Seduction, the Frog, and the Death of Sunday

“Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field the LORD God had made.”      Genesis 3:1a  (KJ21)

You have probably heard of the frog in the pot – the poor, unsuspecting creature relaxing in a pot of cool water, thinking all is well. If the water suddenly turned hot, it would jump out and save itself. But since the water is heated very gradually over the stove, the cold-blooded critter just keeps adapting. Finally, the water begins to boil, and it can no longer adapt, because it is now dead.

I have heard this analogy related to America and some of the obvious evils of our time. But I haven’t seen much attention paid to a more subtle onslaught of things that would not necessarily be called “evil,” but can take a more prominent place than they should in our lives. When certain things – even good things – take precedence over the things of God, it’s time to take a serious look at our priorities.

When I was growing up, most Americans went to church on Sundays, and the ones who didn’t usually had Sundays set aside for family. The people running the schools wouldn’t have dreamed of scheduling anything on a Sunday.

If Congress were to pass a law making it illegal to attend church in America, with serious penalties attached, I’m guessing there would be a massive outcry from the Christian community. (This is why this hasn’t happened.)

But today something more subtle is taking place in certain regions, in stages that go something like this:

1. “Yes, we’ll have occasional practices on Sundays, but they’ll always be at 1:00 P.M., so it won’t interfere with church.” (No one objects.)

2. “So, practices at 1:00 on Sundays seem to be working well with everyone, so we’re going to do that every week during the season.” (Again, no objections.)

3. “There will be a few games this season on Sundays, but don’t worry, they’ll be in the afternoons.” (Still, no objections.)

4. “Since Sunday’s game is out of town, please be at the school at 10:45 A.M. The bus is leaving at 11:00.” (Parents think, Oh well, it’s just this once.) (Care to take a guess as to whether this will be just a one-time thing?)

And the frog sits in the pot, while church pews and Sunday school seats are collecting dust. We can’t blame the world – it’s just doing what the world does. If Christians aren’t speaking up, why would anyone else turn off the stove?

When I see kids who have been absent from church and tell them we missed them, there’s a tendency to shrug and say, “I had a game,” as if the choice had been a no-brainer. They haven’t consciously chosen sports over God; if you were to ask them what is more important, they would say “God” without hesitation. But when it comes to time commitment, other activities seem to be the nonnegotiable every time.

What frustrates me when there are five leaders and two kids at Sunday school or youth group, is not the kids that are missing. It’s the complicity of the parents, who drive them to their meetings, practices, and games, but can’t manage to bring them to a church function. And when one child has an activity that is using the family transportation, that often means none of his/her siblings will be at church, either, even if they want to be. What kind of message are we sending the next generation, when God is relegated to the back burner week after week?

What is the frog’s (child’s) perspective over time?

1. “My family always goes to church on Sunday, unless we’re sick or there’s an emergency.”

2. “My family usually goes to church on Sunday, unless something else comes up.”

3. “Sometimes my family goes to church Sunday, if there’s nothing else going on.”

4. “My family sometimes goes to church on Christmas Eve and Easter.”

I can hear cries of “Legalism!” coming from some corners. And I have read on other blogs, “Do we have to go to church to worship God?” And the answer is, no, of course not. But a huge part of worship is obedience. God’s Word repeatedly stresses how important we are to one another. Understand, He needs nothing from us, but we need to be together, to experience the joy of corporate worship, to pray for and with one another, and to study the Bible together. (Studying it alone makes it too easy to go off onto some personal tangent and away from the Author.) Besides, how many of us will really worship, pray, and study Scripture consistently, independent of others?

If you are imprisoned in solitary confinement for believing in Jesus (a very real scenario in many places), then God will honor whatever fellowship you have with Him. He will certainly meet you where you are. But if there’s ample opportunity to get together with other believers as He has told us to do, to be encouraged and strengthened by them – not to mention the encouragement they need from you – and you blatantly choose not to participate, don’t be surprised if somewhere down the road you may be thinking, I just don’t feel as close to God as I used to. And the enemy of your soul will use that as an excuse not to believe at all.

