02 December, 2009
Week 10 of 10: "Before His Throne" study - and One Last Assignment
Submitted by Leah Page on Tue, 12/01/2009 - 5:15pm
My original intent was to compose, here, a "summary" of what would have been our 10th week together, but I didn't realize I would find it so difficult, having not been in class with you our last evening! Apparently I rely more heavily on your feedback in class for my own "note taking" than I realized. Nevertheless, I thought I would at least attempt the "next best thing" with the hopes that you might be encouraged to do ONE LAST ASSIGNMENT in preparation for tomorrow night's final "After Party."
No worries, it won't take long. In fact, time-wise, it will take very LITTLE time in comparison to all the work you have already done.
We started this journey together in Ephesians 1, reading through the various characteristics that were readily apparent as "identifiers" of those who are "in Christ." The repetition of variations on this phrase alone in this chapter are telling, but I think our study through Malachi (with points all throughout Genesis to Revelation as we visited hither and yon!) has (I hope!) made some of the real, transforming truths of what we do in fact possess and who in fact we really ARE if we are IN CHRIST even that much more precious to you.
Thus, I thought it would be appropriate to "book end" our time in Malachi with another high-point chapter, (and perhaps you can already guess of what book I am thinking even before I tell you!). Before I give you the assignment, however, I would like to travel Malachi with you by just highlighting some of these themes:
*What are God's first words? "I have loved you" ~ God's "peculiar" covenantal affection for his people
*Were is the honor due God as a Father? Where is the fear and reverence due God as a Master?
*What kind of sacrifice is PLEASING to God? ~ unblemished, firstfruits, the sacrifice offered from faith, the sacrifice of a broken and contrite spirit, a living sacrifice!, a sacrifice of praise
*What does it mean to "fear the Lord" aright? ~ "...Perfect love casts out fear...."
*How can we approach the Throne of Grace with confidence? OUR "righteousness" is as filthy rags! ~ JESUS, the beloved son in whom the Father is well pleased; HE has made the once for all unblemished (!), holy sacrifice. HE is our "ark of safety" ~ preserving us "to the end" that we might be saved.
*Are we "performing" our righteousness only with an expectation of the Lord's benefits and rewards? Have we neglected to "incline our hearts" to the Lord, recognizing that HE is our reward? Are we loving his GIFTS more than we love HIM?
*Are we resenting his apparent lack of justice in judging wickedness, having forgotten we ourselves stand in desperate, dependent need of his mercy and grace?
*Are we thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought? ~ Are we ... esteeming ourselves (whether "highly" or "lowly"?) rather than fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith?
And finally, I am reminded especially of our comments at the beginning of class, echoed and repeated as we've progressed. Why did we sign up for this study? I hope it has proven to be a means of getting to know God more, as he really is, as he has revealed himself to be, with the preciousness of even our "fear" of God becoming more apparent. But in the end, our "knowledge" is not merely as the acquiring of more and more information - It is, rather, "knowledge" quite literally "in the biblical sense!"
It is for intimacy with our God, for we are his people, redeemed by his hand, and as we know him more we LOVE him more! And whether now as through a glass dimly, or then when finally face to face, we "know" in such a way that it spills over into worship. In a class I am currently auditing concerning "the knowability and incomprehensibilty of God," the expression continually repeated has been that "Doctrine is for Doxology!" Meaning, that we study and examine and learn the WORD of God because it is BY MEANS of the Word of God that we know HIM in person; and for the one who is being saved, this becomes the spring from which our worship overflows!
So. If you're still with me after all of the above,
Here is your assignment. :)
Set aside approximately 40 minutes during which you are confident you will not be interrupted. Read through Malachi, all four chapters. Slowly. Perhaps out loud so you can really remember all we've looked at. Then, with Malachi fresh in your minds, turn to Hebrews chapter 12. And again, read through this whole chapter, slowly, perhaps out loud. But don't just read for information. Pause to think about God, what he has shown you these past few weeks.
Some describe tasting wine as this kind of experience - Look at its color, swirl it around in the glass, take a deep breath in through your nose and see what kinds of aromas you can discern - a hint of apple or peach, close your eyes and think of the grapes on the vine, and then finally, having done all this, take a sip, let it sit on your tongue, roll it around in your mouth exploring the various different kinds of flavors it can change into in just that moment, and only after you've paused sufficiently, swallow. Read Hebrews 12 like you're "tasting" it in just this way, let your mind remember all the various Scriptures we've looked at over the past few weeks, pray your way through the verses, thanking God for how he's taught you, convicted you, comforted you, and sit at his feet and worship him. If he brings a song to mind, sing it! If he brings a sin to mind, confess it! If he brings a loved one to mind, intercede for them in prayer. BE with him through his word. [ABIDE!]
Thank you for finishing well, ladies. It has been an honor to "lead" you and to be a student WITH you of God's word. I am looking forward to our next adventure beginning in January - "Lord, Only You Can Change Me"! (a study in the beattitudes).
THE JEWELS OF GOD
(John MacDuff, "The Night Watches")
"And they shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in
that day when I make up my jewels!" Malachi 3:17
"MY JEWELS!" (margin, My special treasure!)
Of what favored creatures does Jehovah thus speak?
Is it of seraphs?
Is it of angels?
