Thursday, October 17, 2013

Words (Part Two): How We Speak About God Matters

This is kind of a follow up to my last post about why words matter.  And I want to preface this by saying that I'm not judging you in this post.  If you use this phrase, I know what you mean, I know you're well intentioned, but Scripture talks about the power of the tongue and how we should speak truth. I believe that we need to be careful in the way that we talk about God and His work.

Have you heard people use the phrase "God showed up"?  It's one I've been hearing a lot lately. Some of my friends went on a mission trip recently and were telling testimonies of what the Lord did while they were there.  They kept saying that they were in situations where it seemed hopeless, but "God showed up" and met those needs.  I also heard in a different context that "God showed up in our church gathering last night" and it seems like a phrase that's thrown around a lot.  But, it's a lie.  God didn't show up, and He couldn't show up, because that would imply that he left.  When we say "God showed up" it's like he went for a snack break, came back and realized that we were in a pickle and thought, "Oh, I'd better do something about that".  No, Scripture tells us that God is omnipresent (Jeremiah 23:23-24; Psalm 139).  Scripture tells us that God is faithful, that He will never fail us, and that God is sovereign over all (Job 42:2; Psalm 103:19, 115:3; Ecclesiastes 7:13-14; Lamentations 3:37-38).  This leaves no room for the absence of God.  And what do we say if we're overseas, need Bibles and God doesn't provide them?  Does that mean that He is any less faithful or sovereign, or that he wasn't there?  No, it simply means that it was His perfect plan being carried out in His perfect way, even when we don't understand it.  I think the main danger in this comes from not knowing who is hearing you speak about God, and how they will interpret it.  When Marshall (my three year old cousin) and I drive under an underpass he calls it a tunnel.  I know what he means, but if he says he went through a tunnel to a stranger with no background in Marshall translations, they're going to have wrong assumptions about what he is talking about.  When we talk to unbelievers or Christians who don't understand that God is omnipresent, using the phrase "God showed up" makes Him seem small, and somewhat insignificant a majority of the time, and again can cause questions when it seems that He doesn't show up when you need him.

When we say "God showed up" I think that it has more to do with our mindset than God's work.  By using that phrase, we are acknowledging God's faithfulness in a certain situation.  But God is always faithful, even when we don't recognize it.  Sure, there are times when we experience situations that spur us to be in complete awe of God's relentless faithfulness.  But we must not forget that although it doesn't seem as great or as special, that everyday God's perfect faithfulness plays out in our lives.  God showed His faithfulness in providing Bibles for the ladies in Africa and he shows His faithfulness in providing the cereal and milk that I'll eat for breakfast tomorrow.  I'm probably not going to stand up in church Sunday morning and talk about how God provided cereal in the cupboard and milk in the fridge, but that doesn't make Him any less faithful. When my car breaks down and I have to buy a new one, when I labor in prayer about a situation and don't have any clarity, when I've prayed for salvation and that person dies an unbeliever, it's all a part of God's sovereign plan.  He is faithful to use every situation, good or bad, for our good and for His glory.  Even when it doesn't look spectacular, even when it's painful, God is working and He is faithful.  Theology matters and the way we speak about God matters.  Let it be said of us that our speech honors and glorifies our great God, and that it portrays His true character as best we can.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday Munchies - Buster Bar Cupcakes

I've mentioned before that for each of my friends' birthdays, I like to fix them a dessert of their choice. Last year I had a little party for my friend Aaron and when I asked if he knew what he wanted for his birthday dessert, he didn't even have to think about it.  He started raving about this buster bar dessert his mom used to make him and how it was one of his favorites and said he wanted that.  Now, I know better than to try to make mama's dessert, cause it's just never going to be the same, so I decided to tweak it and make him buster bar cupcakes instead!  These are so easy and everyone loved them!  The only thing to keep in mind is that you have to wait for different parts of the dessert to cool or freeze before moving on to the next step, so make sure to allow time for them to fully set!  Also, I think these would be awesome to try with some different flavor combinations.  Ever since I made them last year I've thought how good coffee ice cream with chocolate covered espresso beans would be on top.  What flavor combinations would you like to try?

Buster Bar Cupcakes
24 foil cupcake liners
1 batch of your favorite brownie batter (don't worry, no one will judge if it's a Betty Crocker boxed mix)
1/2 gallon mint chip ice cream (or any other flavor you want) 
Spanish Peanuts (I didn't really measure these out, just sprinkle however many you want on top of the cupcakes)
Chocolate ganache (or a jar of chocolate fudge would work as well)

Line two muffin tins with the foil cupcake liners.  Mix up the brownie batter and drop 1 - 1.5 T. into each cupcake liner.  Bake at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until the brownies are cooked through.  Let the brownies cool to room temp, then put them in the freezer (still in the muffin tins) for 30 minutes.  When you put the brownies in the freezer, take the ice cream out and put it into your fridge to soften.  And set a timer so you don't forget your ice cream and end up with ice cream soup!

Take the muffin tins out of the freezer and place a scoop of ice cream into each foil liner on top of the brownie.  Squish it down and spread it evenly with a spoon.  Do this step as quickly as possible and return to the freezer for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, take the cupcakes back out and sprinkle some of the peanuts on top, then return to freezer for another 45 minutes.  If you're making ganache instead of using canned hot fudge, now is a great time to get that started.

