26 November 2015

24 November 2015

BSF 2015-2016: Revelation 5

Last week, John entered God’s throne room. He was so overwhelmed with what was happening there that it took him awhile to see God (sitting on His throne) holding a scroll. Now in chapter 5, we see the unveiling of the One who is uniquely worthy to accomplish God’s purposes.

An angel shouted that no one is worthy to open the scroll or even look inside it. John wept at this news. The scroll contained information about what was about to take place. The double-sided scroll symbolized that it was complete, no more information needed to be added.

One of the elders pointed John to Jesus as being the only One worthy to open the scroll. John saw a lamb that looked as if it had been slain standing at the throne. The lamb is Jesus. The Lamb had seven horns, which symbolized that He is all-powerful. The Lamb had seven eyes, which symbolized that He is all-wise and all-knowing.

After Jesus took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down and worshiped Him. They sang a new song about Jesus’ delivering His people. Then thousands upon thousands of angels began worshiping Jesus. And finally, all of creation worshiped Jesus – every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea.

Jesus alone is worthy to take the scroll because He died to save His people. He saved us to be His priests – to share His Gospel message, to serve Him, and to be His ambassadors.

Things to Think About
  • Jesus conquered death through sacrifice and is uniquely worthy to consummate history.
  • Jesus redeemed the unworthy and is uniquely worthy of worship.

This Week’s Memory Verse
“And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.’ ” Revelation 5:9 NIV

19 November 2015

17 November 2015

BSF 2015-2015: Revelation 4

In Revelation chapter 4, we see God seated on His throne in heaven. What a beautiful picture this is of God’s sovereignty. He has complete authority over all creation, and He is in complete control of all creation.

After Jesus shared with John the messages for the seven churches (in chapters 2 and 3), John saw a door standing open in heaven. Jesus invited John to enter and see what will take place.

At the center of heaven, John saw God seated on His throne. A rainbow encircled God and the throne (showing that God keeps His promises). Surrounding the throne were four living creatures. Beyond the four living creatures were 24 elders. Later in Revelation, we will see that beyond the throne are thousands upon thousands of angels worshiping God. In front of the throne were seven blazing lamps (signifying the Holy Spirit) and a sea of glass (signifying purity and peace).

It is impossible to describe God. So John described God’s appearance using precious gemstones. This signifies that God was beautiful, pure, and brilliant.

The 24 elders were wearing white robes (signifying purity) and crowns (signifying authority). There are many possibilities for the identity of the elders, but no one knows for sure who the elders are. They probably symbolize the people of God who are rewarded in heaven. The elders were worshiping God.

John saw lightning and heard thunder. They signify God’s judgment that will come from the throne. God rules and reigns with power and purity.

The four living creatures were worshiping God and proclaiming His holiness by crying out “Holy, holy, holy!” They are the creatures closest to God on His throne. God created them to worship Him. They offered Him endless praise. In His holiness, God is worthy of our praise.

Whenever the four living creatures worship God, the 24 elders were compelled to leave their thrones, fall down before God, remove their crowns, and put them at God’s feet.

Heaven is a place of perpetual worship. One of our eternal jobs is to worship God. But we can do that now too! To worship God is to focus on Him, to praise Him for all He is and all He has done, to give Him glory and honor.

God alone is worthy of our worship.

Things to Think About
  • Sitting at the center on His throne shows that God is the center of all creation. Is He the center of my attention?
  •  No matter what happens on this side of heaven, God is still on His throne, in charge and in control. God will not be dethroned.
  • All attention in heaven is on God. How often do I focus on God?
  • God is holy and calls us to be holy. To be holy is to be morally perfect, pure, set apart from sin. We cannot be holy without the help of the Holy Spirit.
  • Are others compelled to worship God because of what I’m doing? Am I leading people to worship God by the way I speak and act?

This Week’s Memory Verse
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” Revelation 4:11 NIV

12 November 2015

10 November 2015

BSF 2015-2016: God’s Kingdom

As we continue in Revelation, we will learn about the kingdom of God. But the theme of the kingdom of God is seen throughout the Bible. The Kingdom of God is God’s sovereign rule and reign throughout the course of history.

Today, the expansion of God’s kingdom happens through the Holy Spirit working through believers. And His future kingdom will endure forever. God is the ruler of all. He rules as King over heaven, earth, and our lives. He is a loving and gracious God who is fully in charge of everything.

Daniel, a godly man in the Old Testament, was focused on God’s kingdom. He showed respect and honor to earthly authorities while remaining faithful to God and His kingdom. Daniel shows us how to live as a citizen of the kingdom of God in a secular, ungodly environment.

Daniel and his three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were captive Israelites in Babylon. They probably were about 15 to 17 years old in Daniel chapter 1. They knew God and His commands well. They were committed to obeying Him.

King Nebuchadnezzar wanted to change everything about these four men – diet, culture, names, etc. Daniel and the other three refused to eat the king’s food. This food could have been sacrificed to idols, which was forbidden by God. This food could have been food that God had forbidden them to eat.