Methinks, at such a title, even they would take
the dust of abasement, and veiling their faces,
cry, "Unclean! unclean!"
But, marvel of marvels! It is redeemed sinners
of the earth; the fallen children of men; once rude,
unshapely stones, lying in "the horrible pit and the
miry clay," amid the rubbish of corruption, who are
thus sought out by grace, purchased by love, and
destined through eternity to be set as jewels
in the crown of the eternal Savior!
A jewel in Immanuel's crown!
Not only raised from the ash heap to be set among
princes; but to gem through eternity the Forehead
that for me was once wreathed with thorns!
"And they shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in
that day when I make up my jewels!" Malachi 3:17
17 November, 2009
Submitted by Leah Page on Tue, 11/17/2009 - 12:39pm
"Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, 'How have we spoken against you?' You have said, 'It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.'" Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. "They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
Intro: Let's start at the very .... end of this week's lesson. P. 147 in your books. We listed on the board all the "promises" and benefits that attach to those who fear the Lord according to: Psalm 25:14, Psalm 31:19, Psalm 33:18-19, Psalm 103:13, Psalm 115:11, and Psalm 145:19
1. What's in it for me? Exposing a heart set on itself
We talked through our "consumer" mentality here in America, today. We have the luxury of a multitude of vendors trying to woo us by our own self-importance with ad campaigns like "Because you're worth it," and "Have it your way, right away...."
The mentality exposed in v. 13-15 in the hearts of these unfaithful people of God is this exact idea - "What's the point? Clearly God is letting the arrogant and evil-doers get away with murder! Why should we even bother being righteous when God is so indifferent as to just ignore this unrighteousness all around us?!" Not only are they implying accusation against God's character, but they expose their own self-righteousness. What self-serving superiority! They might as well be saying "God, I thank you that I am not like other men who do evil against you. But SEE what righteousness I do! Where is my reward?!" (see Luke 18:9-14)
Read Psalm 73 - Notice the turning point in Psalm 73:16-17. What is the Psalmist doing to remedy his misconception about God's seeming lack of justice against the wicked? He is recalling to himself God's character, seeking company with the Lord in prayer, and reminding himself that his only hope is that God save him, even if he does not see the playing out of this in his earthly life. He can nevertheless trust God's goodness to execute justice - justice which he himself also rightly deserves (notice v. 21-22) BUT for God's mercy.
2. What's in a word? (self-esteem; isn't it just semantics?) Self-worth? or Self-evaluation?
The problem in wailing to God about "all those unrighteous out there" is that we are ignoring the wickednesses of our own heart, first of which is pride! And in our culture, we are not only taught to be self-confident and self-actualizing, we are taught that we "ought" to esteem ourselves. So, let's examine that. We talked through a host of synonyms for "esteem" and considered them in relationship to "self" -
to prize self, to revere self, to bow down to self, to honor self, to favor self, to marvel at self, to pay homage to self, to respect self, to laud self, to value self, to hold self in high regard, to admire self, to delight in self, to glorify self, to cherish self, to idolize self, to adore self, to treasure self, to extol self, to think the world of self, to venerate self, to applaud self, to apotheosize (to "deify") self, to worship....self.
"well, when you put it like that...." does ANY of that sound remotely biblical?
So called "High" self-esteem and "Low" self-esteem are at their root the same error because at the root of each is "self" and "self-focus."
If by "esteem" we mean to "estimate" as in to "compare to a standard so as to assess the true value of," then we MIGHT be able to redeem the term, but only in this respect - if we are "esteeming" ourselves rightly - that is, according to God's unchanging standard of righteousness, then the only "estimation" we can rightly appraise is something that looks like "Woe is me, I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips and I come from a people of unclean lips! God have mercy on me a sinner!" (see Isaiah 6, and again Luke 18:9-14)
This is the point. Our "value" - whether high OR low! - is not something WE have the luxury of assessing. GOD makes the assessment by having created us in his image and by whether or not he chooses to declare us righteous. So our "self-evaluation" then ought to be only for ONE purpose - to examine ourselves to see if we are in Christ. Because it is CHRIST who is worthy of our laud and honor. See what happens when we DIE to self, DENY self, and "fix our eyes on Jesus,"
we prize Christ, revere Christ, bow down to Christ, honor Christ, we favor Christ, marvel at Christ, pay homage to Christ, respect Christ, laud Christ, value Christ, hold CHRIST in high regard, admire Christ, delight in CHRIST, glorify CHRIST, cherish CHRIST, adore CHRIST, treasure CHRIST, extol CHRIST, think the world of CHRIST, venerate CHRIST, applaud CHRIST, worship....CHRIST!
I am not saying we ought not think of ourselves at all - See Romans 12:3-8 - but we ought to examine ourselves, think of ourselves with sober judgment and NOT think more highly of ourselves than we ought....
3. What's the Big Idea? "Choose you this day whom you will serve"
Read Joshua 24:1-28 In this chapter, God first lays out "It was I who...." and all the things he had done for the people of Israel having led them into the promised land. Only after this recounting does Joshua finally say in effect, "All right, people, you've heard what the Lord your God has done, NOW choose whom you will serve, whether the one true God! or the false gods of your past!" which is to say "There really is no choice, here!"
