I am so thankful that I can be complete in Christ.
By God's grace, I hope to use this blog to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ in pursuing Godliness, Holiness, and Radiant Purity! :D

Saturday, January 4, 2014

On the Closing of Vision Forum

The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?' Obadiah 1:3
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.  Proverbs 11:12

Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.  Proverbs 13:10
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.   Proverbs 16:18
A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.   Proverbs 29:23
The eyes of the arrogant man will be humbled and the pride of men brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.   Isaiah 2:11
Your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God.   Deuteronomy 8:14 The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. Proverbs 16:5  

Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.  Proverbs 18:12

What does all this have to do with the closing of my favorite ministry? EVERYTHING.  

I stand before the Lord in fear and trembling right now. I am more aware than ever at my own human sin nature and frailties. I stand in fear of what my sin nature is capable of. I am a sinner and that means that I am 100% likely to fall into the sin of pride on a daily basis and to be ruined by that deadly sin. There is 100% likeliness that pride could ruin my ministry. Pride is both an ultra-sneaky and ultra-deadly thing. It is a root sin and because it is a root it lies under the surface, unseen, yet ever growing to more dangerous proportions if not checked and destroyed when discovered. 

It is with humility and shameful awareness of my own failings and susceptibility to sin that I discuss this matter. Vision Forum has been my favorite ministry ever since I can remember. I remember when I first found a catalog laying around our house and I marveled at every wonderful page. It was a breath of fresh air to me. I was only 13 years old, but I knew I had found something special. I could tell that this wasn't just any "Christian" company, but it actually stood for Biblical principles that had been lost because they were deemed as "old fashioned" or "not relevant" to our modern lifestyles. At last....a ministry that was actually counter-cultural. I was totally on board and in love with Vision Forum. I immediately looked into their events and told my Dad about my desire to attend the annual Father Daughter Retreat at Callaway Gardens.  Dad and I were able to to attend that two different years and the things we learned there were definitely an indispensable blessing.  I was actually at the retreat during some of the filming of the documentary, Return of the Daughters, so Dad and I are actually in a very short clip.  In 2007 I saw all the advertisements in the catalog and told my family we just HAD to go to the Jamestown Quadricentennial celebration.  That ended up being one of the best and most memorable family trip of all time. I have not only been blessed by the events, but also by the many excellent books and CDs that Vision Forum publishes and distributes.  As I look over my family bookshelf and personal bookshelves at least half of the books and CDs are from Vision Forum and are among some of my favorites. 

This was such a great ministry and I just assumed it would always be there. I looked forward to going to Vision Forum conferences and events with my future children and couldn't wait to see all the new books that they would come out with. When I heard the news of the closing in late November 2013 I couldn't believe it. I was shocked to say the least. To read Doug Philips' resignation you can go here:  http://visionforum.org/   My first reaction was "What?!  How could this happen?!  This is definitely the least likely thing I could have ever imagined!"  I had always had an extremely high regard for Doug Philips, the founder and president of Vision Forum, and his family. I thought they must be as close to perfect as you could get. That's the way it looked in the catalogs. I thought they must be awesome. I've met them in person, and I still think that they are awesome, but sometimes I think I forgot that they were also human. It's not wrong to find good people to esteem and to aspire to emulate, but it's wrong to put them up higher than you ought. When I heard about what happened, I was shocked because I guess I thought Mr. Philips was "above" such sins. What I got was a cold dose of reality. No one is above anything. God is the only perfect Being, and therefore we must remember our own frailties and the frailties of others and remember to be diligent in upholding one another in prayer.  There has been much already said about what Doug Philips did and about the closing of Vision Forum. I am not in a position to speak with any authority on this issue.  The purpose of this post is simply this: the root of Mr. Philips' actions surrounding this resignation was pride. There is a lot to be said about the whole circumstance, but let's just focus on the main issue and instead of putting someone else down because their sin happened to have enormous consequences that broke my heart, let's use this opportunity to be filled with the fear of God. Let's remember that we are all but dust and in desperate need of God's grace every day. Our natural reaction when we hear of anyone's fall is to talk about them and how disgraceful it is.....all while feeling so good about ourselves that we didn't do such a disgraceful thing. Of course that was my first reaction as well. But let's use even this tragic and painful situation for good by turning to God and confessing our own pride. For me, it hit me hard that if someone like Mr. Philips could be overtaken, how much more likely that it could happen to me! This has caused me to have an extra amount of sobriety and caution. I have been taught a lot about the dangers of pride from books and sermons, but there's no louder and clearer sermon than watching the effects play out in a situation involving people you know and having been pained by the results.  

