The Focus of Modern Churches: Is It God or Man?

As a former youth director/minister, I very much relied on Group Magazine as a “resource” for lessons, games, etc. in the early years. As I prayed and studied God’s Word more and more, I began to see that this resource was taking things of the world and trying to fit God into some of the things that were appealing to youth/children/adults in the church.

I received this article (The Rise of the Dones) in my email this morning and was reminded that the focus of this resource is to appeal to the target to draw them in… of course, the age-old idea of “ministry” has been to do what we have to to get the crowds in and then “market” Christ. How many times do we see, or have we seen, many come in, pray a prayer, join the church, and within a few months, they are gone… or how many times have we, who have worked with youth ministry, seen the “youth” disappear when it is time to stop entertaining them and time for them to join the adults in “big church?”

This article talks about the number of “devoted adults” who have been in church most of their lives, they are the ones who have taught, studied, tithed, and lead others in the church, and they are leaving…they are “done.” The solution offered in the article is once again, to poll the “audience” to see what they want and jump over hoops to “keep them happy” and keep them coming back… entertaining them.

As I have gotten older and studied God’s Word more… to learn how to have a real relationship with Him, to learn more about Who God is, and not so much about “what can He do for me,” I have been impressed with how, for so long, my focus on ministry was so completely wrong. The polling, collecting data, meeting with committees for ideas, entertaining the masses, “give them what they want” concept still isn’t working. Why? Because humans are fickle, humans are never satisfied, humans are selfish…. apart from God, isn’t that who we really are, lovers of the world, of sin, of doing the the things that make us feel good about ourselves. After all, sermons and songs that really make us feel our depravity and lead us to conviction just are not popular. We don’t want to feel “brow beaten.” We don’t want to deal with the things that break us and tear us apart so we can really see why we need Christ. So in finding a solution for “keeping people in church,” WHY ON EARTH would we keep doing this over and over and over?? By now, it seems to me, there should be a clear sign that “giving the people what they want” isn’t working!! Even in the 387 comments to this article, mostly people who are “churched” or in ministry, prove that we are a fallen race full of selfishness and pride….and that was only with a scan through them. After the first few, I couldn’t stand to read more, because it was so reminiscent of those “committee” meetings from my past.

How about something new and revolutionary (actually very old and goes all the way back to such teachers as Paul, James, Peter, and even Christ, Himself). What about asking God what HE wants for our churches? How about challenging and encouraging our members, oldest to youngest, to grow, not in a relationship with other church members, but with God. How about discipling those members who have been there “forever” to ever grow Godward? Growing in a vertical relationship with God will never be “done.” What if, because we aren’t entertaining, our numbers begin to drop? Does that mean that we are to stop sharing Christ? No, it just means that you will have to carry the Gospel to them, not bring them to you. It means allowing God to do the work in them and putting more trust in Him and His Sovereignty than you ever have before…..talk about stepping out in faith… Begin preaching and teaching that sin is ever present in the lives of your members. Begin calling members to repentance from hidden sin. Begin pointing out to each other sins you have overcome and how you can pray for and support them as they relinquish that sin to Christ. It would mean we would have to actually get out in the trenches and get dirty, be uncomfortable, have less suits and church clothes and more work clothes. It would mean there may not be a need for mega-churches full of “megatron” screens, basketball courts, bowling allies, huge sound systems and concerts. How about turning everything we do in “the Church” to point to God and not to look like the world to seduce and entice people to come in? Have we become so faithless that we believe that if we don’t entertain the masses, God can’t do His saving work in the lives of His people?? This is just a thought, but could it be the breakdown of churches, the masses that are “leaving” the church, the ones who are “done” or the youth who leave before ever becoming one of those foundation members, is because God is doing a work to show churches that they, like the Israelites, became adulterous to Him, trying to please by looking like the world, by feeding the desires of sin, and throwing a little Jesus in here and there? Until we take the focus off of what “we” want and completely turn the focus to what God would have us do, “churches” will never completely succeed…

Remember in Leviticus chapter 10, when Aaron’s sons didn’t do what God wanted them to do, they didn’t follow His directions in worship and in the job of the priests? They were being “innovative” trying something new… Leviticus 10:1-2 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,
And before all the people I will be honored.’” So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.

These priests were destroyed because they offered something God didn’t command. Pray about whether or not your church is offering strange fire before God? Are we really treating God as holy in most churches? Recent research has shown that there has been a huge drop in reverence toward God in our churches…in the area of youth and adults, alike. Is it because we have been too busy allowing the desires of the people and not of a Holy God?