And how do the people respond? "We will serve the Lord!" To which Joshua then says, "Well, you can't. He is HOLY! And if you prove to be unfaithful, he will turn and consume you!" (see Joshua 24:19-21) That is to say, "Understand what you are committing yourselves to!"
(consider what it means to "fear the Lord" rightly!)
4. What's in your .... book? Rebuke - Repent - Restore - Remember - (Reward?)
Now, in Malachi 3:16, we get our first glimpse of how the people respond to this so far 2 1/2 chapter rebuke from God.
Those who feared the Lord - those who were his true followers, the remnant - and we do not know how many this entailed - got together and started to talk with one another. About what? About the word of the Lord! They started discussing the rebuke of God and whether it has any merit, and are they guilty of these very things, and what will they do now....And where are they meeting? "in the presence of the Lord" or "before Him." Where are they? Scripture says that where two or more are gathered, there he is in the midst of them? They're at "church," in essence. Or their Wednesday night Bible study! And what are they doing? They are remembering the Lord.
We didn't get into this in detail as it would involve a whole 'nother study, but "Remember" is a covenantal term. This is why we "remember" Jesus in his blood and body given when we participate in the Lord's supper - which we also call "communion" - why? Because it is a term of intimacy. It is akin to "knowing God" - quite literally "in the biblical sense." As we've said before, knowing/communing/remembering - all are terms of covenant. (Remember God's first words to open the book of Malachi, before he speaks his rebuke to his people?)
So they create a book of remembrance in the presence of the Lord, and he takes pleasure in them - who are "them"? Those who FEAR HIM and who meditate on his name. And because they fear him, they in turn commit themselves to him. And again we see God's stamp of ownership on them, as we see similarly in 1 Peter 2:9-10. See Malachi 3:17-18. He will make those who fear him to be his jewels, his "spared ones" who are able to discern - to REALLY see the truth - about those who are righteous in God's sight, and those who are wicked, who are able to discern what it means to REALLY "serve the Lord."
God's rebuke is to turn us to repentance! To get our eyes off our Self and to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith! And God's promise, then, to all who repent and who rightly "fear Him" is to restore them. To what? To intimacy with Himself!
HE is our reward! HE is the one we adore! HE is the one on whom we have fixed our eyes....and our affection! HE is the object of our desire, and HE is the object of our remembrance. HE is the one to whom we are running. HE is our reward.
~May we truly decrease and He increase....~
Groups: Women of Grace
"Before His Throne" week 8, lesson 7 ~ Robbers of God: What are we depending on?
Intro: Mortifying Darling Sins (see prev post for text)
Unchanging God ~ Restating Malachi 3:6-7 in our own words: "I haven’t changed. I am still the God of your father Jacob, still the one who has promised my love to you. As has always been true, return to me; see that I am still your God, see that I will return to you."
Throughout the book of Malachi, we have seen God’s rebuke of his people for their unfaithfulness. Again, now, in Mal. 3:6-7 we catch a glimpse of God’s promise. And his promise is both a call to repent (return), and a confident declaration of his faithfulness.
On p. 116-117 in our books, we had filled in charts listing the many things in our lives upon which we "depend" – relationships, jobs, finances, health, intelligence, our reputations, church – things which in and of themselves are good gifts from our Father, but which we often come to clutch and keep nearer our hearts than God our Father himself. The perhaps obvious implication being that all of these things are changeable, and therefore not dependable!
We were challenged with regards to how we have placed our faith in our idols rather than our God?
A Concrete Example ~ The primary rebuke in Malachi 3:6-12 is that God’s people are "robbing" him of his due. We studied through the week the various elements of what it meant that they were to "tithe" and make offerings. And we learned that God’s kind intention was to teach his people to fear him rightly.
So we talked about how faithfulness in tithing is one of the ways we learn to fear God (see Deuteronomy 14:22-23 as well as Numbers 18:21-29 and Leviticus 27:30-34). And how the nature of the "tithe" (similar to our earlier discussions about the nature of the sacrifices of the OT) reveals to us God’s character, especially his holiness – they were to offer firstfruits of what? Fruit of the ground, fruit of their livestock, everything. The first and the best, consecrated to God because he is worthy.
Perfect love casts out fear ~ We got back to this question from the beginning of class, from 1 John 4:13-21. How is it right and good that we are to fear God, that the fearing of God is full of so many wonderful promises, it pleases God, it receives blessing, etc., AND that perfect love casts out fear?
We talked about the tendencies of our hearts to works-based theologies, and how when the Lord reveals his grace, it's like our "Yes, but!" flip flops. I shared from my own life story, that I would repeat to myself passionately that "Yes, God is gracious, but I have to STRIVE for holiness!" and "Yes, God is the one who works in us to will and to do his good pleasure, BUT we must DO his good pleasure! we must RUN the race as to PURSUE the prize!" and "Yes, God loves us, but we must MAKE EVERY EFFORT to make our calling and election sure!" And I would punctuate each exclamation point with a clenched fist and a clenched jaw!!
But when the Lord finally "removed the scales from my eyes" as regards HIS sovereign love (my df. for grace), my sister and I would marvel that it was like our "Yes, but!"'s had completely swapped places. So now, "Yes, we must strive, and make every effort, and run this race as to pursue the prize, BUT, God is GRACIOUS, and it is GOD who will accomplish his work, because he is FAITHFUL to complete what he has begun, it is GOD who empowers us by his spirit and sustains us by his grace...." etc.
