weight, like a bowl, to keep the turkey immersed. We’ve used a bucket as the container before, but it has to be able to fit inside your fridge. Now what we do is use a cooler, fill it with super cold water, put the turkey in, and cover it with ice. That way we don’t have to use precious refrigerator space.

4. Marinate for 4 hours to overnight. Remove the turkey and rinse it very thoroughly, inside and out, and roast as usual.

If you’d rather skip the spices, honey and syrup, but still want to soak the turkey in a brine, you can simply cover the turkey with water and pour 2 cups of kosher salt or 1 ½ cups table salt over the turkey, rubbing the salt into the bird, leave to marinate, and rinse the turkey thoroughly before roasting.  You will love it. 

Let me know how it goes!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fluke - the Dream

I had an odd dream the other day (yes, day). The kind you wake up from just knowing it had to mean something.

I lived in a tiny, mud shack in a village sometime a long time ago, perhaps in biblical times. I was going to meet a friend of mine and for some reason I had to climb out a window in order to get there – wherever there was. I peered out the window, which was no more than a square cut out of the middle of a wall, looking for wild animals that would be on the prowl. Gingerly climbing through the opening, I ran past the lions, not wanting to end up being someone’s lunch. That was easy enough.

I met my friend and by the looks of her costume - a long robe and head covering, it confirmed that we were indeed not in Kansas, Toto. We ran together and quickly climbed a ladder to the top of another mud shack, still fearing for our lives as lions and other large animals roamed about. She reached the top before I did, and was quickly covered in tiny, black bugs.

She lay at the top, murmuring something about the fact that even though we escaped the obvious danger of the larger animals, we hadn’t realized that these small bugs, that I somehow knew were called flukes, were just as dangerous. She died as she lay there, and as I stood there still perched on the ladder, I woke up.

Flukes. How did I know these things were called flukes? I’ve never even heard of a fluke.

So I got on the internet and looked it up and here’s what I learned:

1. a fluke is the part of an anchor that catches in the ground, especially the flat triangular piece at the end of each arm;

2. it is either half of the triangular tail of a whale;

3. it is a type of flatfish;

4. it is a trematode, which is a type of flatworm parasite that has suckers or hooks for attaching to host tissue;

5. it is a barbed head, as on an arrow or a harpoon;

6. it means a stroke of good luck.

So what does all that mean as far as my dream goes? While the black bugs that killed my nap-generated friend weren’t any of the things mentioned in the definition of fluke, they were small and benign-looking, yet had the ability to burrow their way into their victim.

The lions we were careful of; the little black bugs we had hardly noticed until it was too late.

Do we, as Christians, do the same thing? Do we look out for the “lions” that would harm us – the "big," obvious sins we should stay away from: murder, stealing…and then forget to watch out for the “little” sins that can take us over before we even realize it – unforgiveness, an attitude? If left unchecked and undealt with, those nasty, little parasites can burrow themselves into a spirit and begin killing it from the inside.

Let’s keep away from the lions, but let’s also remember to pick off the bugs before they have a chance to sink their hooks in.

Only You by The David Crowder Band

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Persecuted Church in China

Sunday, November 8, is this year's designated day for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP).  Please remember to pray on that day for our persecuted, imprisoned and tortured brothers and sisters in Christ who are bravely and boldly standing for Christ throughout the world.  May we never take our freedoms for granted, and may we also pray for the Church in our own United States, that we will never fall under the category of a persecuted church, and if we do, may we be willing to stand strong in our faith in the One, True God, our Faithful Father and Lord Jesus Christ. 

The Body of Christ located in the People's Republic of China is possibly the most widely persecuted among nations.  More Christians are in prison or under detention in China than in any other country.  Churches have had to find refuge literally underground in order to continue to gather together in Jesus' Name.  The following are a few short stories of what Christians in China are enduring simply to continue in their faith.  Their steadfastness and even joy in the Lord in the face of such suffering makes me weep. 

Personal Prayer Request
As reported on The Voice of the Martyrs, on October 20th, Chen Le, who is a high school student in China was expelled from school for the sole reason that he would not renounce his faith in Christ.  His expulsion notice read as follows:

Chen Le, a 2nd grader from Class 8 of Senior High School, was found by Bazhou Public Security Agency and other related agencies to have engaged in Christian gatherings. His school was notified that it should educate the student and persuade him to mend his ways. However, efforts from the class advisor and some leaders from the school in educating him have all failed and this student persists in his belief that he should not renounce his Christian belief. He can’t promise that he will not believe in Christianity or attend Christian activities. He also claims that if the school wants him to write a statement of self-criticism and self-introspection of examining his error of attending religious activities as a high school student, he would rather not attend this school. Given the above situation, this school advises him to transfer to other related schools.

Chen Le signed a document admitting his faith in Jesus Christ, even though the expulsion means that he'll be barred from college entrance exams.  Please pray for Chen Le and for his family, and for our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout China.