And the frog dies.

While Christians in other countries risk their freedom, their livelihood, and their very lives to gather with the faithful, why are American Christians so blase about practicing their faith? Believers in other parts of the world would give their right arm to be able to fellowship, study the Bible, worship, and pray freely with fellow believers. What would they say about our preoccupation with extracurricular activities while “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together”? (Hebrews 10:25)

The schools have our children six days a week. Why do they need access to them on Sundays, too? I wonder (in my fantasy world) what would happen if at the beginning of the semester every church-going Christian parent in America were to say (politely), “My child would very much like to participate in __________, but we go to church on Sunday morning, and the rest of the day we are together as a family, so (s)he won’t be able to participate on Sundays.”?

I’m guessing we’ll never know.

Okay, parents, prove me wrong.

Prayer: Lord, You are my life – the first, the last, and everything in between. Let my actions and choices show it. Please reveal to me anything that I am knowingly or unknowingly putting ahead of you, and deliver me from subtle idolatry. In Jesus’ name, amen.

The Depth Of My Pride — Unshakable Hope

This is an amazing family, living out their faith in ways we can only imagine, – or can’t imagine! They are a picture of God’s grace. Please read, and if you are able to help, please do.

Reasoned Cases for Christ

As the followers of my blog know, I’ve had ALS for twenty-two years, I’m completely paralyzed and unable to speak. I use an eye-tracking computer to communicate and I am totally reliant on Mary to take care of me. Chipping away at my pride I remember when I first started having to rely on others […]

Please read this and if you are able to assist Bill and Mary via the GoFundMe link, please do so. Grace and blessings!

via The Depth Of My Pride — Unshakable Hope

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“…No Turning Back, No Turning Back.”

“Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’ ”                                                      Luke 9:62

More often than not, I don’t remember my dreams. I wake up with a vague sense that I have dreamed something, but I usually can’t recall it, and that’s OK. Later in the morning, as I am giving my mind to God for the day, I will ask Him to help me forget what ought to be forgotten, and remember what I need to remember, including dreams. Sometimes as I pray that prayer, a dream will come back to me, and I immediately know what it was saying to me.

A couple of months ago I had a dream that I remembered  the moment I woke up, and to this day it has had an effect on  the way I view my faith and my calling.

We had experienced some storms over the summer that had knocked out the power and had toppled some trees. Limbs in the road were starting to be a familiar sight. So, the dream that I had that one night was so vivid that it seemed even more real than the average dream.

In my dream, my friend Bre and I had walked to the end of the pier near our house. The waves of Lake Michigan were splashing against the base of the lighthouse, and we could see dark clouds approaching from the North. As the wind picked up and started whipping our hair and clothes around, I started to wonder how much longer we should stay on the pier. At that moment Bre and I said simultaneously, “We’d better get back.”

When we looked behind us, the waves were washing over the pier in depths between 4 and 12 inches at any given moment. The pier looked slippery and treacherous, and there were no railings to hold onto.

As the waves got bigger and the wind stronger, we realized it was highly unlikely that we could walk back to the shore.

And then I saw the shore.

Dozens of large trees had fallen, their tangled limbs forming an impenetrable hedge all along the shoreline.

I was thinking we’d need to call a friend with a boat, or even the Coast Guard, but Bre and I realized that neither of us had a cell phone, and that the only chance of survival was to hang onto the lighthouse. At that point getting home before the storm was over had about 0% chance of success.

The gravity of our situation was just beginning to sink in, and I woke up before it turned into a full-blown panic attack. As I lay in the dark, realizing this dream wasn’t dissolving into the night like most of my dreams, I pondered its meaning.

Bre and I were at the end of the pier. What else is at the end of a pier?

A lighthouse.

What does a lighthouse do?

