About Barbara Harper

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God Remembered

How can God remember when He doesn't forget?“God remembered Noah.” (Genesis 8:1)

Does that statement strike you as strange? God is omniscient. He knows everything from the names of all the stars to the number of hairs on our head. He doesn’t forget. So how could He remember?

Our church is reading through Genesis, and I am once again using one of Warren Wiersbe’s brief commentaries as an aide: Be Basic (Genesis 1-11): Believing the Simple Truth of God’s Word. He had some helpful notes on this passage.

The word “remember” in Genesis 8:1 doesn’t mean to call something to mind that may have been forgotten. God can’t forget anything because He knows the end from the beginning (Kindle location 2006).

Wiersbe uses as an example Hebrews 10:17: “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” That doesn’t mean He somehow employs divine amnesia. Rather, He “doesn’t hold our sins against us” any more when we believe on Christ. They are no longer on our account.

So what does it mean that God remembered Noah?

It means “to pay attention to, to fulfill a promise and act on behalf of somebody” (Kindle location 2006).

“To pay attention to.” Sometimes it feels like God is far off. But He’s not. He has promised us His presence. He’s promised to meet all our needs. He’s shown us His love in hundreds of ways.

“To fulfill a promise.” “‘To remember’ implies a previous commitment made by God and announces the fulfillment of that commitment” (Kindle Location 2013). When God “remembers” a promise, He’s not thinking, as we do sometimes with our promises, “Oh yeah! I told them I’d do that. I guess I better get around to it.” Rather, when He “remembers” a promise, He’s saying, “Now is the time!”

“To act on behalf of somebody.The ESV Study Bible notes echo this: “When the Bible says that God ‘remembers’ someone or His covenant with someone, it indicates He’s about to take action for that person’s welfare” (p. 64). Though He acts on our behalf every day, when He “remembers” us in this way, He’s about to do something special.

In Genesis 8, Noah and his family had been in the ark for over a year. There were 40 days and nights of rain, the flood waters cresting, then slowly receding, then the land drying up enough for everyone to come out. We don’t know how they felt or got along for all that time. But it’s possible they could have felt forgotten or wondered how long this situation was going to go on. Yet God knew all along the time He had set for Noah and his family to disembark and start a new life.

In Psalm 77, Asaph writes of a time in which his “soul refuses to be comforted,” and being “so troubled that I cannot speak.” He got so low in spirit that he asked himself:

“Will the Lord spurn forever,
    and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
    Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
    Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”(7-9).

But then he took himself in hand, took his thoughts captive, and directed them to what He knew of God:

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
    and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
    What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders
you have made known your might among the peoples (11-14).

In Psalm 42, another psalmist experienced a low point.

I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones,
    my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?” (9-11).

Not only did he “feel” forgotten, but others added fuel to the fire.

But he talks to himself, just as we have to do sometimes:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God (11).

Whenever we feel forsaken, when It seems God is talking a long time to answer our prayers and come to our aid, we can remind ourselves of His love, His character, His promises, His past works in the Bible, and the way He has worked in our own lives. In His perfect timing, He will especially meet our need, come to our aid, and fulfill His promise.

Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. (Psalm 106:44-45)

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Senior Salon, Remember Me Monday)

Laudable Linkage

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Thank you so much for your kind thoughts, comments, and prayers regarding my post yesterday about being in the hospital. We got home mid-afternoon yesterday, and I have follow-up appointments in the next couple of weeks.

Here are good reads collected through the week. I used to make a list of these as I found them, then would have to turn them into a blog post. Now I open a draft and list and format them as I come across them through the week, so by Saturday the post is almost completely ready to go.

“What Do You Want From Me, God?” Part 4: A Humble Walk. “Isn’t it remarkable that the God of the universe, the One who is perfectly satisfied in himself, to whom we cannot possibly be intellectually stimulating, comes to us every morning and asks, ‘Do you want to go for a walk?’”

Enjoying Imperfection, HT to Challies. “Only God does all things perfectly. In a world that has written God out of the story, we have written ourselves into the role of perfection-attainment. And it is killing us—our dusty little frames, our finite abilities can’t handle it.”

The Local Church Was Made To Serve The Christian, Not The Christian The Local Church. “If we judge our faith or our spiritual maturity or our commitment to the local church by the quantity of activities we participate in (or choose not to participate in), we are judging ourselves not by the freedom of the gospel but by the captivity of the law.”