These four men asked that they have a different diet and be tested against the other officials. Ten days later, the four were found to be healthier and more nourished than anyone else. These four were devoted to God and were committed to His principles. God blessed their obedience with wisdom, knowledge, and earthly success. King Nebuchadnezzar found them to be ten times better than his other wise men.

Later King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. He demanded that his wise men tell him what he dreamt and then interpret it. They could not, so the king ordered that all of his wise men be executed. When the commander of the army approached Daniel to kill him, Daniel questioned him then asked the king for some time to interpret his dream.

Daniel asked Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to join him in prayer, asking God to reveal the dream and its interpretation to them. That very night, God revealed the dream in a vision to Daniel. Daniel praised God for His wisdom and for answered prayer.

Daniel explained the dream to King Nebuchadnezzar – three kingdoms will destroy King Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom of Babylon. And God’s kingdom will destroy all other kingdoms and will endure forever.

Daniel submitted to the authority God placed over him, even though it was a pagan king. Daniel was placed in high positions because he was faithful to God and was willing to submit to the authorities God placed over him.

Later, Daniel served under King Darius. His administrators were jealous of Daniel and wanted to destroy him and his authority. They convinced King Darius to decree that all people in the kingdom bow down to him only for 30 days. Anyone who breaks the decree would be thrown into the lions’ den.

Daniel continued to pray to God three times a day, even in places where he knew others would see him. The administrators saw Daniel and reported him to King Darius. King Darius had no choice but to throw Daniel into the lions’ den. God sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions and delivered Daniel from the lions’ den. Again, God rewarded Daniel’s obedience with power and authority.

In another episode from Daniel’s life, God showed him a terrifying dream full of kings and kingdoms. Through the dream, God showed that He will intervene on behalf of His people. Suffering will occur for a time, but eventually it will end. One day, God’s people will inherit these kingdoms. Daniel is speechless and troubled by the dream. We will learn more about this dream later in our study of Revelation.

Things to Think About
  • Do I willingly join others in their prayers as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego prayed together?
  • God ordains the rise and fall of earth’s kingdoms, but His kingdom endures forever.
  • How am I loyal to God while serving the earthly authority figures in my life?
  • The administrators and their families were thrown into the lions’ den. How is my sin affecting my family?
  • Loyalty to God comes at a personal cost. What does it cost me to be a faithful servant in God’s kingdom?

This Week’s Memory Verse
“But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever – yes, for ever and ever.” Daniel 7:18 NIV

09 November 2015

At the bus stop

Every day, Damon and I take Avery to the bus stop in the morning and meet her there in the afternoon. Last year, Damon wasn't too sure of the bus. It was big and loud and scared him a bit. But when he learned that his best friend got off that big yellow thing every afternoon, and he started to get excited.

When I announce it's time to pick her up at the bus stop every afternoon, Damon quickly runs and excitedly points to the door. Then when he sees the bus come around the corner, he kicks his legs and points at the bus. When Avery steps off the bus, Damon grunts, giggles and waves a greeting to her.

I had to videotape his reaction. On this day, he wasn't quite as excited as he usually is. But you still can see his love for his big sister!

06 November 2015

A good hair day

Recently, Damon's hair has gotten pretty long. I feel like I'm constantly brushing it away from his eyes. So yesterday I decided it was time for his first haircut. It's hard to believe he got his first cut at just a little older than 1 year old. Avery was 2 1/2 years old when she got her first haircut!

We went to our usual kiddie hair salon. While Damon loves to brush his hair (Daddy says to enjoy it while you've got it!), I wasn't sure how he would handle the haircut experience. He was perfect and hardly moved a muscle!

"Hey, lady. What do you think you're going to do with those scissors?"

Now we can see his blue eyes better!

When he realized that he was in a car, he grabbed the steering wheel and pretended like he was driving.

Damon was a very good customer. He was very stoic for the entire time but finally gave a smile and a wave to the stylist as we were leaving. I was just glad he didn't scream the entire time like I've seen too many other kids do!

He looks a little older now, but the shorter 'do definitely is better! And just like with Avery, we got a tiny lock of hair for Damon's baby book.

05 November 2015

04 November 2015

Halloween hijinks

October is always a busy but fun month for us. And now that Avery is in school, we enjoy two weeks of fall break each October. This year, our Halloween hijinks weren't anything out of the ordinary.

The month started with glow-in-the-dark skeleton pajamas...

...and our annual trip to the pumpkin patch and pumpkin carving adventures with Grandma and Grandpa.

Expert Pumpkin Carver Grandpa and his helpful assistant made a great scary pumpkin this year.

Avery chose to be Snow White this year. I was Snow White once as a kid, and that just might be my favorite costume. Avery's was just as special, thanks to Grandma's sewing magic.