Once the cupcakes are firm, take them out of the freezer and top with a heaping teaspoonful of ganache or hot fudge, you want enough to mostly cover the peanuts.  You may need to use a spoon to spread it evenly over the top of the cupcake.  When finished, put the cupcakes back into the freezer until ready to serve.

These are best if they are removed from the freezer about 5 minutes before serving.  It lets them soften the perfect amount before they are devoured!

And if you're interested, here's the chocolate ganache recipe I used:

3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
1/4 cup heavy cream

Put chocolate chips in a small bowl. Bring cream to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan. Pour cream evenly over chocolate. Let stand for one minute to soften, then stir until smooth. Ganache will continue to thicken as it stands, so just wait until it's the desired thickness, and stir occasionally while waiting.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday Munchies - All Things Apple

We went to the apple orchard a couple of weeks ago, and since then much of the cooking in our house has revolved around apples - applesauce, apple butter (grilled cheese with apple butter...seriously, you have to try it), and apple pie.  Well, since many of you also probably have apples hanging around your house, here are a couple apple recipes and a couple of dip recipes from the Monday Munchies archives.

Last Minute Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Pumpkin Apple Muffins

Crock Pot Caramel Dip

Chocolate Chip Fruit Dip

What are your favorite apple recipes?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Words: Edifying, Discerning, Purposeful

Several months ago I listened to a sermon from CJ Mahaney called Every Word Matters. I've had the privilege of meeting CJ and hearing him speak live a handful of times, and he is one of my favorite pastors to listen to. His love and passion for the Lord pour out of him when he speaks.

Everyone talks...some more than others...but we all do it. My question is, do you think about the impact of your words? This is one area in my life that the Lord has really been convicting me of over the past few months, which is why I listened to the sermon. I struggle with my words, so keep me accountable to what I'm about to write. As a part of my Bible reading plan, I am continuously reading through Proverbs. I am always struck at how many mentions there are of the power of the tongue and the need to control it. Words are powerful, and God created it to be that way. In his book War of Words, Paul Tripp says,
"When we speak, it must be with the realization that God has given our words significance. He has ordained for them to be important. Words were significant at Creation and at the Fall. They are significant to redemption. God has given words value. So we must do all we can to assign words the importance Scripture gives them,”
The average person speaks 25,000 words a day. CJ asked a question that I've spent a lot of time reflecting on. In light of Ephesians 4:29 (Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear), are an increasing percentage of my words imparting grace to those whom I serve and love? Are my words building others up? Are my words encouraging? Or am I using my words to complain, to gossip, for worthless arguments, or to make myself look better?

CJ gave an analogy that made a lot of sense to me; he likened our words to choosing fruit at a grocery store. When you go to buy fruit, you don't just randomly pick up whatever you see, you examine it carefully to make sure it doesn't have any bad spots, to discern the ripeness and size, etc. He said it's amazing the attention and carefulness we can give to fruit, and the lack of attention and carefulness we give to our words.

Guilty. I'm a thorough fruit inspector - Lauren made fun of me in Hawaii because I was so carefully choosing the bananas I wanted, but I've been really convicted about how rarely I examine my potential words with the same attention and care. So then I had to ask myself, how do I change? If I'm putting off the sin of careless words, in what way can I put on righteousness in this area?
  • Speaking edifying words:  This doesn't mean words that are just kind, polite, and certainly not flattery.  Edifying words are theologically informed, they are informed by Scripture, they are gospel centered.  These words should bring attention to God himself, to His promises and commands, and to the activity of God in the lives of other christians.
  • Using discernment: The content of my communication must be appropriate to the occasion, as well as to the person I'm interacting with. If I’m trying to serve someone with my words (not just trying to impress them with my words) it requires discernment and knowledge of this individual.  We must be drawing them out and asking them questions, before choosing words that fit the occasion. I must know what the occasion is before I can choose words to build them up in that occasion, and it’s not enough to be well-meaning, we must be wise. When our speech fits the occasion we experience the Proverb that reads ‘an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is.”
  • Speaking purposeful words: Ephesians 4:29 says we speak “that it may give grace to those who hear”.  This captures the purpose of every conversation we have; God’s purpose for my words is to give grace. When our purpose is to impart grace, it makes all the difference in the recipients' experience of grace.  God promises that we will be able to be a means of grace when our words are meaningful, and edifying and appropriate. 
So you may be thinking, that's all great but what does this look like practically? CJ ended his sermon with some great insights into practical ways to grow in godliness in the area of our speech. Here are some suggestions he gives: 
  • Take this verse with you into the many conversations you will have this week. Memorize Ephesians 4:29, meditate on this passage, and apply it.  One way that I did this, is by putting a new wallpaper on my phone that has the verse written out.  Since I do a lot of communicating on my phone (talking, texting, emails, facebook, etc.), it's great reminder to evaluate the words I'll be using.
  • Invite others to evaluate your speech in light of this passage. Ask a spouse, friend, children, pastor, "When I'm with you, and I'm communicating a few thousand words, how many of those are formed by this passage? When you're with me, do you feel yourself built up, edified, reminded of the gospel, reminded of the grace of God and how God is at work in your life? Do you walk away from a brief time with me aware that there’s fresh grace in your heart that wasn't there prior to our interaction?"  This is to be the effect of the gospel in our lives. 
  • Pray that an increasing percentage of our words are soul edifying, grace imparting, God glorifying words of encouragement. So that our speech is distinctively encouraging, and explainable only by the Savior's sacrificial work on the cross, and the Spirit’s sanctifying work in our lives, for the glory of God. 
Think about and evaluate your words, they matter.