When Your Mother Grows Old: Open Letter to Younger Believers, HT to Challies. “Being old is a topic that Scripture does not shy away from. Proverbs, for example — such a valuable book for young people — addresses it directly. As one who is both learning and observing a mother’s experience of growing older, I want to ask you to think in particular about old women, while you are young — in order to encourage clear vision now, and farsighted vision for the years ahead.”

In Support of Our Law Enforcement Officers. “That’s what police officers do. They keep the rest of us safe. They are the representatives of human government that enforce the law and protect citizens. Saved or not, believers or not, they put their lives on the line on a daily basis in order to provide for us a peaceful society in which we can live, work, worship, and pray.”

C. S. Lewis and His Stepsons, HT to Challies. “While the relationship between Lewis and Joy Davidman has been a matter of endless fascination to Lewis fans and academics alike, many have ignored the fact that the marriage made Lewis a stepfather.”

How to Run a Good Meeting–And Why it Matters More than You Think, also HT to Challies. Spirituality and efficiency are not mutually exclusive (though God’s idea of efficiency may differ from ours). I appreciate these evaluations of the best way to conduct necessary but numbing ministry meetings. I’d add a sub-note to his last point: don’t have a meeting if an email can take care of the meeting agenda.

Finally, I think I’ve seen all of these at a potluck (minus the alcohol).

In the Hospital

Longtime readers may remember that I had an ablation for atrial fibrillation a few years ago. I’ve had little “blips” of heart irregularity since, which the doctor said was normal. But then last July I had a seven-hour episode. The doctor said we’d keep everything the same for now. Then yesterday I had a 12-13 hour episode. My heart rate was 120-148 beats per minute. The meds they give to lower heart rate also lower blood pressure, so they had to keep that in balance.

Finally my heart rate converted back to normal. They kept me overnight, and I should be going home later today.. We’re talking about why this happened, changes to make, etc. I’m especially thankful they let Jim come in with me.

I have some great things for Friday’s Fave Five! If we get home in time, I’ll try to get a post up. It’s a little hard tapping out a post on an iPad mini. 🙂

But for now we’re doing fine, just hanging out til they release me. Talk to you later!

Update: I’m home! I’m supposed to follow up with my primary care doctor and cardiologist next week. Thanks so much for your kind comments and prayers.

Book Review: Five Miles South of Peculiar

Five Miles South of Peculiar, Florida, there’s an estate known as the Sycamores. The man who built it set up an annuity for his descendants to live on. But fifty years after his death, the property will go to the county (I never quite understood why that would be the case).

The current residents of the Sycamores in this novel are two middle-aged sisters. Darlene is the oldest and the queen bee. She’s not only very domestic, but she’s on (and usually runs) several different committees in church and in town.

The youngest sister, Nolie (short for Magnolia), lives a quiet life with her dogs and garden, making unique aprons for anyone and everyone. She has never lived anywhere but the Sycamores and never wants to live anywhere else. She assumes the good townspeople will let the sisters keep their home when their time runs out.

One more sister, a Broadway singer named Carlene, lives in New York. Though she’s quick to tell everyone she’s not a star, the Peculiar residents think of her as a local celebrity. She doesn’t get back home often, but not because of her busy schedule. She and Darlene are twins and used to be close. But for most of their lives, they have gotten along better if Carlene keeps her distance.

But now, Carlene is coming home for a birthday celebration. She hasn’t told anyone, but a botched throat surgery has left her unable to sing. She’s not sure what her next steps should be and if she’ll even be welcome in her family’s home.

Further complicating matters, an ex-preacher named Erik shows up at the Sycamores looking for work. His church let him go after his wife left him, and he needs to support himself and decide what’s next.

Sparks don’t fly outwardly very often. Everyone keeps their opinions mostly to themselves. But that also means they don’t talk about their issues.

The point of view switches between the sisters, and it’s amazing how the same words or actions can be interpreted so differently. Each character has his or her own sorrows, Darlene, in particular, is apt to color a situation with her own inferences.

I loved the tag line of the book: “If these three sisters don’t change direction, they’ll end up where they’re going.”

You’d think a book about sibling issues would be depressing, but the snappy dialogue and comic asides keep things lively. A few samples:

She stepped off the plane and felt hot, humid air cover her like a damp blanket.

What if someone had been using a video camera? If anyone filmed her fall, she could be on the Zoo Tube, or whatever they called it, by nightfall.

