Field Notes from the Wildernesss

I’ve never thought about the wilderness much, although some might call the prairie I grew up on the wilderness compared to the big city lights of the Bay. But that never felt like the wilderness to me. 

Field Notes from the Wilderness

Field Notes from the Wilderness

During a particularly difficult year, my counselor said, “Jackie, I think you are in the wilderness. You weren’t expecting this move to Michigan to be so hard, and it has challenged you more than you thought possible. But what could God be doing with you here?”

I wanted to yell, “being a big jerk who is making my life miserable!!!”

Instead, I mumbled that I had no idea. Continue reading

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To Those Who Long to Be Parents

By Shawnda Bolon-Wilde

Ahead of the Solano Women’s Ministry discussion morning, Shawnda talks honestly about her journey with infertility. 

I’m not big on Mother’s Day church services.  During those years my husband and I were trying unsuccessfully to have a child, it was just a painful reminder of what we didn’t have, what I wasn’t.   When I longed to be a mother, and wasn’t, it felt like every day at church celebrated families with children.  I raged against God, and church, and baby showers.  I bit back tears through many pregnancy announcements. 

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A Sinner’s Response to Being Loved

By Kevin Peet

I have always favored the story at the end of Luke 7, about the woman who showed love for Jesus by… well, “standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.” (Luke 7:38)

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

I believe that I understand what was going on in her heart at that moment, and I have even had the presumptuous, impish thought that I shall instantly recognize her in Heaven.

It’s very important in this story to see that she already is forgiven, and that her actions are her heartfelt response to this forgiveness. Jesus says of her, “her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much”, and the logic is “she is showing much love, which is a demonstration that she has been forgiven much.”

Please notice something: her gratitude, her heartfelt worship was expressed not by “walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:8), nor by “glorifying God with a loud voice” (Luke 17:15). Instead, as I see her, she was drawn powerfully to Jesus, and at the same time she was acutely aware of her unworthiness to be near Him. Her love and devotion overcame this, but only partially, and she she did what small thing she could: in an overflow of gratitude, she washed His feet with her tears and her hair, and kissed His feet and anointed them with perfume. A strange way to show devotion? Yes, undoubtedly; and yet our Lord received this as her love and her gratitude, and commended her to the Pharisee, and indeed to the rest of the world, through His Word to us.

The “worship wars”, with disagreements about style and content and tradition, have been notorious in the past couple of decades in the Church in America, and sadly I too have made my selfish contribution to the conflict. At the same time, there’s a value in recognizing that the ways in which love and gratitude can be expressed are many, many, many! For some it is singing loudly, for others some kind of dancing, for others quiet meditation, for others kneeling, and for some it is preaching or teaching. Each of these, if from a godly motivation, brings pleasure to our Father (Heb. 11:6) and glory to our Savior. Some say that loving and being loved are the fundamental needs of all human beings, and I will add that, for me, bringing glory to Jesus is even more bedrock than that— it is the purpose of everything.

 

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Pass the Sackcloth, Please

By Cathy Luchetti

Photo by Miguel Carraça on Unsplash

Photo by Miguel Carraça on Unsplash

So Hezekiah prayed before God. He wore sackcloth and ashes, and prostrated himself and God was pleased. He tore down the high places, and God was pleased. He glorified God and praised Him, and God was pleased. The blessings Continue reading

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The Intermediate State

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 2.55.43 PMAs we reflect back on the Solano sermon series Heaven: The Land That Stretches Afar,  many of us have been challenged in our assumptions and received teaching on Heaven, and have given ourselves permission to enjoy imagining that land. Something that these sermons could only briefly touch on was the present heaven or Intermediate State – the place where Christians go when they die. So lets take a moment to think about heaven as it is right now.

Perfection is so hard to imagine, because in the present everything is shadowed by brokenness. Apart from the person of Jesus Christ and the outworking of his life on earth, nothing on this planet has been unstained with sin. This is why the present heaven is so hard to grasp. It feels unearthly, lofty, and removed from the life we know. How can we imagine eternal life if it is a kind of life we have never known?

Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven takes the ethereal, nondescript version that most of us think of as “heaven” and brings it down to earth, so to speak. The present, intermediate heaven, the spiritual realm where God’s full presence and faithful people currently dwell, is described as a finite, actual, physical place. This is a place, a land even, where those who know Jesus as their greatest treasure go to be with him and his other followers in a bodily reality when they die. Jesus himself calls this place “Paradise”, which, to Jews steeped in the Pentateuch would have echoed of Eden—a garden, ground to work, trees to eat from, relationships without sin or shame, and God himself walking in the shade­. Indeed, since the days of Adam and Eve no human being has experienced life in such a way. However, Jesus reassures us that he means to give us life, and give it abundantly (John 10:10), the fullness of which we only know in part, in starts and glimpses, as in a mirror dimly. “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Cor. 13:12)

Admittedly, Alcorn’s description of the intermediate state comes off feeling somewhat lackluster. The reason for this is that he is intent on emphasizing that it is not the final, ultimate reality for believers. On Earth, we are to wait fervently and expectantly for Jesus’s return and the final consummation of the kingdom of God. If we die before that’s come, we will wait with fullness of joy, expectant and utterly hopeful, free from the finitude and infirmities of fleshly existence, in full communion with the Father and the fellowship of the saints, both with those near and dear and with those from ages past. However, a new reality is breaking in and is not yet complete. The prayers of the saints, the timeless witness of martyred believers, and the sacrifice of every Christian in the proclamation of the good news has drawn us nearer to the Day (Rev. 6:11, Rev. 8:1-4, Matt. 24:14). The New Heavens and the New Earth is a future reality, as sure as Jesus’s punctured side, and a reality towards which we are speeding every day.