It shines a light in the darkness. It prevents shipwrecks by warning of impending danger, and it guides ships from the storms of life into a safe harbor. 

Bre and I have some things in common, but the most important thing we share is our faith in Christ. As Christ-followers, it’s our duty to shine His light into the darkness, to warn people of the disaster that awaits if they keep going their own way and do not heed His Word, and to guide others to the safe harbor of His love. (I know, Cliche City here. Sorry.)

But I saw something else in my dream about being “between a rock and a hard place.” As difficult as it was to stay out there in the storm, just hanging onto (being?) the lighthouse, it would be much harder, even fatal, trying to go back where we came from. Clearly there was no going back.

I was sharing this dream with my friend Kelly, and she said, “But I know people who have gone back. They have renounced Jesus and no longer follow Him.” (How tragic!)

I replied, “Well, then this dream was saying that for me, there’s no going back.”

A few days later I received a text message from another friend, one I had seen on a trip back to my old home town. The text said how good it was to spend time with me again, and it closed with the statement, “You are a lighthouse.”

I had never been called that before, but I thought with a wry smile, Yeah, I know

Has God called you to do something important for His kingdom? (If you profess to believe in Him, your answer had better be “Yes!”) Is it getting harder and harder? Are there storms? Have you thought that life was easier before you made a commitment to Christ? Are you tempted to go back?

Don’t even think about it.

Prayer: Lord, You set Your face toward the Cross, and You didn’t turn back, because the Cross was necessary to save us from our sins. In view of Your mercy, and knowing that You will never abandon us, help us to follow You wholeheartedly, “no turning back, no turning back.” In Your name, Amen.

Good Idea, Humble Beginnings

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.                                                                                                                                                                  Psalm 118:24

It was a beautiful October day, and I was heading to my friend Kelly’s house for a prayer walk. Brightly colored trees were everywhere, and my mind was filled with lovely visions and happy thoughts of Jesus. But that soon changed.

Although my stereo was playing one worshipful song after another, as I got into the town my eyes were assaulted with dark images from virtually every yard I passed. Lawns had been seemingly transformed into cemeteries, with tombstones displaying clever sayings, as though graves were things to be laughed at. Replicas of partially decomposed corpses swung from trees or reached bony hands upward from the ground. Yards and houses were decked with sculls and garlands of cobwebs, as though death and decay were things to be celebrated.

By the time I reached Kelly’s house, my mood had changed considerably. When she answered the door with a cheery “Good morning!” instead of greeting her back, I blurted out the thought that had been building:

“If Christians celebrated Life half as much as the world celebrates death, we could really make a statement!”

Kelly didn’t flinch, and she had no idea what I was suggesting, but she was immediately on board.

“Let’s do it!” she declared. “We can use our yard!”

Thus began one of the biggest adventures of our lives, an outreach that was to fill every October, and a great deal of the weeks leading up to October, for the next fifteen years. It started that year with humble beginnings:

Year One, Halloween Night: Kelly’s family’s yard has been transformed into a cemetery of sorts, but with two twists: Every plywood tombstone has on it, not a clever saying of man, but a verse of Scripture making reference to the Resurrection of Jesus. The swing set is covered with sheets spray painted various shades of grey, and the round picnic table has been turned sideways and covered with the same grey sheets to look like the stone that has been rolled away from the tomb of Jesus. Kelly and I have dressed our adorable daughters as angels, and they are running to and fro, handing out bags filled with candy and Bible tracts to the people who have stopped to read the messages on the tombstones. A boom box is playing worship music nonstop all evening.