You know how things are in a small town—your neighbor is known by his first name and his last scandal.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am going to look up more by Angela Hunt.

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

In 1951, a thirty-year-old black wife and mother was being treated for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Unbeknownst to her, the doctor took some of her healthy and cancerous cells for research purposes. This was routinely done before informed consent was common practice.

Like many doctors of his era, TeLinde often used patients from the public wards for research, usually without their knowledge. Many scientists believed that since patients were treated for free in the public wards, it was fair to use them as research subjects as a form of payment (pp. 29-30).

Researchers were trying to grow cells in culture from their samples, but the samples all died. However, Henrietta’s cancerous cells continued to divide over and over under the right conditions. Eventually the cells were used to test Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine on a large scale. They were involved in cancer and AIDS research, experiments in space, cloning, genetic mapping, and much more. The cell line became known as HeLa, using the first two letters of Henrietta’s first and last names.

Henrietta died at age 31 after a horrific battle with cancer. Her family knew nothing about her cells being used in research nor about whole factories being built to house and reproduce her cells. Twenty years later, the HeLa cells were so strong that they easily contaminated other cell cultures. The family began getting calls from researchers who wanted samples of their blood in order to determine the genetic markers of HeLa. Naturally, Henrietta’s family members were confused, not understanding how some part of their mother was alive. When they learned there was a whole industry that sprang up around their mother’s cells, they wondered why they  weren’t getting any of the benefits. Many of them could not even afford health insurance.

Rebecca Skloot first heard Henrietta’s name in a college class, but not much more was said about her. Rebecca wondered about the woman behind the HeLa cells. Ten years of research resulted in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

There are several threads to the book. Part of it in Henrietta’s story: what’s known of her background, personality, family. Another thread is the development of the cell line, the scientists involved, the industry that sprang up. Yet another involves the ethics and arguments swirling about research, consent, and compensation. Another tells the story of Henrietta’s children and what became of them. And the final thread is the author’s journey to research the cells and to talk to the family who were, understandably, skittish about reporters by that time. Eventually, Rebecca became very close to Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah.

One of the most touching scenes in the book was when a scientist invited Henrietta’s two youngest children to a lab to see their mother’s cells. Deborah looked in wonder through the microscope and on the screen where the scientists enlarged the cells. She got to hold  vial of her mother’s cells and witness one of the cells on screen dividing.

In the history of cell culture development and cancer research, it was astonishing to read how some researchers would get caught up in the science and forget the human factor. One injected Henrietta’s cancerous cells into other patients without telling them to see if they “caught” cancer that way and to test how healthy and cancer patients fought off the cells differently. Guidelines had been set up after the Nazi experimentation during WWII, but the guidelines weren’t law then.

One patient caught on that something unusual was going on when his doctor kept calling him back for blood work even after the patient had moved away. He learned that his blood produced a unique protein, and the doctor was experimenting and hoping to patent a cell line. Unlike Henrietta, this man had the means to sue the doctor. The case went through several courts and appeals, but the patient finally lost. It was deemed that once your tissue leaves your body, it’s not yours any more. In an afterword, Rebecca said that there are storehouses for tissues and organs removed from patients. Most, I think, would not object to their cells and removed organs being used in study. But when money is being made off their parts, they naturally feel entitled to a portion of the proceeds. Rebecca’s afterword details the latest (at the time the book went to press in 2009) complicated considerations of the different sides of cell research, ownership, and profitability.

Objectionable elements: unfortunately, there are 4 instances of the “f” word and one graphic scene when Deborah, was being pursued by a cousin.

I had first heard of this book several years ago, but figured it would be too “science-y,” too much like a documentary. Then it came up on an audiobook sale, nicely read by Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin. I’m glad I finally read it. I’m glad Henrietta’s story was finally brought to light, and the medical and ethical discussions were detailed clearly.

Book Review: Sandhill Dreams

Sandhill Dreams: A WWII Homefront Romance by Cara Putnam is the second in her Cornhusker Dreams series. The first book, Canteen Dreams, was a fictional retelling of Cara’s grandparents’ love story. Sandhill Dreams features a friend from the first book, Lainie Gardner.

Lainie’s dream was to be a nurse and serve her country. She began her training but then contracted rheumatic fever. She recovered, but still experienced residual symptoms. She had to be careful about overdoing, stress, or anything else that might trigger a relapse.