Sorry this has been so lengthy… it is just what God impressed upon me this morning, reading this article, and I felt the need to share. If you don’t agree, feel free to disagree, but I ask that if you share your disagreement, give Scripture to back up filling churches by offering the desires of the people… because I could be missing something!!

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Today’s Bible Reading Challenge:

Colossians 1:21-23
And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.

In today’s Scripture reading, I am reminded and humbled that I was once engaged in evil deeds and that because of Christ’s death on the cross, He has made peace (reconciled), brought harmony in my relationship with Him.  Going back to verses 19-20, I see:

For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,  and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

And now, verse 22 reveals the reason He reconciled all things to Himself, through the blood of Christ,  because of what God has done, I will be presented before Him as holy and blameless. Christ has overcome the evil deeds I did, and He made it possible for me to be presented before Him as holy and blameless. I have been declared righteous. I can joyously  give thanks to the Father, who has qualified me  to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light (Colossians 1:12).  I have been, am being, and will be, changed to live a life which will reflect the holiness and blamelessness of Christ.

Continuing in verse 23, there is an “if,” the condition… I must continue in the faith.  I am not to be moved.  I am to stand firm, to be “established.”  The definition of establish is to be set up on a permanent basis.  Not only am I to stand firm, I am to stand firm ALWAYS, permanently.

The next statement I see is a “wow” statement for me.  The hope of the Gospel, the fact that Christ was born, lived, ministered, was killed, and is living, risen from the grave, drawing us to Himself, THAT hope, is proclaimed in ALL of His creation.  I am reminded of Romans 1:20  

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 

Do you offer excuses for wavering away from the faith?  Can you see a difference in your “former” life and the life you now live?  Are your choices and your lifestyle one that can be presented before God as holy and blameless?

It is not impossible to live that life.  Here is the promise God has given to His people, that He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can turn from.  He always offers us a way to get away from that temptation and overcome it.

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

I pray that as evil and sin from my former life still tempt and entice, that I can stand firm on the promise, the faith, God has granted to me, that with His wisdom, I can see the escape route to overcome the temptation and live a life that will allow me to be presented to Him, holy and blameless.

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Christmas Cookie Collection – Oatmeal Cookies

I know I have shared my Oatmeal Cookie recipe in the past, along with the recipe for Oatmeal Cream Pies. This was the second batch of cookies I made for this year’s “Make ahead cookies” for the freezer. This is the original post.

Today, I am just resharing the Oatmeal Cookie Recipe, because according to my hubby and Sportsman…. “They are just THAT good!”

Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup softened butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick oats

What to do:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, cream together sugars and butter. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour a little at a time, then mix in soda and salt. Mix well. Mix in oats, one cup at a time. Place 1 teaspoon of dough about 2 inches apart on a well greased cookie sheet. (NOTE: I spray my pan and then use parchment, which is also sprayed. I use a “cookie scoop” to get uniform sized cookies and it yields about 6 dozen cookies.) Bake for 7-8 minutes, remove from oven and allow to cool.

 

If you want chewy cookies bake closer to 7 minutes.  I you want these a bit more crunchy, bake between 8-10.

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Christmas Cookie Collection – Pecan Butter Cookies

For several years, I hosted a cookie exchange.  It pretty much became a tradition of ladies and daughters gathering to share cookies, fellowship, games, and fun!  When I moved from my small hometown to a larger suburb, I was not able to find ladies who wanted to carry on the tradition.  We have moved, and I have hopes!!

Now that we have moved to a smaller town, I am hoping to get the tradition started once again, albeit not this year.  We are smack dab in the middle of renovation with bare studs on the walls.  If I think about it too much, it depresses me and I begin to have a pity party because I am “Miss Christmas Decoration and Party Hostess,” spreading that Christmas cheer and happy Spirit, celebrating the birth of our Savior.  Instead of despairing about what won’t be, I decided to turn it into a year long preparation for NEXT YEAR’S NEW BEGINNING COOKIE EXCHANGE!

I am going to share cookie recipes I find and make.  I am going to test them out, change the recipes, freeze the dough, bake and rebake, and find out the ones that hold up to my make ahead freezer cooking life style.  I want soft gooey cookies, nice crispy cookies, delicate cookies, chocolate cookies, all kinds of cookies, but they have to be rough and rugged enough to stand up to the test!!

