Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tragedy! :(

Friends, I am sad to report that tragedy has struck our little patio garden. While we were vacationing in California last week, my first tomato turned red! I was so excited to see it when I got back.

See how nice and red and ripe it is! :)
However, when I went out to water the plant this morning and check on its progress, I found that my precious red tomato was not to be mine :( You see, something got to it before I did...

Poor tomato :(
Definitely not cool! At least there are 16+ other tomatoes still ripening on the vine but this was the first one to appear and the first to turn red. So it was sad to see it be spoiled like it was and not enjoyed as it deserved but I'm glad there are others to enjoy as they ripen.

In the midst of this sad event though there is an exciting new addition to the patio garden! :) As you may remember, before resorting to a tomato seedling plant from the store, I was attempting to grow one from seed. While I killed the first batch of seedlings that sprouted, I tried again with two more seeds. While I accidentally traumatized it on occasion, one little plant persevered and continued to grow. And yesterday, it made the big move!

I purchased another topsy turvy grower and moved the plant from the little pot it outgrew into the larger growing bag. So now I have two tomato plants, one basil plant and one pot of Bacopa flowers (middle of the photo). I'm really excited that this little plant was able to make the big move. I was never sure how long it was actually going to last and yet here it is, continuing to grow and hopefully flourish now that it has the room it needs. I look forward to continuing to update you on how things go as we get closer to larger harvests of basil and tomatoes! :)

Soli Deo Gloria,

Monday, July 18, 2011

Acts 5-8

Hope you enjoyed the update on the garden last week :) I got a little behind updating the blog on Acts so I'm posting 4 chapters this time around. Going to be out of town for a wedding this weekend so I might try to get another post up before we leave later this week. For now, enjoy!

Soli Deo Gloria,

Acts 5
Right at the end of Chapter 4, we saw the Levite Joseph/Barnabas sell a piece of property and bring the whole amount of money to the apostles. Now, we see another example of selling land and giving with Ananias and Sapphira, but they conspired to lie in order to make themselves appear better in the eyes of others. I don't think anything was wrong with them giving only a portion of the profit but most definitely in claiming that it was the whole amount and trying to deceive the others into thinking they were being pious when they were simply being greedy but wanted to hide behind a facade of self-righteousness.

"Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” I love this recommendation from Gamaliel when the Sanhedrin were trying to stop the apostles from preaching. He breathes some much needed sense into the conversation. I also think it applies in our lives today too. Like the elders, I can become jealous of what others are doing for God but I need to learn how he wants me to use my own talents and gifts to serve Him. I can't compare how he's working in someone else's life since we do not possess the same gifts. I do not want to be fighting against God and what he wants to accomplish in my own life.

Acts 6
I think this is a great illustration of the need for many to be serving in the church and not placing a burden on the few. With numbers growing to over 5,000 men (not to mention women and children), it is inconceivable that the 12 apostles could serve these new believers all by themselves. It required godly help in the form of fellow devout believers who were gifted (full of the Spirit and wise) to do so. I need to remember that I should not look for what I can get from the Body of Christ but what I can give. Yes, there will be instruction and wisdom I can glean and people I should be discipled by but I also need to be actively looking for the opportunities where my gifts can be exercised and my talents used to the glory of God. Here, 7 men were called to service and because of their willingness to serve and follow God's will "the word of God spread" and the "number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly".

Part of me felt like I was left hanging at the end of Chapter 6 and wanted to keep reading to 7! We see the synagogue leadership using the same false witness ploy that they used to convict Jesus as well. These men were not happy that they lost when arguing against Stephen and the wisdom of the Spirit so they found some way to get rid of him. Just because others are not going to tolerate or accept what the truth of God is doesn't mean I should cease speaking the truth. Peter and John didn't in the previous chapters, despite floggings and jail and now Stephen is preaching when others would silence him. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before and faced the same difficulties. I should take heart when reading their stories and continue to proclaim God's good news!

Acts 7
Stephen directly addresses the accusations that he spoke blasphemy against Moses by recounting the Israelites history, demonstrating his knowledge and belief. I wonder if most of the Sanhedrin were caught off guard by the end of Stephen's speech. I can see how they would agree with all the history he was quoting and were probably thinking they would have a hard time convicting him at that point. But then he wraps the entire message up by pointing them to the culmination of those prophecies, Jesus, and they're part in his death. When he pronounces his vision of Christ at God's right hand, they physically cover their ears and I can't help but think about all the times Jesus said they had ears but did not hear or understand. They refused to listen anymore and didn't just close of their minds or ears, they yelled, attempting to drown out anything else Stephen might have had to say. But he still had a message and it was one of surrender and forgiveness, echoing the Savior's words on the cross. It's amazing to see such an example of Christ-likeness. It's easy to attribute that to the fact that this was the early church and that they had seen and walked with Jesus, but if I were to be honest I would have to admit that the same attitude is available to me. I need to follow Christ just as closely because he is with me always. If Christ is truly my first priority, it will begin to show in my attitude and actions towards others, just as it did in the life of Stephen.