In light of the closing of Vision Forum, we should pray for the family and VF staff, pray that Mr. Philips would have true repentance and a humble change of heart, and that God would give restoration. There is a lot that has been hurt, but pray that God would use this trial for good and that the people involved would turn to Him.  Let us also remember to examine ourselves and take God's word seriously when it warns us that Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.   Prov. 16:18  

"....He that is without sin, let him cast the first stone...."  Jn. 8:7

"Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things."  Rom. 2:1

"For I say to every man that is among you, through the grace given unto me, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." Rom. 12:3

Thursday, January 2, 2014

What Brian taught me

Today is January 2nd, 2014.  Rewind ten years to Friday, January 2nd, 2004.  I was 12 years old.  It was a day just like every day. We were eating lunch and were very lighthearted after just celebrating Christmas and the New Year.  We put the dishes in the sink around 1:00 and went our separate ways. Mom went back to my 15 year old brother Brian's room to check on him, as she always did.  What I heard next was something I never want to hear again.  My mom cried frantically for my dad and I knew something was wrong.  It was all a blur, but before I knew it, there was a fire truck and ambulance in front of our house and emergency workers were in our foyer trying to revive him.  Sean and I were rushed out of the room and then over to our aunt and uncle's house next door.  I wasn't exactly sure what was going on, but I sat on the steps and just prayed that Brian would be okay.  The day wore on and it seemed like forever before Mom and Dad finally came back from the hospital and told us that my brother had died.  I remember feeling sad, but not devastated.  I remember we all sat together and cried as a family, but not as if the worst thing happened and not as if all had been lost.  All had not been lost.  Rather, something had been gained!  Brian traded his temporary body ridden with lissencephaly and discomfort for an eternal perfect body that will be forever in the presence of his Savior.  Yes, of course we were sad that Brian was not with us anymore, but how could we morn on that day, Janurary 2, 2004, knowing that that was the day that for the first time Brian could walk, talk, never have any more seizures, never cough or be congested again, never have to use a feeding tube, and finally be out of pain forever.  

The day after was such a blessing.  Friends, family, neighbors, and tons of food came pouring in.  
The funeral was really uplifting.  Allison, Kayla, and Sharon Sheppard sang "I Can Only Imagine" and all the other preaching and singing was full of hope and joy.  It was raining and there was a detour on the way to the gravesite, but then again, nothing was ever normal or easy with Brian. :) 

So now, looking back after ten years have passed, am I sad today?  Not really.  More than anything I am simply grateful.  However, I was not always this way.  I was by no means a perfect sister.  Everyone always praised me for how much I did for Brian, but honestly, my young heart and mind as a 6 year old or even as a 12 year old was often confused, ungrateful, and selfish.  I didn't realize what a blessing Brian was.  Often, I saw him more as someone who made things a lot harder and inconvenient.  Because of Brian we couldn't do a lot of the things that "normal" families could do.  We couldn't go outside for more than 5 minutes without checking on him.  We had to leave early to go everywhere because we had to have time to put Brian in the wheelchair, get him in the van, and buckle him in.  At church we couldn't be a "normal" quiet family because when he coughed we would have to use the loud suction machine to clear his congestion.  We couldn't go on regular vacations because, of course, we couldn't take Brian with us.  So many little things that most people take for granted....like just going out to the beach as a family was a no small feat. Sometimes it seemed that all the attention was on Brian.  I didn't always get what I wanted when I wanted it.