As mentioned in my previous post, my food processor is no longer in business.  Hubby and I were shopping in Aldi and they had a 6 cup processor for $20, and our super frugal minds liked the price, so we decided to try it out.  We then went over to Costco, and as a cookbook collector, I was super excited that as we were leaving, they handed me a Costco Cookbook!!  Riding in the car, I began perusing the pages and in the desserts section a cookie caught my eye.  It was a Pecan Butter Cookie, and the first thing I thought of was one of my favorite childhood cookies, Keebler Pecan Sandies, and I decided right then and there, I was going to make this cookie.  The cookie in the cookbook is sponsored by Cuisinart, and I knew this little food processor would be helpful in making my first batch of Christmas cookies.  Now, this is where I should have been  thought this through… cheap food processor and thick cookie dough can be the makings for an adventure…a smelly one!!

Let’s see how this one turned out:

First of all, I took out my new food processor, washed all of the attachments, and started with the recipe.  I put 1 1/4 cup of pecans in the oven to toast lightly.

cookie1
First, I put 2 cups of all purpose flour in the work bowl.

cookie2    cookie3
Then, I added 1 Teaspoon of salt and the lightly toasted nuts, and I pulsed it several times until I had a course mixture.  I reserved this mixture and set it aside, as directed….

And this is where the journey begins to become an adventure.  My number one rule is “read ALL of a recipe before beginning,”  and this time, I DID NOT!!  Next is says, “Process butter.”  No problem, right?  Wrong… as I reached into the fridge to get the 3 sticks of butter, I only have one!  The rest of my butter is frozen solid in the deep freeze!! I look back up at the ingredients and see written beside 3 stick of butter, “at room temperature.”  The oven was still warm from toasting the pecans, so I put the three sticks of butter in the oven… including the one from the fridge, and I went to relax a few minutes.  I came back to check on the three sticks and I had 2 soft sticks, still in the wrapper, and one half- empty wrapper… the stick that was in the fridge had melted down and leaked in the bottom of the pan.. but alas, the show must go on!!

cookie4
We will pretend I live in the tropics with no Air conditioning, and this is my 3 sticks of room temperature butter.

cookie5
Next, I added 1 1/8 cup powdered sugar and 1 TBSP pure vanilla and processed until smooth. So far, so good….

But then, it was time to add back in the flour/pecan mixture. I added a little at a time. The first addition of the mixture was fine. I stopped the processor and added a little more of the flour. This time, a strange, sweet, chemical smell came from the food processor and got stronger as it went. I was not going to give up now, maybe the smell is just because it is new…. I stopped it for the last addition of flour, put the top back on, and started that machine and as it incorporated the mixture, the smell was continuing and just as I turned the machine off, I could smell that chemical smell along with a burning smell, but the dough was ready!! I then began thinking, “Maybe this little machine just can’t hold up to cookie dough!” Hubby came into the kitchen to let me know something was burning… I pointed to the food processor. When I took the bowl off, the whole thing was warm. I figured I had just made the most expensive batch of cookies I have ever made, with the cost of pecans and a melted food processor motor, had the potential of breaking the bank!!

cookie6
This is the dough just out of the processor.

cookie7 My rolls aren’t perfect, and next time I will make sure to flatten the ends to prevent the little odd shaped heels, but into the fridge they went…

cookies8
I took the logs out and sliced the cookies.

cookies9
This is where I veered a bit from the recipe. These cookies can be placed on a cookie sheet to cook, 350 for about 8-10 minutes, depending on how soft you want it.  For those of us who do freezer cooking, they can be placed on a pan lined with parchment paper, as you see in this picture.  I then place these in the freezer for about 15 minutes.  Take them off the pan and put in a zip top bag labeled “Pecan Butter Cookies.”
This recipe made 3 dozen cookies.

When you want to enjoy one of the cookies, you can take out as many as you want to cook.  They do not have to be thawed, just keep them in the oven a couple of extra minutes.

cookie10

I couldn’t resist! I had to bake a few, make a nice warm cup of coffee, and enjoy!!
These cookies are awesome and share worthy!!

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A Kink In The Plan…Already!

This was written yesterday and finished today with a photo:

Well, it the first day of my meal plan, as many of you may suspect, I have a kink in the plan from day 1! Sweet Pea, Music Man, and Sportsman have been with their mom during Thanksgiving holiday and because all of us, even the ones in another state, have been sick, we will go and get them today…around 6:00, which is dinner time.

I really don’t want us to have to spend money on the road when I have all of this food, and my plan doesn’t include anything that travels easily, so I decided to make Cheeseburger Pockets to pack and take with us for dinner.

We love pockets with fresh homemade bread and filled with yummy goodness, but they are such a hassle to make! I did come up with an idea to make it a little simpler.

For these pockets, I will be using my recipe for Light Oat Bread and my recipe for Cheeseburger Joes.  I will apologize now… I forgot to take pictures of the process, but I think it pretty self explanatory.