Originally, we thought Avery would be Glinda from the Wizard of Oz. So Damon's being a lion would have been perfect. It's OK that their costumes didn't "match" like last year, but they would have been cute as Wizard of Oz characters! Grandma wanted to make a lion costume for Damon, but the pattern she had was too big and she couldn't get it to work on Damon. So this is a store-bought costume. I can almost guarantee you that Grandma will make Damon's costume next year!

We went to our church's Fall Fest on the night before Halloween. Avery was excited when we found her best friend, Faith, early in the night. So we spent the evening together with Faith and her mom.

On Halloween night, Mommaw, Poppaw, and Aunt Karen came over to see the princess and the lion. Then Karen stayed for a pizza dinner and trick-or-treating in the neighborhood.

Poppaw was making both of them giggle here!

For trick-or-treating, Daddy joined in on the fun as a Navy pilot. The costume's components are courtesy of gifts from Uncle Casey.

It only took about two houses before Damon figured out what was going on. He wasn't shy about carrying his pumpkin to the door and holding it out to get a treat, though he didn't know he was collecting candy. In between houses, we put Damon in the wagon. While in the wagon, he hugged that pumpkin tightly to guard his treasures.

Chris estimated that we visited close to 30 houses. It started to rain about halfway through our course, but we were pretty well prepared and didn't get too wet...although Avery was nervous about her costume getting wet!

When we got home, we had to investigate the candy stash. Damon plopped right in the middle of this pile and started picking out his favorites. We let him try a few things, but most of his stash was given to Avery...and us adults!

03 November 2015

BSF 2015-2016: God’s People

The book of Revelation is all about God’s people and where He is taking them. In the first three chapters, we saw Jesus walking among His people, the church. So who are God’s people? We must go back to the beginning of the Bible and look at God’s people throughout history.

God created Adam and Eve, but they sinned against Him. God promised them a Messiah, a Deliverer. Adam and Eve believed in the coming Messiah. They were God’s first people. Since then, there are two camps for all humanity – those who believe in God and those who don’t.

Later, God chose Abraham to be the father of a nation of God’s people. God promised a Messiah to Abraham and his family. Abraham’s physical descendants are the nation of Israel. God promised that the Messiah would come from Israel.

Skipping ahead, God chose King David. God promised that the Messiah would come through the line of King David.

All of these people broke their promise to God and sinned against Him. But God never rejected them. He does not reject His people.

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He chose 12 Jews to be His people. Then God’s Gospel message became available to Gentiles in addition to Jews. Before Jesus died, He promised that He would send the Holy Spirit. This happened at Pentecost, a festival that took place just a few weeks after Jesus was resurrected. The Holy Spirit now indwells every believer at his or her moment of conversion.

While now there are more Gentiles than Jews in God’s family, by grace He always keeps a remnant of Jewish believers.

God’s people are any people who hear His message of salvation through Christ and then believe in Him as their only way to eternal life.

In Ephesians 4, Paul tells God’s people how to live in unity and how to mature. We become more like Christ by using our spiritual gifts and by having a new attitude of relating to people. We must see everyone as God sees us.

Things to Think About
  • God chose believers before the creation of the world to be His people. God delights in His people, and they are His treasured possession.
  • God’s love is so outrageous that He adopts broken people.
  • Who will I tell about God’s outrageous love? To whom will I show God’s outrageous love?
  • God’s people have a unified mission of spreading the Gospel.

This Week’s Memory Verse
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:4-6 NIV

02 November 2015

The Pioneer Woman's Chicken Quesadillas

Mexican is my favorite cuisine, and I love quesadillas. But I've always been intimidated to make them at home. I can't say what made me think they were so difficult. So after watching The Pioneer Woman demonstrate her chicken quesadillas on TV, I realized they're not so challenging after all.

Chris and I made this recipe together. It turned out to be very helpful to have four hands doing the work! That made it easier to assemble the quesadillas and make sure nothing burned in the process.

We both loved these quesadillas! Avery even ate a few bites without complaining. It was another successful PW recipe for the Clarks!

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons taco or Cajun seasoning mix
1 large onion, cut in half and then into slices
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
12 tablespoons butter, for frying
12 large flour tortillas
2 1/2 cups grated cheese

Preparation instructions
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet over high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper, and taco seasoning. Add the chicken to the skillet and saute over medium-high heat until done, about 4 minutes per side. Remove from the skillet and dice into cubes. Set aside.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet over high heat. Throw in the onions and peppers and cook until the peppers have a few dark brown/black areas, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Sizzle 1/2 tablespoon of the butter in a separate skillet or griddle over medium heat and lay a flour tortilla in the skillet. Then build the quesadillas by laying grated cheese on the bottom tortilla and then arranging the chicken and cooked peppers. Top with a little more grated cheese and top with a second tortilla.

When the tortilla is golden on the first side, carefully flip the quesadilla to the other side, adding another 1/2 tablespoon butter to the skillet at the same time. Continue cooking until the second side is golden. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and fillings. Cut each quesadilla into wedges and serve with salsa and sour cream.