Fast Forward, Ten Years: Dozens of people are gathered outside the yard,  filling their bags with tracts, candy, and small New Testaments. Kelly’s girlfriends are handing out free popcorn, hot dogs, coffee, and hot cider under the strings of star-like Christmas lights strung from the trees to the porch. Some trick-or-treaters are warming themselves at the portable fire pit on the sidewalk, and a pastor is giving “sidewalk counseling” to one of them. Most of the visitors are lined along the fence, watching the production of “Satan’s Worst Nightmare,” a multimedia production depicting the death, burial, Resurrection, and final victory of Jesus over the powers of darkness – from Satan’s point of view. A live band is on the porch, and a big screen is behind the production, displaying the lyrics to the songs being played.  The mood is festive, everyone seems to be having a great time, except perhaps the kids in long black robes who have been trying unsuccessfully to burn one of the New Testaments in the fire. The set is impressive, thanks to the artistic gifts of friends the Lord has sent to us over the years. The costumes look professional, unlike the white sheets we had used for angel robes that first year. God has sent us talented designers, actors, musicians, singers, dancers, choreographers, lighting technicians (Kelly’s husband just happens to be an electrical engineer.), and enthusiastic, servant-hearted people of all ages who have just shown up and asked, “How can I help?” And it seems I have finally made use of my college degree in directing and play-writing. (Don’t let my scurrying around with an overloaded clipboard fool you – I’ve got everything under control!) By the end of the evening hundreds of people will have witnessed the reenactment of Satan’s worst nightmare – the Resurrection of Jesus and His final victory.

“Satan’s Worst Nightmare” is the reason I may start spending less time writing blogs and more time working on the manuscript of my next book. When I start telling people about this outreach, I find myself wanting to talk for hours. There isn’t room here to elaborate on all the “adventures” Kelly and I have had over the years, along with anyone else who wished to be involved in this project. Suffice it to say, we’ve felt ourselves to be “on the front lines” more than once, and if we’ve learned one thing, it’s that we need to bathe everything in prayer and to keep our spiritual armor on (Ephesians 6:10-18) at all times.

After all, even in a small town, if you set out to make a public mockery of the devil on Halloween, you’re in for a wild ride.

Prayer: Lord, we know that every day belongs to You, and October 31 is no exception. Make us a reminder to others that, no matter what the season, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” (I John 4:4) and that “the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) In the name of Jesus, the Light of the world, Amen.

The Envelope, Please …

At a time when I was beginning to wonder how many people were actually reading my blog, and whether it made any difference to anyone, I have received a pleasant surprise – nominations for the Versatile Blogger Award from two different sources.

verstile

1.) Thank the person(s) who nominated you.                                                                    Thank you, K. Alice Compeau and Globe&Life. It was so kind of you to think of me and nominate me

2.) Include a link to their blog in your post.   

kalicecompeau.com   globalchange145

3.) Share 7 facts about yourself.

     1.) My name is Ann Aschauer.                                                                                                             2.) I started writing “books” in the first grade and loved to write all through my childhood in St. Louis, MO. In college I majored in theater -directing and playwriting.             3.) I have three grown children and five grandchildren.                                                               4.) I have taught kids of all ages (kindergarten through high school) French, music, English, speech, and drama; at public, private, Christian, charter, and home school. My favorite thing to teach is middle school drama (pardon the redundancy).                                     5.)  I dream a lot. My first novel, Counselor, started as a dream, which turned into a journal entry, which turned into a short story, which became a novel, which became a trilogy of fiction for teens and young adults.                                                                                         6.) I sing and play piano, guitar, and harp (not simultaneously). Among other venues, I have sung to the troops. (Long story)                                                                                                     7.) Most importantly: I am loved by God, saved by Jesus Christ, and filled with the Holy Spirit, the Source of any and every good thing in my life.

4.) Nominate 15 bloggers of your choice to keep spreading the love. 