I put the ingredients for the bread in my bread machine on “dough” cycle, and do whatever I need/want to do for the next hour and half.  I do suggest during that time, begin browning your hamburger meat, if you don’t have it precooked, as I did.  The Cheeseburger Joes come together pretty quickly.  When it is done, set it aside.

When thy cycle ends, remove the dough and divide into two equal pieces.  On a lightly floured surface, roll both pieces into thin rectangles, as close to the same size as possible. Using a butter knife, lightly score one piece of dough to divide into the number of pockets you want to make.  I did 12 for our family of 5.  Spoon some of the burger mix into the center of each division, leaving room on the edge of each, to form a seal.  After putting meat in the center of each division, put the second large rectangle of dough over the first. Use your finger to press the dough together between each pocket, forming a seal.  Using a dough knife or pizza cutter, cut down the center of each seal and place on a parchment lined or sprayed baking sheet.  Place in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.  Rub butter over the tops and they are ready to eat or wrap for the road!!

PHOTO UPDATE:  The kids just cooked a couple of the left overs for snack this morning.  This is what they look like.

Cheeseburger pockets

For Breakfast or Make Ahead Meal:  You can replace the ground beef with sausage and make them the night before for breakfast pockets.  You can also add ham, bacon, scrambled egg, green pepper, onion, etc. for Breakfast Casserole Pockets. The morning you want to use them, just heat them in the oven.  These should keep in the fridge for about 3 days, if you are using egg, and a week if you do not use egg.  These also freeze beautifully.  I put them in a cold oven the night before I want to use them, go to bed, get up, and turn the oven on 350 degrees, make the coffee and breakfast is ready to go!!

 

Posted in Bread, Breakfast, dinner, Freezer Cooking, Frugal Recipes, large family Meals, Lunch, Make Ahead Meals, Meal preparation, menu, Quick Recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Menopause, or Could It Be???

Menopause, or could it be “Men will pause'” because they have never seen the likes of a woman crazed like this. Or is it “mental pause,” because your brain checks out and takes a vacation and you just walk around in a daze of confusion.. Or maybe you are experiencing all of it… Yep, that is me, and this is just the beginning. I am in that beginning stage that is still called “peri”… I have to admit, while I blame a lot of things on this “menopause creature,” it doesn’t seem as bad as some have experienced, so for that, I am grateful.

So, just how bad is it? Yes, I have mood swings. Yes, I have hot flashes followed by icicles hanging off my toes. Yes, I wake up with the feeling of a dark cloud hanging over me and other mornings I wake up with so much energy I think I am going to explode. Yes, I can be having a wonderful day and one little, itty, bitty word can just make me turn into some “countryfied, red-neck” version of a female creature from the black lagoon… telling people off with the little neck pop and all… IT.IS.UGLY, people!!

My husband and I have done some research about natural helps for menopause. I have found that my diet can help with some of these side effects. There is also a wonderful herb that is called Maca (a relative of the radish family), and it has done wonders. I don’t take it every day, but on days that I begin to feel that I could snap somebody like a green bean, I take it. The days that I cry over absolutely everything and I my is swollen to the point I look like I have been beaten with a stick, I take it. For the days that I can’t figure out why I walked into a room, or can’t process thoughts, I take it, and it has been wonderful.

But more than any diet or any herb, more than ever, on those days, I have to begin with God, begin by putting my mind right. Some days, I have to do that over and over and over again, not just in the mornings. It starts when my eyes open by praying every morning with my husband, then listening to women of God teach (I am a Nancy Leigh DeMoss fan and have started listening to her podcast while cooking breakfast), and then listening to good, theologically sound praise and worship music (Sovereign Grace Music station on Pandora!), and then as I have conversations or listen to conversations with teenagers, I have to go back again to God’s Word and prayer.

Today, after praying, reading some Scripture, and listening to the podcast, it was time for the children to get up. I found myself feeling defensive hearing a conversation that I had no part of…the conversation was not about me, they were talking to their Daddy, and yet, I was some how feeling “riled up” and dreading how this day was going to turn out. I didn’t mention it, and in my mind, there arose a battle of “this is nothing, your mind is being attacked vs. no it isn’t , just listen to how they are acting”. I refrained from getting involved and decided to just keep it to myself during our breakfast/Bible study. However, the whole time, this battle just continued to play in the back of my mind.