Still, she wanted to do something to help during WWII. She traveled to Fort Robinson in Nebraska without any prior arrangements, figuring surely they’d find some use for her there.

Tom Hamilton had a serious accident involving a dog bite as a boy, and he’d been afraid of dogs ever since. He joined the Army hoping to work with horses, but the Army assigned him to the canine unit. He hopes he can successfully battle both his disappointment and his fear without any officers or soldiers noticing.

Lainie and Tom get off on the wrong foot. They both have issues to deal with. But perhaps they can help each other recover from their broken dreams and find new ones.

I like stories that aren’t just romance, but have the characters grow, overcome obstacles, etc. This book fit the bill. I thought it ended just a touch abruptly, but perhaps that’s because it’s the middle of a series, and the story is ongoing.

Is Truth or Love More Important?

Why do we need to pit them against each other? They are both important. They are both needful.

Our church just finished reading through the book of Revelation together. In chapters 2-3, God lists seven different churches along with what was good and bad about each one.

The church at Ephesus was commended for testing “those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false” and for hating “the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (Revelation 2:2-7) But they were rebuked for having “abandoned the love you had at first.” They were admonished to “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

The church at Pergamum (2:12-17) was commended for holding fast to their faith and not denying God’s name, yet rebuked for having some who held to false teaching. They were warned to repent, or “I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth,” previously identified as His Word. The church in Thyatira (2:18-29) was commended for “your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance” but rebuked for allowing false teaching.

God is love (1 John 4:8). And Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

God wants us to love Him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). He searches mind and heart (Revelation 2:23).

Truth is so important to God that all the prophets and almost all the epistles warn against false teaching. Sound doctrine is brought up again and again. In fact, Paul instructs:

 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15)

You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:5)

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:11)

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. (1 Timothy 6:3-5)

They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. (Titus 1:11-14)

By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:19b-20)

Wow, some of that sounds harsh. But how loving is it to let people go on in a false doctrine themselves or lead others astray? Spurgeon once said, “To pursue union at the expense of truth is treason to the Lord Jesus.” Paul aims for restoration as much as possible: “Warn him as a brother,” “that they may be sound in the faith,” “that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”

We get into trouble if we stand for truth without love, if we use truth as a steamroller or sledgehammer, with pride in being “right.” “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)

But we also get into trouble if we tolerate any behavior or aberration of doctrine for the sake of love. We need to be gracious, to give people time to grow, to realize we all make mistakes and stumble.

And we have to be careful that the truth we stand for is the bedrock truth of the Scripture: the gospel, the deity of Christ, the verity of the Bible, etc. There are many other areas where good people can differ, but we too often elevate those and defend our views on them with more vehemence than we do the fundamentals.

But if someone’s lifestyle and teaching contradicts the clear Word of God, we have to take our stand with God. The prophets and the apostles proclaimed truth and exposed and corrected errors and false doctrine. Every book of the Bible proclaims truth, and almost every one warns about those who would corrupt it.

We can’t follow the “nice” (to us) parts of Scripture and leave off the rest. All of God’s Word is inspired.

May God give us wisdom and grace as we walk in truth and in love.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Hearth and Soul, Senior Salon, Remember Me Monday,Purposeful Faith, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragement, Recharge Wednesday,
Share a Link Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire.
Links do not imply 100% agreement.)

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading onlineHere’s my latest collection of good online reads:

Why Unhealthy People Crave Controversy, HT to Challies. “Over the years I’ve seen Christians who have engaged in controversy when needed, and I’ve observed the way that the Christlike among them so often do it—with a sense of love for the good, and for the well-being of those they believe in error, not a love for the fighting itself. And I have seen those I thought were ‘zealous for the truth’ who, in time, proved to just be zealous for the feeling of zeal.”

How Perfectionism Makes You a Spiritual Quitter. “It has taken me 43 years to begin to learn that there is a happy, spiritually-nourishing medium between praying for an hour a day and not praying at all. Between reading five chapters in my Bible and not reading a single word. Spiritual disciplines don’t have to be feast or famine, and they shouldn’t be.”

Small Miracles. A neat story of answered prayer from author Lynn Austin.

4 Ways to Help Your Kids See the Bible as Truth, HT to Story Warren. “How do we grandparents and parents convince, show or prove that we can rely on God’s truth?”

Stories Teach—Even If We Do Not Want Them To, HT to Story Warren. “When we are hoping to be merely entertained is the precise moment when we let our guards down the most, and it is in the letting down of our guard that we are most susceptible to dwelling with and admiring and eventually imitating.”