So why am I grateful now?  Because God knows what He is doing.  Because I am not an atheist or an evolutionist.  Because, whether we believe or acknowledge it, God IS working things together according to His perfect will and He IS sovereign over all.  God knew we needed Brian and He gave him especially to our family to teach us some very special lessons.  Instead of always getting what I wanted I had to learn self-denial at a very young age.  I had to learn humility.  I had to learn patience by putting off immediate gratification. I had to learn how to sacrifice my own interests.  Brian was born with a severe disease which is basically the smoothness of the brain. This made him unable to do really anything (such as walking, taking, eating regularly, or interacting with us as all.) Because of this he needed almost constant care.  I was recently blessed by hearing R.C. Sproul, Jr. speak about his daughter, Shannon, who also had lissencephaly.  It brought me to tears as I heard him say that in the 15 years he had with Shannon, SHE was the one who was God's gift to them for their sanctification.  Brian was God's gift to us.  I continue to learn more and more from him everyday.  He taught me to have compassion and care for those less fortunate than me. I have a special place in my heart for those with special needs now.  I am also better able to reach out to other who have lost siblings or have disabled siblings right now, because I've been through it.  I shared about Brian with all of my campers this summer and it was amazing how it impacted them.  A lot of them told me that they felt like I could relate to them because of it. 

May we all learn to see hard situations that we find ourselves in as beautiful instruments of sanctification for our good and God's glory.  :)

I'm blogging this year!

2013 was definitely not a year of blog writing.  2013 was a year of lots of new changes and trying to adjust to lots of new alterations in my schedule and lifestyle.  I'm finally getting some things organized and my schedule is settling down to more of a routine now, so I feel like it's time to write more.  Even if no one reads this, I need the writing practice! :)  So here's to a new year of blogging.  My goal is to post something every day.  We'll see how that works out!  :P

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A year of changes.

What a year.  

I look back with a heart of thankfulness for the Lord and his goodness.  "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good;  His love endures forever."  Ps. 136:1

Looking back over this year I know that I would NOT have chosen or planned the things that happened.  A lot of my worst nightmares....things that I thought would never happen.....came true.  There is a part of me that will always ache from the hurt that this year has brought me.  There have also been times of great joy this year which I will never forget.  Just as there have been so many unexpected heartbreaks there have been so many unexpected blessings.  I am amazed at each one of them.  I have so much more than I deserve.   

2013 was a year of so many firsts for me as I'm sure it's been for many of you.  
Just to name a few....  

First smart phone
First big bouquet of flowers sent to me on Valentines day
First time ever sending a text message!
First time getting to counsel at the Wilds
First time teaching a class of 25
First time teaching and managing over 18 private students
First time loosing a close friend my age 
First history tour of Virginia 
First Thanksgiving at the beach 
First time kayaking on the ocean 

The beginning of the year was spent with my dear friend, Mark.  The summer was spent with campers.  The fall was spent with students.  I'm grateful for each one of these unique seasons and what I learned through the fun and hard times of each one.  

Several of my best friends moved to different states this year.  Lots of good friends have gotten married.  TONS of friends have gotten engaged, and I'm so excited for them!  Things are just...so much different than they were before.  I guess it's all a part of growing up.  

My faith in God has really been tested this year.  I definitely had a lot of questions and had to just....trust.  It wasn't always easy, but I was glad to know that God is sovereign over all.   I'm not sure why God would allow me to become best friends with someone only to take them away suddenly and violently just a few months later....without even a chance to say goodbye.  But then again, I don't know why He would choose to bless me with great health and safety and so many wonderful students this year.  May we remember that we are nothing and we are not entitled to anything.  God doesn't owe us comfort.  We are indebted to Him for his mercy and grace. 

And so I end how I began.... "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good;  His love endures forever."  Ps. 136:1

I've said several times that I don't think I could take another 2013.  However, if it takes another year like this to make me more like Christ then I pray that I would be willing to take whatever this new year will bring. I'm sure you've had a year of lots of high and low points as well.  Remember to give thanks for the joys and the pains of life and remember that everything we have is a gift from God.  Don't overlook the blessing that can be found in your trials.  God is even working through those to make you know Him better than last year.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Christian Perspective on the Election

This is a great and insightful article written by my dad. Well worth your time reading.