After the Bible study, I asked my husband if he saw it this way or felt it was disrespectful and he thought about it, which told me right away that if he had to think about it, it didn’t register with him the same way, and he confirmed that by telling me he didn’t see it that way.  So I walked over to the medicine basket (yes, at this age, the “basket” stays by the bed) and took out the Maca…this would be a 3 capsule day!! And that familiar voice that was telling me my mind was being attacked, told me to look to God’s Word for Scripture on defending my mind from the attack.

I did a quick search for “Scripture about protecting my mind from bad thoughts,” and I found this page written by Priscilla Fryer and today, I am thankful for finding this. It is 12 verses to protect your mind. For me, this is the 12 verses that protects my mind from the enemy that opens a door for Satan to attack…and her name is “Menopause”!

I have copied these 12 verses onto a sheet that I can print and hang on my fridge to remind me throughout the day, that before I get angry, or emotional, or run to the fridge for something to make me feel better, I see this and begin reading it and praying.  I named it “DURING MENOPAUSE” and you can click on “DURING MENOPAUSE” and get your own printable list!!

I am just choosing a verse today to repeat over and over and ponder on:

2 Corinthians 5:10
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

Even if you aren’t blessed enough to be going through menopause yet, these verses are just a great way to refocus, as moms, every day to keep our mind on Christ!

Have a super blessed day!!

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Lori’s Cranberry Salad

Do you ever have those moments that you need to get something done, but you just can’t make a final decision??  The older I get, the harder it is for me to decide.  Maybe it is because I am just getting “pickier.”

I make jams and jellies and this year, I decided to make my own Cranberry Sauce.  It was actually a cranberry jelly, but it turned out to be a product I was proud of.  Both of my grandmother’s made jellies and preserves.  My “city” grandmother really enjoyed making peach jelly, syrup, and preserves.  My “country” grandmother canned everything, and helping and watching both of them, I gained a love for preserving food.  My Aunt (from the country grandmother) carries on the tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving at her house.  She and my mother asked me to bring a variety of jams/jellies home for them, including the “homemade cranberry sauce” for our Thanksgiving dinner, and she asked me to make a cranberry salad.

For nostalgic purposes, I didn’t want to search the internet for a recipe.  I took out one of my “city” grandmother’s old cookbooks that was just salads and began searching.  Every recipe I found had aspects that I found delightful, but none of them were exactly what I wanted. I found one that was close to what I wanted:

CRANBERRY APPLE SALAD

1 qt cranberries
6 apples, peeled and cored
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 sm can crushed pineapple
1/4 c. chopped nuts
1 pkg miniature marshmallows
2 c. heavy cream, whipped
Grind cranberries and apples; add sugar. Let set for 15 minutes. Add remaining ingredients; freeze. NOTE: Chilled evaporated milk may be substituted for heavy cream. Yield: 12 servings.
This recipe was found in “Favorite Recipes of America- Salads” 1966; Recipe was submitted by Norma Stuart, Altoona, Iowa

Well, it was close… but I homeschool three teenagers, I am peri-menopausal, and most of all, I.AM.TIRED.  My food processor is broken, I didn’t have a quart of cranberries hiding in the freezer,  I just was not in the frame of mind, or the mood to cut and chop fresh apples, my wonderful husband had just bought me 2 lbs. of pecans and it was an insult to only use 1/4 cup, I didn’t have a small can of pineapple, and I was NOT whipping cream on that day!!  So, I took the original ingredients and tweaked them a bit to fit what I did have on hand and this is what I created:

cranberrysalad

LORI’S CRANBERRY SALAD

1 jar cranberry jelly or 1 can jelled cranberry sauce
1 can whole cranberry sauce
1 can apple pie filling, mashed
1/2 c. sugar or sweeten to taste
1 l6 oz can crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 (ok, I used 3/4) c. chopped pecans
1/2 pkg mini marshmallows
tub of whipped topping.
Mix together all ingredients except whipped topping, place in your favorite bowl or casserole dish, and chill. Serve with whipped topping.

Print this recipe here: cranberry salad printable

What did I like about my version:  It was quick and easy.  The spices in the apple pie filling was a huge plus.  It was yummy good, and I have enjoyed the left-overs everyday since Thanksgiving.

What could/would be better: It would have been much healthier with the fresh fruits and  cream.

THINKING OUT OF THE BOX:  I have this crazy idea that this would be the most awesome Chicken  or (left over) Turkey Cranberry Salad.  Leave out the sugar, marshmallows and whipped topping and add some shredded or diced chicken and maybe a Tbsp of finely chopped red onion.  MMMM, I can just taste it now…

And how much are my mom and aunt enjoying those jellies/jams?  Well, I guess we will find out at Christmas… if I actually remember to take them, that is…

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