No photo or video this morning because I don’t have one handy and need to go somewhere in a bit. But, you may have heard a tiger was spotted loose in Knoxville recently. I haven’t heard whether they’ve found it, though either another one was spotted in Kingsport or this one traveled that way. Anyway, almost immediately someone started a Twitter account for Knoxville Tiger. I love people’s humor and creativity. My favorite is this one.

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

On Fridays I like to press the pause button for a few moments with Susanne and friends to reflect on some of the blessings of the week.

I should probably switch over to a fall FFF graphic. But I think I’ll give it another week or two. 🙂

1. Lunch at my son and daughter-in-law’s. They had us over Saturday for some steak and fried rice stir-fry. Yum!

2. A church picnic. We’re still Zooming in for the service, but the picnics are out in the open air on a pavilion, so we feel safer attending those. Everyone brings their own lunch and lawn chairs, so we’re not all breathing over a table full of food. Some families were traveling for the long weekend, so we had a small group. But it was fun. The pastor proposed playing charades, acting out Biblical characters or scenes. At first I was reluctant and just wanted to talk, especially since we hadn’t had a chance to talk with folks there in a while. But it turned out to be really fun.

3. Labor Day weekend. Labor Day is an odd holiday that no one really celebrates per se, but it’s a nice end-of-summer get-together and cookout opportunity. We had my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson over for my husband’s grilled burgers, and my d-i-l made potato salad, home fries, and apple cake. All I did was shuck and boil corn on the cob and heat a can of baked beans.

4. A clean shiny fence. My husband and youngest son labored on Labor Day pressure-washing our fence. It’s so much brighter now!

5. Reading a funny book to Timothy. I’ve mentioned that he’s usually too engaged with other activities to want to sit down and read much. I had bought a book that I used to read to my own sons and loved, If Everybody Did. I don’t know what happened to the original. He was reluctant, but finally agreed to sit with Grandma while she read. It was so fun to hear him giggling more with each page.

One example: this is what would happen if everybody stepped on Daddy’s feet. 🙂

If Everybody Did by Jo Ann StoverI love how the typography also reflects the actions.

Remembrance

This day in 2001 was one of the worst in American history. Many promised we’d “Never Forget” those who died and those who ran into instead of away from trouble to help. While I hate the events of 9/11, I miss the camaraderie and acknowledgement of dependence on and need of God on 9/12. I hope it doesn’t take another national tragedy to get back to that place. Our current national troubles seem to be pulling us apart instead of drawing us together.

Book Review: The Color of Hope

The overarching story in Kim Cash Tate’s The Color of Hope is that of two different churches, one predominately while, the other predominately black, who try to meet together once a month. Many folks are for this occasional merging, but there’s a small but loud opposition.

But several other stories lines are woven together.

One woman runs into her old boyfriend at a reunion in Hope Springs, NC. She thinks sparks are still there, but in the time since they knew each other, he became a pastor and she walked away from God.

Another woman plans to leave the area, but is unexpectedly offered a position coaching in the high school. Could this be God’s sign that He wants her to stay—and is the assistant principal’s interest purely professional?

One couple lived away from Hope Springs but now feel drawn back to this town of the wife’s father’s roots. The wife misses her multi-ethnic church in the city and isn’t quite sure she’s going to be happy. But she’s asked to substitute teach in the high school and befriends a young outcast named Sam.

There are several subplots as well.

Some would want to know there is a rape and a suicide in the book. The descriptions are not explicit, but they might be triggers for some.

There are so many characters, the first few chapters were confusing trying to sort out who was related to whom, who was with whom, and who was interested in whom. But eventually all the relationships fell into place. Kim has a number of books about the people of Hope Springs, so readers of the series would be more familiar with the characters..

My one little quibble with the book is that, since it’s about primarily racial tensions between two churches, there was no indication for most of the book about which church and characters were what race. I just reread the first four chapters to see if I missed something, but there was only one mention of one girl being blond, which doesn’t really indicate anything. The young girl, Sam, is described as biracial and and feeling like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. Eventually all of that becomes clear, but it made me as a reader feel another layer of confusion trying to figure out the characters.

But, that one little complaint aside, I thought Kim did a great job weaving so many characters and stories and conveying the need to come together rather than pull apart. This book was published in 2013 but seems apropos to 2020.