1.)   Mitch Teemley  @mitchteemley                                                                                              2.)   dettinger47      @dettinger47                                                                                                      3.)  Chaplapreneur  @chaplapreneur                                                                                                4.) Cindy Dawson  @cynthiacdawson                                                                                              5.) Fractured Faith Blog  @fracturedfaithblog                                                                                6.)  Russellings of the Spirit  @revruss1220                                                                                    7.)  The Lost Coin Blog @thelostcoinblog                                                                                       8.) thatredheadgirl   @thatredheadgirl                                                                                             9.)  Carole Duff   @caroleduff                                                                                                        10.) Leila Grandemange  @leilagrandemange                                                                                11.) My Journey So Far @myjourneysf                                                                                              12.) oneta hayes @onetarhayes                                                                                                            13.) 140 Character Christian @140characterchristian                                                                    14.) vicklea    @vicklea                                                                                                                          15.)   John Eli  @johneligaray

Again, thanks so much to K. Alice Compeau and Globe&Life (Sorry, I don’t know your name. :/)  for the honor. I have enjoyed getting to know this blogging community, reading your insights, lessons, and humor.   God bless you all!

 

How to Be a Missionary to a Foreign Country without Leaving Town

“Go and make disciples of all nations …”

                                                                                      Matthew 28:19

What’s wrong with this picture?

It’s lunch time at Average American High School, USA. A group of foreign exchange students are assembled around one table – a young man from Sweden, another young man from Spain, a young lady from Japan and her girlfriend from France. A German student joins them without a word; this is their normal routine. Every day they sit together, learning about one another’s countries and comparing their experiences in America. They laugh at themselves as they practice their English, and they promise to visit each other when the school year is over.

Right next to this table is a table full of Christian students. After saying a prayer over their lunch, they chat excitedly about how great the youth group was the night before, and they brainstorm ideas for fundraising. After all, they have to raise enough money by the end of the month to go on a mission trip to Mexico so they can share the gospel and the love of Jesus with people in another country.

HELLOOOOOOOO?! News flash! There’s a mission field less than 10 yards from you! Going there is free! You don’t have to fund-raise! You don’t have to have a passport! You don’t have to get any shots! You don’t have to learn another language! The mission field has already done all that! Yes, THEY’ve done the hard work, they’re here, and now all you have to do is obey Jesus and “preach the gospel” – with or without words.

Maybe my description is an exaggeration. I hope so. But I remember having a French student living with us years ago. Her best friends at the local high school were the German student, the Japanese student, and an American atheist. These girls were always welcome at our house, but whenever they came over, I had to wonder – Where are the Christian kids? Are they clustered somewhere in their little prayer groups and Bible studies, or – worse – trying to remain incognito, with their faith visible only on Sunday mornings?

We have the message the world is literally dying to hear – that God loved all of us so much that He was willing to give His only begotten Son to die in our place, to pay for our sins, so that we could be forgiven, be adopted into God’s family, and live forever! Do we really believe that? Do we really believe what Jesus said about being the only way to eternal life – that without Him we are utterly and eternally lost? (John 14:6)  If we do, then our hearts should be breaking for anyone who doesn’t know the Good News. If our hearts aren’t breaking over a lost and dying world, maybe it’s time to reevaluate our own faith.

Reaching out to the foreign students is a great idea, not only because it is far easier and more economical than mission trips, but also because it’s a great strategy. Think about it: most people in the world are fortunate if they have a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food on their tables. The families that can afford to send their children to the US are usually wealthier, more influential citizens in their countries. Often these students are the sons and daughters of political leaders, even heads of state!

Imagine if you shared the gospel with the son of a prime minister, and he made a commitment to Christ. When summer arrives, that student goes home and is asked by family and friends (and the press) about his experience in America. And he tells about his experience in America – in other words, he gives his testimony! He doesn’t need to learn the language, he speaks it fluently! He doesn’t need to work at making connections and building relationships – he already has them! And his country is watching.

When I was in high school, our class had one exchange student. This year just one of our local high schools has 29 of them.

What a mission field! What are we waiting for?

Prayer: Father, You have told us to take the gospel into the whole world, and today there are so many ways in which it is easier than ever to do just that. Make us aware of every opportunity to reach out to others, offering them our friendship, so that through us You can offer them Life, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Who’s Prejudiced Now?