We suggested - and we may have opportunity to flesh this out more before our time together in this study comes to a close - that in effect, "the fear of the Lord" AND "perfect love" are equivalent to one another....So you COULD say, "the fear of the Lord casts out fear....."
The hinge point, here, is God's GRACE. Which is anchored in the fact that God Does Not Change.
So - Repent! Turn FROM your sin and idolatry; and Turn TO your heavenly Father who loves you and having saved you in Christ Jesus is now faithfully working to discipline you as sons, refine you and purify you as silver and to conform you to the likeness of his Beloved son in whom he is well pleased.....
Groups: Women of Grace
Submitted by Leah Page on Thu, 11/05/2009 - 3:32pm
The best means to mortify sin
(Thomas Brooks, "The Crown and Glory of Christianity,or, HOLINESS, the Only Way to Happiness", 1662)
"Therefore, put to death whatever in you is worldly: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry." Colossians 3:5
While a darling sin lives and keeps the throne in the heart, grace and holiness will be kept exceeding weak and low. But when your darling sin is dethroned and slain by the power and the sword of the Spirit—grace and holiness will quickly grow stronger and stronger, and rise higher and higher.
When a man has eaten poison, nothing will make him thrive, until he has vomited up the poison. Beloved sins—they are the poison of the soul, and until these are vomited up, and cast out by sound repentance, and the exercise of faith in the
blood of Christ, the soul will never thrive in grace and holiness!
If ever you would attain to higher degrees of holiness, then fall with all your might, upon subduing and crucifying your most raging corruptions, and your most daring lusts!
Oh do not think that your golden and your silver idols will lay down their weapons, and yield the battle, and lie at your feet, and let you trample them to death—without striking a blow! Oh remember that besetting-sins will do all they can to keep their ground, and therefore you must arise with all your strength against them, and crush them to powder, and burn them to ashes!
Oh deal with your most enraged lusts, as the Philistines dealt with Samson—pluck out their eyes, and force them to grind in the mill of mortification, until their strength is utterly consumed and wasted.
I have read of five men, who being asked what was the best means to mortify sin, gave these answers. Said the first, "The best means to mortify sin, is to meditate on death."
Said the second, "The best means to mortify sin, is to meditate on the judgment-day."
Said the third, "The best means to mortify sin, is to meditate on the joys of heaven."
Said the fourth, "The best means to mortify sin, is to meditate on the torments of hell."
Said the fifth, "The best means to mortify sin, is to meditate on the death and sufferings of Christ."
Doubtless the last man hit the nail on the head!
The daily sight of a bleeding, groaning, dying Savior—is the only thing which will subdue and mortify darling sins!
O friends! Never leave looking up to a crucified Christ, until virtue flows from Him to the crucifying of those special besetting sins which do most obstruct and hinder the growth and increase of holiness.
30 October, 2009
Submitted by Leah Page on Fri, 10/30/2009 - 4:40pm
Welcoming the Lord's Discipline as his Kindness which leads to Repentance
Intro: "The Two Birds" ~ see previous post for text.
Part 1: We read through the first two chapters of Malachi and the first 5 verses of chapter 3, bringing us up to the verses comprising our study for this past week. Then started in with highlight of Malachi 2:17 ~
17You have wearied the LORD with your words Yet you say, "How have we wearied Him?"
In that you say, "Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and He delights in them,"
or, "Where is the God of justice?"
Or to put it another way ~
What's the point, God? You let the unrighteous get away with murder!
Why should we even bother with being righteous - what's it gonna get us?
If you were so concerned about justice and righteousness....
[dot dot dot]
(How often do we say, in effect, this same thing?!) These unfaithful ones receiving the Lord's rebuke in the book of Malachi (cf also end of book of Nehemiah for context) dare put the blame back on God! But it exposes their own hearts - in their accusation, they completely ignore the fact of their own unrighteousness, and expose their own sinful hearts - desiring the gifts rather than the Giver. (idolatry)
What is the root cause of their idolatry? (cf Malachi 3:5 ...they do not fear the Lord.)
In chapter three, the Lord begins to move from his REBUKE to his PROMISE, and we see mention of this one who will come to prepare the way of the Lord (Malachi 3:1) - So we visited the New Testament, and took a look at Matthew 3:1-3 regarding who was this messenger to clear the way for the Lord? John the Baptizer - and what was his Gospel message and why: "Repent! for the kingdom of God is at hand!" It is the cry for repentance that is the means by which the people are made ready for the Lord (see also Luke 1:13-17). Said again, Repentance! prepares the way of the Lord. (I think it has been credited to Martin Luther, as no doubt many other faithful followers of Christ, for saying that a believer ought to be "always repenting.")
Part 2: Getting into Malachi 3:2-3, we started to break this down - what is the means by which God (in his kindness!) leads people to repentance?
Disciplines us as sons (Hebrews 12:4-11)
Refines / Purifies us as Silver (James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-9)
Enables us to endure Sufferings as Christ (John 15:8-10, John 16:32-33)
to bring to a fine or a pure state; free from impurities: to refine metal, sugar, or petroleum.
to purify from what is coarse, vulgar, or debasing; make elegant or cultured.
to bring to a finer state or form by purifying.
to make more fine, subtle, or precise: to refine one's writing style.