A Christian Perspective on the Election

At this point after the election the biblical perspective on it is still vague and a more cogent and clearer response is needed.  The Christian perspective on the results of the election is being missed by most but it is important and should be clearly explained because the Christian view is not just another subjective, weak-minded opinion but a foundational concern.  The Christian view has been caricatured and misrepresented as insignificant and meaningless.  Neal Boortz, for example, insults those expressing Christian views by calling them “turbo Christians.”  Sometimes Christians themselves have cultivated this misconception.  Thus, public dialogue has exploited this misrepresentation of Christianity and the result is serious…the gospel message appears meaningless and shallow.  However, a biblical perspective on matters of politics is not only relevant but is one that provides objective meaningfulness to all matters of political debate.
First, it must be understood that the strength of a government is borne out of the moral principles which undergird it.  Conversely, a weak government is one which rests on weak moral principles.  The reason the civil government of the United States has endured and has been so resilient is because of the moral foundation upon which it rests.  Thus, the reason we should be concerned for the United States at this point in history is not because of the political direction which it has now turned but the moral principles which this political force seems to embrace.
Before continuing, the question about whether the United States is a Christian nation is a silly one but one that has to be addressed in order to understand the truth of the Christian perspective.  Claims that attention be drawn to moral matters are not the same as an attempt to make our country a theocracy.  The level of argumentation that concludes that Christians want to make this a theocracy by people like Neal Boortz is naive and “for entertainment purposes only.”  Moral principles are the heart of any political discussion but talking about them openly is almost completely censored.  So, most political talk today is only about peripheral issues and the foundations of political points of view, which are really all that matter, are avoided and dismissed by straw man arguments, ad hominem arguments, hasty generalizations or some other logical fallacy.
However, it is precisely in understanding the moral principles of this government that real progress can be made in answering the political questions before us today.  For example, the discussion about gay marriage seems to hover around the periphery of the issue.  Can gay couples make just as good or better parents than straight couples?  That is irrelevant in this debate.  The real issue is a choice between accepting the objective truth about what God has said about marriage or replacing it by a subjective truth of consensus developed by man.  The more debates like this orbit around the foundations of what, how and why people believe what they believe the more intellectually weak we become as a culture and the weaker our government is.
A foremost example of the misapplication of Christian principles and precepts is the dependence on government that many “Christians” cultivate.  Also, an incorrect Christian response to the “moocher” problem is to ignore it or not identify it for what it is.  It took the atheist Ayn Rand to highlight this problem and the Christian response has been unclear and vague.  Dependency on government by “moochers” and absconding with tax dollars by “looters” is not at all biblical.  The biblical response to this is clear:  being dependent on government and taxing others to feed this dependency is a “basic principle of the world” that is simply sinful.  A philosophy such as this cultivates the lordship of government and thus, opposes and hinders lordship to Jesus Christ.  The foundation of such a mindset enfeebles the Christian message and should be strongly opposed by Christians.  Instead, substantive response to this problem is missing from Christians because what the Bible says about problems like this is ignored and public debate rarely goes that deep.
So, it is not issues like the “moocher” problem, abortion, gay marriage, etc. that the Christian is concerned with as much as it is the moral reference points that are used to support and promote these issues.  The Christian is only “answering a fool according to his folly” by arguing on the surface of issues.  Rather, these debates must be turned vertical, that is, directing them to the moral principles that undergird them.   If the Christian perspective loses objective truth as its reference point, then it loses its importance and relevance.  Therefore, a Christian perspective that focuses only on peripheral, subjective truth is irrelevant not only to civil society but to the God Christians serve.

Tom Carpenter

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

13-Year-Old Jenny Gives Report Cards to Obama and Romney

To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful & tyrannical. - Thomas Jefferson

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. - Thomas Jefferson

The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity under the name of funding is but swindling futurity on a large scale. - Thomas Jefferson

The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not. - Thomas Jefferson