“The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”                                                                                                                                                                             I Samuel 16:7b

As I mentioned in a piece I posted earlier this year (around my 65th birthday), I have recently become more aware of attitudes toward older people. No doubt this is partly because I have entered the season of the empty nest and retirement. But I’m pretty sure another factor is having moved from a town where I was a very active member of my church and community to a town where I am virtually unknown.

I have since noticed that unless a person has already distinguished himself in some way, an older person tends to be relegated to the pews. It seems we are generally not looked upon as people who have much to offer in terms of experience, teaching, or counseling. I’m not sure if it’s because people assume that we’re too tired, sick, or weak to teach, or that our short-term memory doesn’t allow us to focus enough to counsel, or that we’re just plain dumb because we have to ask our grandchildren for help with technology.

Look, I may not know how to switch gears on a search engine, but I’ve known the Lord longer than most of you have been alive, and I’ve been studying the Bible for about five decades now. Are you sure there’s nothing you could learn from me?

One day my daughter asked what I was doing Saturday night. She said a newlywed couple in the church were having some marital problems and needed some counseling. I was excited, thinking, At last! Someone wants to avail themselves of the wisdom I’ve gained over a 45-year marriage!

“So, Mom, can you watch the kids while Sean and I go talk to them?”

>sigh<

I was so preoccupied with my own wanting to be more involved that I didn’t realize until about six weeks ago that I myself had succumbed to this very mindset!

I was in my old home town for an authors’ dinner where I was one of ten authors scheduled to speak and sign books. When the woman planning the event told me that each of us was going to be given about 12 minutes to speak, I immediately did the math and realized that this added up to a total of two hours of speaking! I thought surely we would wear out our audience long before the close of the event.

I didn’t have to worry. For one thing, two of the authors didn’t make it, so that left “only” eight of us.

Secondly, the woman planning the evening had scheduled four of us to speak before dinner and four of us after, so the speaking time was split up.

Thirdly, the sheer diversity of authors was anything but boring! We were young, old, and in between; men and women; black and white; writers of fiction, non-fiction, analysis of controversial issues, inspiring testimonies, devotionals, and poetry.

One of the last authors to speak was an elderly lady with snow-white hair, a long blue lace dress, and a sweet smile on her face. I immediately assumed that she must be a poet – the kind of poet that writes for greeting card companies. I settled myself in for what I expected to be a big yawn.

Shame on me.

This woman spoke of her younger years, the years of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain. There was no internet in those days, and Christians in closed countries had no access to the Bible unless believers from free nations smuggled them in. Well, this is what this lady and her husband did. The very fact that they were such unlikely looking smugglers made it easy. Most countries were more than happy to have these “rich American tourists” as their guests and rarely, if ever, searched their luggage. The couple had brought Bibles into so many places that the title of her book had to be changed from Adventures in Europe to Global Travels of God’s Servants. Her testimony was riveting, and as she neared the end of her speech, she casually added that yes, it was risky, yes, they eventually got caught, and yes, they spent time in prison. She then closed with a hilarious poem about resisting God’s call until He gives up and just drops you on your butt. It was called “Butt Prints in the Sand,” which was, of course, a parody of “Footprints in the Sand.” She definitely practiced the old rule of “Leave ‘em laughing.”

I was thoroughly rebuked.

So, I guess I can’t complain too much about people’s preconceived notions about this sixty-something sister, when I myself misjudged an older saint with so much to share.

I’ll have to be more open-minded and more patient with the closed-minded. But I am still on the lookout for opportunities to speak, teach, disciple, counsel, or testify.

Just don’t ask me to speak on the finer points of configuring a format.

Prayer: Lord, give me an open mind and open heart toward others. Help me to see each individual as a treasure, someone You created in Your image, and someone with a unique gift to share. And make me willing to share what You’ve given me, as Your Spirit leads, in Jesus’ name. Amen.