–verb (used without object)
to become pure.
to become more fine, elegant, or polished.
to make fine distinctions in thought or language.
refine on or upon, to improve by inserting finer distinctions, superior elements, etc.: to refine on one's previous work.
to make pure; free from anything that debases, pollutes, adulterates, or contaminates: to purify metals.
to free from foreign, extraneous, or objectionable elements: to purify a language.
to free from guilt or evil.
to clear or purge (usually fol. by of or from).
to make clean for ceremonial or ritual use.
(used with object)
–verb (used without object)
to become pure.
Lastly - we didn't have a chance to get into this very much Wednesday night, but our week of study lands on Malachi 3:3-5 and I wish we would have had the time to break this down.
Please take a moment to again read these verses, and then ask, "What does the Lord promise to do for his people in these verses?"
Then ask, "What are the after-effects of what the Lord does?"
Here's a hint ~
Once again, we are talking about: what pleases the Lord? what kind of sacrifice pleases the Lord?
And just for good measure, because we cannot repeat this too much, how are we made to be a sacrifice which is pleasing to the Lord? (Ephesians 1:3-8; Hebrews 9:13-14)
Blessings as you continue in your studies this week, ladies!
Groups: Women of Grace
Submitted by Leah Page on Thu, 10/29/2009 - 9:38am
The two birds
(J. R. Miller, "Finding God's Comfort" 1896)
....To correct, is to set right--that which has been wrong. Surely if a man is going in the wrong way, and God turns his feet back and sets him in the right way--a blessing has come to the man!
Afflictions are 'God's corrections'. They come always with a purpose of love in them. God never afflicts one of His children, without meaning His child's good in some way. So blessing is always intended by God. It is usually afterward that people begin to see and to understand the good that God sent them in their trial. "You do not understand what I am now doing" said Jesus, "but you shall understand hereafter." "No chastening seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." So when we have troubles and afflictions, we may know that God wants to do us good in some way through them.
He is not a true parent, who sees his children doing wrong, and yet fails to correct them for fear he may hurt their feelings. He ought to think of their higher good, and chasten them now--to profit them afterward.
This is the way our heavenly Father works. He never loves us better--than when He is correcting us. Therefore we ought not to despise this chastening. We ought not to murmur or complain when God does not give us our own way--but checks us, lays His afflictive hand upon us, and sends trouble upon us! We ought to have such faith in God--that we shall submit quietly, confidently, and sweetly to his will--even when it brings a heavy cross into our life.
A great many people need to pause at this line--and learn it. They do not treat God's chastening with reverence. Sometimes they are crushed by it, and refuse to look up into God's face with submission and love. Sometimes they grow bitter against God and say hard things of Him! We ought to reverence God's chastening; we ought to listen to the voice that speaks to us in our grief or pain.
The way in which God brings blessing through chastening, is emphasized: "For He wounds--but He also binds up; He strikes--but His hands also heal." Job 5:18. God never smites with both hands at once! When one hand is laid upon us in affliction--the other hand is reached out to help, to uphold, to heal.
Sometimes there is a trouble in a man's body which requires the surgeon's knife. There must be amputation, or cutting away, or cutting into. In such a case the skillful surgeon does not hesitate. He thinks far more of his patient's health for the future--than of his comfort at present. So he uses his knife--that he may cure disease, or save life. He wounds--to heal. He makes sore--that he may bind up. It is just so in all afflictions which God sends. He chastens--that He may deliver from the power of temptation. He hurts the body--that he may save the soul. He takes away earthly property--that He may give true, heavenly riches.
One writer tells of two birds and how they acted when caught and put into a cage. One, a 'starling', flew violently against the wire walls of its prison, in unavailing efforts to escape--only battering and bruising its own wings. The other bird, a 'canary', perched itself on the bar and began to pour forth bursts of sweet song, from its little throat. We know which bird was the wiser and happier.
Some people are like the starling--when they are in any trouble, they chafe and fret and complain and give way to wretchedness! The result is, they only hurt themselves, make themselves more miserable, and do not in any sense lessen their trouble. It is wiser always, as well as more pleasing to God, for us to bear our trials patiently, singing songs of faith and love--rather than crying out in rebellion and discontent.
Job wanted to get near to God in his great trouble; he cried, "Oh that I knew where I might find Him!" He felt sure that that would be the best and safest place for him to be. We ought not to lose this lesson. When trouble is upon us--the true thing for us to do, is to flee to God! Some people, in their affliction and sorrow--flee away from God. Thus they lose their joy and peace, missing the comfort which they would get if only they kept near to Him. The right way to respond, is to try to find the way to God's very presence. He is the only safe refuge, when the storms of trouble break upon us. The first thing always, in any time of trouble--is to find God and hide away in His bosom, as a child runs to the mother in alarm, or as the little bird flies to its nest. To find God--is to be safe!
God is our truest and best friend! He is our Father--we need never fear to go to Him. He gives heed unto our cries. He loves us. All His omnipotence is on our side. No mother's heart was ever so full of love for her child--as is the heart of God for us, His children!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I received this as yesterday's "Grace Gem" from the website www.gracegems.org, and it was so timely to our study! I pray the Lord would make me (and us) able to "turn back to praise" whatever we receive from his hand, recognizing even afflictions as his GOOD GIFTS, as the fire that ignites a fragrant offering to our God.