The day is nigh, but not yet come! What a grace it is that we get to be home with the Lord if we die before he returns. Paul affirms this, declaring “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Phil. 1:23), and again, “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8)

But until that day, let us all act and re-enact Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Once we die, life as we have known it will be over. We cannot die again, we cannot speak the gospel again, and we cannot make intercession for the hurting world around us. We will have passed from it.

What will you do while you still have breath, knowing that death for you, Christian, is only entering into the fullness of life?

“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past.

Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

CT Studd

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Fasting | A Prayerful Practice

Bennett Gibson helps us prepare to fast on Good Friday

spiritual-fastingHave you ever tried to fast? How hard was it to accomplish? I’ve fasted many times in my life (sometimes unsuccessfully), and I can say it’s not easy. To be honest, I can get a bithangry. But before I share more about my own experiences, let’s look at the actual spiritual practice of fasting.

What is fasting?

The dictionary defines fasting as, “to abstain from all or some kinds of food or drink, especially as a religious observance”. Through a Christian lens, whilst there are many forms of fasting in the Bible: individually and as a group, private and in public, consistent or occasional, etc., it is commonly associated with giving up food for a certain period of time for a specific purpose. Continue reading

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Learning Rhythms of Rest

This post is a follow-up from Women’s Retreat, where we talked about how to deal with the unrest in our souls.

Scripture teaches us that we are to have(C) Luke Cheeser periods of work and rest, from the beginning when God rests after creation (Genesis 2:1-3), throughout the Old Testament as the Israelites were commanded to practice Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11), and demonstrated by Jesus as he and his disciples retreated to rest (Mark 6:30-32).

How can we learn to incorporate rest into our overly-stuffed modern lives?

We’ll look at three questions: Continue reading

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Bible Reading Plans

By Andrew Hoffman

gfgm2hcq92s-aaron-burdenHere are some ideas for planning your Bible reading. Please post your thoughts and plans in the comment section below. As you consider which one is best for you at this time, remember the goal isn’t ultimately to finish the Bible or keep up with the reading plan. The goal is to allow the scripture to speak into your life, to shape your thinking, your desires, your values and your approach to challenges and opportunities. The goal is for you to know God more intimately through Jesus Christ and to live in partnership with him.

Reading plans help us because they remove the potentially debilitating question of what to read next. They can also motivate us by giving us a goal to achieve. However, since the ultimate goal is to know God it might be that in some seasons you’ll want to ditch the reading plan and just sit with scriptures that will most minister to the soul.

One more preliminary thought: some get bogged down in reading the Bible because they don’t have a clear understanding of its overall message, its different genres and how to read it for nourishment. If this is you, I highly recommend our Gospel Academy course entitled “Bible.” You also might find help on The Bible Project website listed below.

READING PLANS IDEAS:

M’Cheyne’s Bible Reading Calendar. This popular plan has you reading four chapters a day, two in “secret” and two for “family.” Read the Old Testament once in a year and the New Testament twice. Online calendar

D.A. Carson. A modified version of the M’Cheyne plan with brief commentary. Daily online version

One Year Bible. Various publishers offer a Bible reformatted according to days of the year with readings from various books of the Bible for each day. One Year Bibles remove the hassle of flipping back and forth between sections. Here’s one.

Bible Sections. The Bible is divided into Pentateuch, Historical Writings, Poetic Books, Prophets and New Testament. Each section is moderately similar in length. Read a chapter from each section every day (so five chapters a day). The variety is great but you’ll need to carefully  manage five bookmarks. (I have used this plan multiple times and love it)

Alphabetical. Read through the Bible taking the books in alphabetical order at whatever pace you choose. 3.25 chapters a day gets you through the Bible in one year. This plan is great because it is simple to follow, it provides variety as you bounce back and forth through the Bible and you get to immerse yourself in one book at a time. This is my current plan.

Bible Apps. The Bible Project, YouVersion, Bible Gateway, ESV CrossWay, Olive Tree are all popular apps that have reading plan options. The Bible Project has numerous resources online to help you get into reading the Bible.

More Plans. If that is not enough, check out this list for more ideas!

Are there any reading plans you have found helpful? Comment below.