In the darkness
I will cling
to my Master's robe

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Promised Land - Breaking Down Personal Strongholds

Series on The Promised Land

1. Send Out a Spy

As we saw last time, the first step to defeating the enemy of God’s people, as Moses had done, and then Joshua once he succeeded him, is by first sending out spies to determine how well they are fortified in the land.

Our personal enemies lie deep within our hearts and only one Man can go there. Only one Man has the vision to spy out that land, and He is the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Holy Spirit has always known your heart and is waiting for the appropriate moments to reveal to you the enemies that lurk within.

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart..” (Jeremiah 17:9-10a)

What are the enemies that can stand between a believer and his or her ability to enter into a promised land - a land where the believer is free to fully love God and be loved by Him; a land where nothing keeps the believer from following Him and serving Him in whatever way God calls him; a land that is free from the bondage of sin; a land that is flowing with the fruits of the Spirit that abound from your thriving and intimate walk with Him?

There are many enemies that we contend with in these weak vessels of ours. These are but a few:

“For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption by which we cry, Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15)

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)

“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” (Colossians 3:8)

So what are the enemies of your heart? Has God revealed them to you? If you listen closely, He will tell you. God has been revealing my enemies to me. I’ve had a glimpse of them before, but I am getting closer to my Promised Land, and the Lord daily comes to me with increasingly detailed reports regarding my enemies. My enemies have lurked in this land almost all my life, and their strongholds have become very fortified over the years.

But they’ve seen that my Spy has revealed their existence, so their assaults have increased to try to entice me to attack them in the flesh – and I’ve tried that, and lost many battles. But the war is not over.

2. Choose to Retreat or Move Forward

Just as the Israelites believed that the enemy was too great for them to defeat, my carnal mind and my flesh see no way to drive these enemies out. But one Man says we can. Now, I have two choices: 1. I can follow the loud voices that say, “No, I can’t drive out those enemies, they are too strong and too fortified for me." And at this point, I can grumble, like the Israelites did, that it would be better if I had stayed in Egypt, otherwise known as the world apart from God; or 2. I can follow the one, still, small Voice, who says, “Yes, We are able to overcome it” and move forward.  Because I know the blessing is not in Egypt, but it is in walking with Christ, I’m going to follow that Voice and move forward in faith. Will you?

3. Enlist Troops

Once the enemies have been identified, the next step to waging war against them is to enlist troops. Troops in the army of God consist of our faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. God has formed us to be one body for many purposes, and one of those is so that we can support one another as we fight the enemy. Ask other believers to pray for you as you enter in to this very difficult process of bringing down your strongholds.

4. Cut Off the Enemy 

The next step to fighting the enemy is to cut off their supplies of food and weapons. One way that armies would do this is by constructing a wall around the city to be seiged.

The first city that was destroyed by the Israelites in their quest of taking the Promised Land was the city of Jericho. Do you remember the way they built a wall around the city of Jericho before they attacked it? It wasn’t a physical wall, but they surrounded the city with trumpet blasts both announcing their intent to battle and their resolution to victory, along with the Ark of the Covenant – the presence of God.

We will only see victory in the pulling down of our strongholds when we are walking with the Lord and being obedient to Him. The order to march around the city of Jericho once each day for six days while blasting on trumpets and then to march around seven times on the seventh day and then giving a loud shout must have seemed strange warfare indeed, both to the Israelites and to their enemies. God may also ask us to do something that to our reasoning minds may seem strange or even impossible.

For example, if your stronghold is fear, you can feed the fear by running from whatever God wants you to do that you’re afraid to, or you can cut off its food source by praying through the fear and asking God for the strength to follow through. If we’re obedient to what He calls us to do, He will be with us and the victory will be ours.

5. Wage War in the Power of God

Walk with the Lord through the process of breaking down your strongholds through prayer and reading His Word. Those strongholds have been built with lies and we need the truth in God’s Word to refute them.

Another suggestion I’d like to make is to fast for period of time.

“And He (Jesus) entering into a house, His disciples asked Him privately, ‘Why could we not cast him out?’ And He said to them, ‘This kind can come out by nothing except by prayer and fasting.’” (Mark 9:28-29)

Now, I realize that in these verses (which is just one scriptural reference to fasting among many) Jesus is talking about prayer and fasting in order to cast out a demon, and I am in no way suggesting that strongholds are demons, nor can a believer and follower of Jesus Christ be indwelt by a demon. Although I do believe satan loves it when we allow our strongholds to remain firmly in place. What I am saying is that there are times in our Christian walks when we are facing difficult decisions or impossible situations, such as the breaking down of strongholds, when we need to get alone with God and be still before Him. The type of fast and length of time is between you and the Lord. But when we use that time to focus our priorities and attentions on the Lord for the purpose of hearing from Him and allowing Him to do the work necessary in our hearts, we can become one in purpose with Him and His Spirit will be strengthened in our lives. 

If you are struggling with a stronghold and need someone to pray for you, please do not hesitate to email me by clicking on my little postcard over in the sidebar. I would consider it an honor.

God bless.