Groups: Women of Grace
26 October, 2009
Submitted by Leah Page on Mon, 10/26/2009 - 10:52am
The below "Big Ideas/Personal Application Worksheet" was printed out on paper for our ladies this past Wednesday - just an "at a glance" view of the major passages we've studied and discussed the past several weeks, with room to journal or take notes during our discussion time. The intent was to provide an open discussion in class, to offer room for the ladies to share their personal insights, experiences, convictions, as the Lord has been applying these truths to their hearts and lives as we've worked through the book. (to "pull back on the throtle" a little bit and catch our breaths to make sure we are seeking practically apply what we've been learning)
The "Big Idea" that was our take-away thought for this past week (brought in at the end of the below form) ties in with the theme of the lesson - which had primarily to do with the "unfaithfulness" of God's people, both in terms of marrying "the daughters of foreign gods" and also the practical outworking of that which meant divorcing their spouses and literally intermarrying with these other nations, breaking covenant with God AND with each other.
So our discussion of application of these themes led nicely into talking about what Pastor Krogh (and others) has (have) described as "holding all things with an open hand." What "daughters of foreign gods" have WE "married" (so to speak) in our own lives -
What entices us?
What are we unwilling to give up?
What do we feel the Lord is "withholding" from us?
What steals away our love and devotion to the Lord?
What things might be holding with a tight fist, refusing to give God rulership and sovereignty?
In effect, these things are idols of our hearts, and rob us of our faithfulness to God.
Our discussion recalled a GCC womens' retreat a few years ago where Bette Jo Nienhuis had taught on the very topic of "idols of the heart," and very practically speaking she had shown us how there is a visible progression that occurs:
Hopes --> Expectations --> Demands ("I have a right to...." and "you OWE me this ....")
We were challenged again this past Wed. night to examine ourselves, to see if there are any "good things" that have become "god things" in our own hearts -
What are we NOT holding with an open hand?
What "hopes" as regards the sometimes very good things God gives and/or promises have we allowed to morph into expectations and demands, so that they RULE our hearts, and steal away our first love for God?
“Before His Throne” – 10 week study
Week 6, Lesson 5: Spiritual Faith-less-ness
BIG IDEAS Outline ~ Personal Application Worksheet
I. Our Identity if we are “In Christ”
1 Pet. 2
II. “the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom....”
III. God’s first words: “I have loved you”
Malachi 1:1-5 ~ Jacob I have loved, Esau (Edom) I have hated....
Rom. 9 ~ What is “covenantal” love?
(Eph. 1, Rom. 8:29)
end of Rom. 8, end of Eph. 3
Heb. 12 ~ The Lord’s “severe mercies”
IV. Honoring God as Father, Revering God as Master
“Identity in Christ” ~ “X marks the spot” ~ [2 Cor. 10:3-5]
V. What Pleases the Lord (“Right Sacrifice”):
Col. 3 ~ “put off, put on”
Eph. 4 ~ “put off, put on”
1) __Perfection / Unblemished / Firstfruits / BEST _______
2) __Blood offering / Jesus’ blood / Substitutiary Atonement _______
3) __Broken and contrite Spirit / Broken heart / Repentance _______
4) __Living sacrifice / offer your bodies (whole self) / holy _______
5) __Sacrifice of praise / worship _______
6) __Spiritual sacrifices / put off the old / put on the new _______
VI. God’s Great Name:
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain....”
1 Cor. 10:31, Col. 3:22-25, 1 Tim. 6:1
1 Pet. 2:4-5, 9-10 ~ living stones, built up together, made to be a declaration (!) of the excellence of HIS worth
VII. Starting Strong, Finishing Well
Gen. 6 ~ Noah’s “ark” / a type of “Christ”
Heb. 11 ~ looking forward to a heavenly city whose designer and builder is God
[Heb. 8-10 ~ Jesus ushers in a better covenant (“identity” / “right sacrifices”)]
Heb. 12 ~ run the race, endure to the end, fix your eyes on Jesus ~ Matt 10:22
VIII. You have forgotten your First Love ~ Adultery / Idolatry
Deut 7:1-6, 1 Kings 11:1-8 ~ the sin of Solomon; sin’s consequences
[Ezekiel 16, book of Hosea]
1 John 5:21
Groups: Women of Grace
Submitted by Leah Page on dateTue, Oct 20, 2009 at 8:05 PM
subject"Before His Throne" - Practically speaking....
Good Tuesday evening, Ladies!
I have been very aware of just how much "deep" material we have covered of late, and since this week's lesson has as its very practical theme that of "no compromise" and "faithfulness," I wonder if it would be helpful to us to approach at least the first part of class tomorrow night sharing with one another how the Lord has opened our eyes and hearts in practical ways these past few weeks. Where has the rubber been meeting the road these past few weeks?
For example, How has he revealed his love and affection for you? How has he perhaps shown you a "severe mercy" and discipline, or shown you the "peaceable fruit of righteousness" of such a time? How has he helped you to see the practical outworking of what it means to "fear the Lord aright" in the daily roles and responsibilities he's given you? etc.
