Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Better Than What We Deserve

This summer we went to Family Church Camp at Camp Cobeac in Prudenville, MI.  We had an absolutely amazing, I mean A-M-A-Z-I-N-G time.  It was a wonderful time of family bonding, preaching, meeting new friends, hanging out with friends from our church, and just re-centering our family.  It was an opportunity to get away from the world for a week and just really enjoy each other in a Christian setting, which is exactly what we were looking for this year for our vacation.  While you are at the camp, you choose which activities you participate in and how busy you want to be.  We had chapel every morning and every evening.  This year's speaker was Brother Hal Hightower and he challenged my husband and I with his preaching every day.  He made us stop and think, re-evaluate what we have been doing, and either make commitments with God to change or renew our commitments with God.  His preaching was excellent and it was exactly what we had been hoping for.  His messages have been running through my mind in the weeks since we have returned from camp and I will be sharing them with you as I feel led to. 

One of the lessons that Brother Hightower taught that just keeps running through my mind constantly is that everything we have is better than what we deserve.  Wow!  Let me repeat it - everything we have is better than we deserve.  We were all born sinners.  That fact alone condemns us to Hell which is exactly what we deserve for being a sinner.  In our lives we have a choice to make.  Are we going to continue to live a life filled with sin or will we choose to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and give up our life of sin?  Please know that I am not saying that once you choose Jesus as your Savior, you will live a perfect life and never sin again.  That is not even possible, but once you choose Jesus as your Savior you should do your best to make better decisions, trying not to sin, and if you happen to sin (which happens to us all) you should repent and ask for forgiveness.  If we choose to continue to live in sin, we choose Hell and that means unending torture, agony, and pain.  If we choose Jesus, we have a future and eternal life.  The Bible says it clearly in John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life."  We have gained this everlasting life through Jesus' death on the cross.  He willingly died on the cross for us, for our sins so that we could live.  We deserve to die and burn in Hell for eternity because of our sins, but we have a God that loves us so much, He sent his one and only Son to die on the cross for us.  So everything that we have in life, whether it is good or bad, is still better than what we deserve.  Think about that, everything we have - EVERYTHING - is better than what we deserve.  The point that Brother Hightower really made about this was that it wasn't just the good things in our life that are better than what we deserve (a job, a family, a home, food, etc), it is the things that we perceive as bad things (illness, loss of a job, loss of a loved one, a bad day, etc.) that are better than what we deserve too.  That thought just blew me away because I already believe that everything that happens to us is part of God's plan for us (yes the good and the bad), but I never really thought about the fact that the "bad" things that happen to me are better than what I deserve, but when I thought about it, I knew he was right.  Every single little thing that happens to me, good, bad, indifferent are better than the eternity in Hell I deserve but don't have to suffer through.

Now when my day doesn't go exactly as I have planned, Brother Hightower's words run through my head and I know it is better than what I deserve.  When good things happen to me, Brother Hightower's words run through my head and I know the good thing is better than what I deserve.  The loop of "Everything I have is better than what I deserve" is almost constantly running through my head and I am happy about that because it helps me stay focused on God who loves me so much that He has saved me from an eternity in Hell.  Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior because you believe that He died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose again 3 days later?  Do you believe in Jesus Christ because it is only through your belief in Jesus as the Son of God that you can have a personal relationship with God, the Father?  If not, don't wait another day.  Today is the day you can change your eternity because we either spend an eternity in Hell or Heaven and that is your choice.  You can either be absolutely sure that everything you have is better than what you deserve or you can know that you will spend eternity in Hell for being a sinner who refuses to confess your sin and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.  I pray that you will choose (or you already know) Jesus Christ as your Savior. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Lentil Soup

I LOVE soup!!!!  It is truly one of my favorite comfort foods.  Nothing warms you like a nice, hot bowl of soup unless it is a cup of coffee, but that is a different story.  Lately the weather has been up and down and reminds me very much of fall.  Fall reminds me of a nice bowl of soup and then I head to the pantry to see what kind of soup I can make.  Just for clarification, I eat soup year round, but lately the chilly nights have made me crave soup more.  One of our family's favorite soups is Lentil Soup.  There are a lot of recipes out there for lentil soup and when I first started making it, I checked some of them out just to get an idea of what people put in there soup and then I came up with my recipe using what our family likes and what I had on hand.  You may notice in my pictures some of the ingredients are in bulk containers.  We are very lucky to live in an area where one of the neighboring towns is mostly Amish people and they have a grocery store that I refer to as my "Amish Sam's Club."  I can go there and buy things in bulk at a very reasonable price.  That is how I buy many of my spices and all of my bouillon.  It is so much cheaper and I always find other great deals there too.  I will also tell you that in this recipe I used ground celery instead of chopping up celery.  I didn't have the fresh celery on hand and still wanted the same flavor so I subbed in the ground celery. I do this frequently as we are not huge celery eaters in our house.  We like it, but I use a few stalks and the rest ends up going to waste so I don't always keep it on hand, but I do keep the ground celery on hand as a substitute.  So without further ado here is my recipe:

Lentil Soup
1 roll of sausage, browned and drained
1 large can of diced tomatoes (for this recipe I used 1 quart of our canned tomatoes)
2 chopped carrots
1 large diced onion or 2 small onions diced
1 stalk chopped celery or 1 Tbs. ground celery
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used about 2 Tbs. dried, minced garlic because we like garlic)
1 Tbs Cumin
1 Tbs Black Pepper
2 Tbs. Beef Base (beef bouillon) or 1 can of beef bouillon
2-3 Cups dried Lentils
4-6 Cups Water*
Shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
*The amount of water is a guess because I use enough to cover the soup and then if the soup gets too thick while cooking, I will add more.  If you want more of a stew consistency use less water, if you want it thinner with more broth add more water.

1.  Brown and drain the sausage.  While the sausage is cooking, chop the carrots and celery (if using stalks) and dice the onion.
2.  After the sausage is cooked, add all the ingredients to a large stock pot and bring to a boil.
3.  After the soup is brought to a rolling boil, reduce heat to low and continue to cook until the lentils are soft, stirring occasionally.  After all the ingredients have been cooked together, I check the taste of the soup and add salt if needed.
4.  Ladle into bowls and top with Parmesan cheese if desired.  I serve this soup with a nice crusty loaf of bread for dipping into it.  

The finished soup