Acts 8
It makes sense to me that, the day the first martyr is killed, persecution would begin to spread. The Sanhedrin allowing Stephen to be stoned was all the permission others would need to attack the early church. However, it had unintended consequences: the Word of God was spread even further. In fact, the wording at the end of verse 1 echoes the Great Commission: "throughout Judea and Samaria". What began in Jerusalem was intended to spread throughout the whole Earth and persecution was the impetus for the beginning of the dispersion. Philip ends up in Samaria where we see a man named Simon believe and be baptized. However, Simon had trouble letting go of his former thoughts and ways of thinking from his life as a sorcerer. He thinks that he needs to buy God's blessing from the disciples. Sometimes, I need to be called out for the negative way of thinking otherwise I will become captive to it. Here, Peter rightly discerns that Simon needs to be corrected so that his heart will be right before God and he can grow as a Christian. In effect, Peter acted as a mentor would, pointing out that which needed to be changed. I think it's important for us to be in community with more mature believers so that we can learn from them and be taught by them. We are not built to do life alone, but rather as a community.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Growing, growing...still growing...

When I first purchased and planted my tomato plant in the upside down tomato grower, it looked something like this...

Taken June 3, 2011

I wasn't sure how well this little experiment would go since I don't have the greenest thumb. Now, more than a month later, it looks something more like this...
Taken July 9, 2011
Group of 5 tomatoes growing and ripening.
This was the first tomato to appear.

So wow! Big change! :) I have counted 11 tomatoes now that have at least started forming and there are several bunches of flowers yet to open and become tomatoes! I am so excited that this endeavor is taking off. Not having the greenest thumb, I was worried about the plant even producing fruit and yet there they are!

Speaking of hardy plants...

This little tomato sprout isn't so little anymore! I'm actually looking at getting another upside down planter to put him in since he's outgrowing this little starter pot. This little one has survived so much including being accidentally kicked over by yours truly which uprooted the poor little sprout. But it has survived and seems to be doing well! :)

And we had our first harvest off the basil plant!

I gathered the biggest leaves for a pasta dish with tomatoes and mozzarella. :) It was yummy! This is the only basil plant left after the squirrels and birds terrorized the box and dug up most of the seeds and sprouts when they were really small. This one was uprooted at one point but thankfully handled it well and kept growing once I got it upright and replanted. Looking forward to more basil later this summer.

Maybe I can do this whole gardening thing after all?!?! Who knew? :)

Soli Deo Gloria,

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Acts, continued

Hey everyone!
I hope you are all having a good week so far. I can't wait to update you on some of the progress in my patio garden! Hopefully I can get a blog post about that written up for later this week. :) For now, enjoy the next two chapters of Acts!

Soli Deo Gloria,

Acts 3
I think it's neat that the name of the temple gate is "Beautiful" :) It's amazing to see the change in these disciples who, only weeks earlier, were hiding in a room fearing for their lives. Now they are speaking boldly in the temple. Peter and John don't let the healing they performed go unexplained but address at that very moment, while the man is still there, how this was accomplished and that Jesus was the Messiah. I can appreciate his directness and bluntness with the crowd in this matter, but we also begin to see their compassion for the people, when they tell the crowd that they "acted in ignorance" but that they can turn, be forgiven and refreshed. I love the idea of being in a time of refreshing. I feel in a way that these readings have been something like that, something to refresh my soul and my relationship with God.

Acts 4
The same people that condemned Jesus and schemed against him must now faces his followers and the fact that belief in Jesus as the Christ will not fade. However, they seem more tentative now in their treatment of the disciples than they did of Jesus, only detaining them for a night and letting them off with a stern warning. But Peter and John realize that they cannot remain quiet, so they pray that God would give them boldness to speak the truth and continue to work in and through them. How often do I come up to an obstacle only to breakdown and give up? In the ladies' Bible study, we studied the Prayer of Jabez and part of that is asking that God's hand would be on me. With God all things are possible and nothing should stop me from doing His will for my life. Following the early church's example, I should also be generous when God blesses me. If my cup is overflowing, it should be flowing into the lives of those around me, showing them God's love as well.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Acts up ;)

Now that we have finished Luke, our church has moved into daily readings in Acts! :) I'm getting closer to catching the blog up on how far we've come in our reading so hopefully my posting will become a little more regular and less overwhelming. I've posted observations on the first two chapters of Acts below. I hope you enjoy! Feel free to visit the comments section with any observations of your own. :)

Soli Deo Gloria,

Acts 1
Acts is generally considered to have been written by Luke as well and is addressed to the same recipient as the book of Luke, Theophilus. It picks up right where Luke left off with Jesus appearing to his disciples after his resurrection and gives us a more detailed view of their interactions before Jesus ascends to heaven. We also see the scene at the empty tomb echoed here as two angels remind the disciples that Jesus will come back and they don't have to keep looking to the sky. I also found the disciples' prayer interesting when they were looking to replace Judas. They knew that was in the heart was important, not just appearances, but that only God knew what was in each man's heart. That doesn't mean that Joseph was unfit for service, just that particular position. I want my prayers to be just as effective when asking God for guidance since he knows where I fit in the big picture. :)

Acts 2
How amazing would it have been to be at Pentecost and hear the disciples?! It would almost be like a reverse Tower of Babel, since everyone could understand them in their own language. I wonder if this is what it will be like in heaven, with believers from all nations and tongues :) I love how Peter systematically goes through Old Testament prophecy and shows how Jesus fulfilled it and was the long-awaited Messiah. 3,000 believers in one day! That's such an amazing work of God and such a testament to the hearts of the people and their willingness to accept the truth. And Peter understood that this message was intended for many, not just those present that day but generations to come. I also love the picture of breaking bread and sharing meals together, especially since I enjoy having friends over to do exactly this.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

End of Luke!