I for one tend to grasp deeper "concepts" much more readily than I learn to practice them in my daily life, and would really value your input. Would you be willing to come prepared to share tomorrow night, and encourage your sisters with how the Lord has challenged, encouraged, and even changed you in some way through the Scriptures we've studied?
Looking forward to our time together,
Groups: Women of Grace
16 October, 2009
Submitted by Leah Page on Fri, 10/16/2009 - 6:39pm
(p1. allow approx 20-25 min.)
Take a moment to greet one another, introduce yourselves. [allow maybe 2-3 minutes at most to ensure we don’t run out of time for the lesson.]
Refer to p. 64 in your books, and read Genesis 6:5-10 and Hebrews 11:7 together.
What are some of the words/phrases you listed to describe Noah, according to these passages? [answers may include: found favor with God, was righteous, was blameless in his generation, walked with God, believed God (by faith), feared God (in reverent fear), obeyed God (constructed the ark), “condemned the world,” became an heir of righteousness]
Have you ever noticed that the most common way we present this story to our kids in children’s books is by teaching them (wrongly!) that Noah was a righteous man, in fact the ONLY righteous man on the earth, and that’s why God chose to preserve him through the flood. But according to the Scripture, what comes first in Genesis ch. 6, God’s favor (same as the NT word we translate as “grace”) or Noah’s “blamelessness”? [see v.8-9]
You could also ask it this way: What came first, Noah’s faith? Or Noah’s obedience?
Read Hebrews 11:1-7 together.
Noah “found favor” with God – Noah was “graced” by God – “chosen” by God. God set his “peculiar affection” on Noah and his family – and he acted on this love by preserving Noah both in his faith and his obedience. Noah and his family were safely delivered from the flood which destroyed the world because God faithfully kept them. Did you know that the “ark” which Noah built is a “type of Christ”? We have talked about what it means to be “in Christ” – as Noah was “in” the ark! Do you remember who shut the door to guarantee Noah’s “preservation”? [see 7:16]
Turn to p. 66 in your books
Studying Malachi 2:1-9, you observed how the first Levitical priests “started well” by walking faithfully in “covenant” with God. You entered information in the chart on this page concerning their attitudes and actions and the results thereof. Take a few moments to share what you observed from Malachi ch. 2.
Did you notice there is kind of an “if/then” pattern as you progress through the chart? Do you see any correlation between these patterns and the promises in Psalm 34:4-10 (see p. 73 in your books)? Do you see any application of this in your own life?
Keeping these things in mind, turn to 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10 and p. 70 in your books.
What words and phrases are listed in these verses to describe our position if we are “in Christ” (remember Ephesians ch. 1 from our first week)?
As we wrap up the 1st half and take a short break, let’s think about this: What is our identity? On what do we base our confidence that we are “In Christ”? (As with Noah, what came first? God’s grace? Or our “righteousness”?)
Now...how do we KEEP our “identity”?
**5 MIN. BREAK**
(p. 2 allow approx 30 min.)
In the first section, you wrapped up by looking at what we are if we are “in Christ.” And we confess, our faith is, in effect, a “strong start”! Considering that CHRIST is our firm foundation, our “Ark of Preservation,” let’s look, now, at what it means to finish well.
Read Philippians 1:6, and turn to p. 74-75 in your books.
Take a minute to skim Matthew 10:17-33, with special attention on verse 22 and refresh your memories as to the context.
Keep a finger in Matthew ch. 10 and read Hebrews 11:13-16, and 11:32 - 12:2 together.
How do you think this might tie in with what you observed in Matthew 10? (feel free to “brainstorm”, using Scripture as your evidence)
Now, take several minutes to carefully read through the following verses (we will stay in Hebrews for now for the sake of continuity):
and Hebrews 4:11-16
and Hebrews 8:8-12
and Hebrews 10:19-25
and Hebrews 10:35-11:2
and Hebrews 12:18-29.
Based on what you have read in the above Scriptures, what does it mean to “endure to the end”? Can we have “confidence” and “assurance” as to our salvation? Why? (or why not?) (Support your answers with Scripture.)
And based on what you have read in the above Scriptures, do you have a stronger picture of what it means to “fear the Lord aright”? (You might want to look back at your notes on p. 74 and 75.)
Finally, sisters! Let us “finish” back where we “started.”
Turn to p. 65 in your books.
Take a few minutes, as time allows, to share some of the “roles and responsibilities” the Lord has given you in your life. Did he show you any specific areas in your life, this past week, he wants you to surrender to him? (Share only as you are comfortable. It can be a significant encouragement to “struggle” through some of these things together!)
· For the Lord’s preservation (keeping) and your perseverance (endurance).
· For any specific things that you would ask of God for the “roles and responsibilities” he has given YOU, that you might be able to “walk in dependence on God’s grace.”
Groups: Women of Grace
14 October, 2009
Submitted by Leah Page on Mon, 10/12/2009 - 3:05pm
In weeks 3 and 4, we spent a good deal of time in the historical context of the book of Malachi, setting the timeline as to where this “rebuke,” from God the Father towards his people, falls in terms of redemptive history.
(If you haven’t already, take a look at Nehemiah ch. 12 and 13 in light of our discussion about the state of the people's hearts as the OT comes to a close.)