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Bill O’Brien made big coaching mistake in NFL Week 8

Bill O’Brien made big instructing mistake in NFL Week 8 The Houston Texans went into CenturyLink Field and gave the Seattle Seahawks a game for the years. Deshaun Watson was courageous, Dropping dimes on the Legion of Boom and guiding his team to a 38 34 lead late hanging around. The defense picked off Russell Wilson, All Houston had to do was get one more first down and bleed the time. The fact is, Bill O’Brien went too practical yet again and took the ball out of Watson’s hands. The Texans left to much time for Wilson, Who needed only three plays to go 80 yards and win the game of craps for the Seahawks. Jeanna Thomas already covered this error earlier in the week, So I’ll avoid retreading ground here. But it was egregious enough to guide off this week’s column. The main gist might be that the Texans played not to lose, Which is often a losing strategy, Anyhow. A cooper run for 2 yards on third and 4. Watson was calculating 8.4 yards per carry to prevent Miller’s 2.6. Early amongst people, He displayed his awareness by telling Alfred Blue to block for him so he could get a first down. He managed to make big plays when his team needed them resistant to the Seahawks, Like this 2 yard landing pass to Miller, Even while pressurized. And O’Brien took the ball out of his hands on the drive may perhaps have locked up the win. If this all been there as well, It’s because the same principle happened in Week 3. Watson went toe to toe with the perfect quarterbacks in football(Mary Brady, Site) And did it all he needed to win, Only for his team to meekly give a game away. This is why the Texans are 3 4 despite having certainly electric rookie quarterbacks we’ve seen in years. O’Brien isn’t at risk to getting fired soon, But things could be arriving at a head Nigel Bradham jersey, Blue jays. His contract expires as soon as the 2018 season, And sources tell SB Nation that the Texans are wondering if he’s the right man to lead Watson within the foreseeable future. It’s a tough situation with few easy answers, But O’Brien didn’t help his own cause with one more case of cold feet in crunch time. So O’Brien made the principle coaching mistake of Week 8, But remember to, He was far from on your own. Let’s go over a number of the bigger gaffes from Sunday and Monday. Longshots goal line offense. woof Imagine throwing for 423 yards and not scoring a single landing. That’s your Matthew Stafford lived on Sunday night, When the Lions could manage only five field goals in a 20 15 loss to the gambling. The Lions got throughout the red zone five times and came away with zero touchdowns. The majority of important egregious failure came in the third quarter, When Detroit had first and goal inside a 4 and were down 13 12. The Lions eventually opted for it on fourth down, The industry rare gutsy call from Jim Caldwell. However, Stafford was filled on a QB sneak, And longshots turned it over on downs. Three work later, JuJu Smith Schuster parted the Lions defense like the Red Sea on a 97 yard landing, Primarily icing the game. The Lions had one last shot to win it in the final analysis, Turning out to be first and 10 at the Steelers’ 11. For a second time, They failed to search for the end zone. On fourth and 7 within the 8, Stafford somehow threw it lacking the sticks, And the ball shifted off Eric Ebron’s chest. That’s now three straight losses for longshots, Who sit at 3 4 and failed to gain Aaron Rodgers’ injury in a wide open NFC North. Basically: “Coach we need to decide if we will kick or go for it. It didn’t end up mattering basically we the Chiefs came out on top, 29 19. But you are getting that close to the end zone and end the drive with zero points, That’s a lesser amount than ideal. The Browns improper use their timeouts There isn’t much more to say about the Cleveland Browns when this happens. A minimum DeShone Kizer didn’t throw an interception in this week’s loss, So there might be that. Or maybe, We were holding mostly bystanders in London as the Minnesota Vikings walked to a 33 16 win fletcher cox jersey. Having said that, Blowing their chances is just the style the Browns do, Let’s go over one here. They actually had a 13 9 lead when they get home of the second quarter when Kizer ran in from the goal line with 42 seconds left. Around the, Cleveland unnecessarily burned a timeout before the play Corey Clement jersey, Giving the Vikings additional time they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Case Keenum drove down and hang up a field goal, Cutting the Browns’ trigger 13 12. The Vikings outscored all of, 21 3, In the other half. Hue knutson is now 1 23 in his Browns tenure. The Bucs’ season is going down the bathroom If you are 2 4 and getting boatraced by a division rival, Can not you try at least a little harder? Koetter do not stop punting in opponent territory will he? It seems like not. The gambling entered the year as trendy playoff picks, And they dropped to 2 5 after a 17 3 shellacking by the Carolina Panthers, With Jameis Winston showing little signs of improvement and Dirk Koetter looking in over his head. It’s a bitterly discouraging season for a franchise that keeps taking one step forward but two steps back.

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A Light from the Shadows

By Dakota Dietz

The Aurora Borealis, Iceland

The Aurora Borealis, Iceland

A few months ago my wife Meagan and I were flying overnight to Iceland on our honeymoon. We were on a mission to catch even a moment of the famed Aurora Borealis, but God surprised us and put on a show we’ll never forget right outside the plane windows. We watched through the tiny porthole as the dancing green and white waves cascaded down, with Orion standing by and stars shooting through. It wasn’t quite a vision of the throne room (Revelation 4), but I imagine we experienced something similar to those who have approached the throne of God, ending up with their nose on the ground in awe.

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