Friends! We've made it to the end of Luke!! :) Well, technically, our group for church finished it over a week ago now, but I'm finally posting the end of it on the blog! :) Woohoo! We are now into Acts and I can't wait to share that with you as well. I've also decided to take part in the 2011 Boundless Summer Challenge. I will be posting updates in a note on Facebook if you want to follow. If you've never checked out Boundless before, you definitely should now. Lots of great articles and advice for young (20-30's) adults. :)

Have a great holiday weekend! Happy 4th of July!
Soli Deo Gloria,

Luke 21
I was in nursery so I still need to listen to Pastor Mark's sermon on tithing from this past week [June 19], but I love the image in the story of the widow's offering. I want to be a generous giver as much as I can, not just as much as comfortable. In his warning to the disciples about the end times, I liked the wording "make up your mind not to worry". It reminds me that I need to make the conscious effort to rid my life of worry, it's not something that will happen automatically. I have to be careful about this otherwise my heart "will be weighed down with...the anxieties of life" (vs. 34). It is such an easy trap for me to fall into right now with some uncertainty about the future and big decisions looming on the horizon, but I need to remember to consciously commit them to Christ and then release them, not grab them back from His hands. Making the effort to not worry is worth the result I want: increased faith, trust and dependence on Christ, a closer relationship with my husband, and less stress in my life overall. :) With God all things are possible!

Luke 22
I know where my hope is and that the story doesn't end here or with the crucifixion. But sometimes, this part of the story, from the Passover meal to the betrayal, can be so saddening to me. I think this is mostly because I know what happens next. In my heart, I beg the disciples to pay attention and open their eyes to what is occurring. I feel crushed at Judas' betrayal and Peter's denial, knowing all to often how prone I am to fall into my own sins and grieve my Savior. I love the reminder Jesus gives the disciples, that when they were sent out they didn't lack anything. I need that reminder so much nowadays! That and the one to not worry. Even now, as he knows he is preparing to be crucified, Jesus gives his disciples such wonderful advice on the Mount of Olives: "Pray that you may not enter into temptation." If I wish to not fall into sin, I need to be in communication with my Heavenly Father, becoming more like Christ.
When Jesus says "You say that I am" at the end of the chapter, the priests are enraged because the phrase Jesus used ("I am") was considered to be only a phrase that God used to describe Himself ("I AM THAT I AM."). Jesus knew his audience and knew that they would not believe him or answer any questions since they had ceased doing so long ago. His claim to deity with that one statement was enough in their eyes to condemn him for blasphemy. 

Luke 23
Here we see the fruition of Herod's mission to see Jesus that started in chapter 9 but it doesn't give him the satisfaction he sought. Despite desiring so earnestly to see him and questioning him for a long time, Herod is disappointed when Jesus doesn't answer his questions. So it can be for us sometimes. I may earnestly desire to experience a relationship with Christ or pray to him, but if my motives are selfish than I will be severely disappointed. Based on how he treated John the Baptist, we can expect no better treatment for Jesus from Herod's hand. Even the one thief who yelled at Jesus was disappointed when he wanted Christ to save them all from death.
Luke does not record this, but in Matthew 27, when the crowd is calling out for Jesus' crucifixion, they say “His blood is on us and on our children". So back in Luke 23, what Jesus says to the weeping women has so much more impact: "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children." It echoes the judgment that the people called on themselves for crucifying the Messiah.
I love the image of the curtain being ripped from top to bottom between the Holy of Holies and the rest of the Temple. The way had been made for us to return to a relationship with the Holy God, there was no longer anything that could stand in our way if we desire that relationship.

Luke 24
I love the phrase "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" It reminds us that our Savior truly lives! I also love that these were the women who had cared for and followed Jesus and they were the first ones to hear about his resurrection. The travelers on the road to Emmaus recognized Jesus only when he chose to reveal himself but after he disappeared they recalled the fire that had been kindled in their hearts at hearing the Scriptures he shared with them on the road. Their hunger and thirst for knowledge of the Messiah was written on their hearts and Jesus spoke directly to this. May the same fire and desire fill my own heart as I read His Word! I find it interesting that Luke makes a point of saying that the disciples did not believe it was Jesus because of "joy and amazement", not necessarily out of any doubt that it was in fact him since I'm certain they would recognize him. I love that Jesus' final act before returning to heaven was to bless his followers. We know from the other gospels that this was his great commissioning, sending us out in His name, but not alone. :) And, of course, that takes us into Acts...