What kind of sacrifice is pleasing and acceptable to God?
1) The Beloved Son whose body was broken on our behalf and
2) a broken and a contrite spirit and
3) a living and holy sacrifice.
We have also settled (somewhat “accidentally”) full-on to this theme of what it means to “abide” in Christ and for God to “abide” with his people (both in an OT sense and in a NT sense). This will take on greater significance as we procede through this study.
Approaching the halfway point of our study, it seems appropriate that this week we begin to look at “beginning strong, but failing to finish well,” and we will look into what it means to “find favor” with the Lord.
(Take a look, in light of all we've learned so far these past few weeks, at Hebrews ch. 8-10 ~ You might particularly appreciate just reading these chapters straight through.)
Groups: Women of Grace
Submitted by Leah Page on Fri, 10/09/2009 - 7:36pm
WEEK FOUR OF TEN
Before His Throne: Lesson 3 ~ Beholding & Honoring God as Father and Master
1st half – The first indictment God raises against his people in Malachi is that they have not honored him as Father or feared/respected him as Master. We talked through the line-graph in the book, seemingly pitting our relationship with God as “child” (Romans 8) against that of “slave” (Romans 6) when in fact BOTH are true of us. How quickly we swing from one extreme to the other. [We visited 2 Cor. 10:3-5 by way of talking about how when we are merely looking at ourselves, as if to assess how we “feel” about God at any given moment, we are at best limited in our scope, and at worst, subject to lies and our own self-deceit. Rather, we need to “turn our eyes upon Jesus,” and take every thought/feeling captive and make it obedient to Christ.] We need to trust God’s self-revelation which is, in short, that God’s “mastery” demands our holiness, AND God’s “fatherliness” gives us that holiness by giving us his own Son, Jesus, who became our substitute – both as the “perfection” God required and as, then, that perfect “blood sacrifice.”
So we continued the discussion by talking through some of the Levitical requirements for the quality of the sacrifice. We listed the various qualities we found in Scripture: the sacrifice was to be pure, unblemished, not blind, not lame, not diseased, not mutilated, and even the specifics of the sacrifices’ anatomies were attended to (ie: not “unfruitful!”) in God’s requirements. He had given his people everything they needed to know, and repeated himself again and again as if to say, “Ok, let’s be clear! THIS is what I mean by this, and THAT is what I mean by that....” But the people repeat their pattern of rebellion and refuse to worship as God has instructed them. By this time, the people have endured multiple exiles, have returned to the city of God – Jerusalem – and have rebuilt the walls of the city (cf Ezra and Nehemiah), but we find the people still fail to honor God as Father and Master. [note: In Ps. 51 we saw that ultimately, God desires the sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart and spirit. Notice, even David, at the end of this Psalm expresses longing for a “rebuilt Jerusalem” because then (finally?!) right sacrifices will be offered.] It was as if the external conditions were about as perfect as they could get, and they still could not “be holy” as God required. And this is how the OT ends, as if the people of God are crying out “Who will save us from this body of sin and death?”
2nd half – We talked about how JESUS is the unblemished sacrifice, the only one that can satisfy God on our behalf. [Sidenote: The Gospel call is NOT “you need to accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior;” the Gospel call is to REPENT! God needs to accept Jesus on our behalf!] We talked through what it means, then, if JESUS is the means by which we can know God in that perfect balance as both “child” and “slave” ~ (our “standing” is SURE if we are “in Christ”!) ~ what does God require of us NOW? [“Being precedes function.”] We reviewed Romans 12:1-2, and talked about what it means to be a living sacrifice. This included reviewing our exercise in Colossians ch. 3 ~ putting off the old and putting on the new. We revisited talking about what it means to “take the name of the Lord in vain.” More than mere “apathy” – “taking” is intentional. We are quick to say “Oh, I didn’t mean that,” or “That doesn’t mean anything,” as though these are sufficient excuses for our cavalier attitudes; but in fact, we have just confessed we’ve broken God’s commandment! What, after all, does “vain” mean, but that the thing is meaningless, empty, etc. Instead, what would it look like if we were intentional about living in such a way that ALL we do is “in Jesus’ name.”
If we are in Christ, our standing with God is sure – he is both our Master AND our Father – and he lovingly disciplines us and molds us into the likeness of his Son for our good and for our joy. Jesus is the perfect, all-satisfying sacrifice, and in him we have the fullness of life. So now we are to let the peace of Christ rule our hearts, and the word of Christ dwell (abide!) in us richly. Because we ARE (being) children of God in Christ, we DO (function) live wholly surrendered to him out of love. And so, if we do everything we do “in Jesus’ name,” even the most mundane task can be transformed into an act of worship.
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face!
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace!”
Groups: Women of Grace
Submitted by Leah Page on Wed, 10/07/2009 - 9:19pm
Octavius Winslow, (neo)puritan writer, in chapter "The God of Comfort" from his book, "Our God" -
The religion of Jesus possesses in the experience of its disciples this remarkable characteristic; there is more true holiness in the heart's thirst for sanctification, and more solid happiness in a passing thought of God, and more real life in one believing look at the Savior, and more perfect repose in one single promise of God's Word, and more of the reality of heaven in a glance within the veil, than this world could ever give, or its religion inspire. Empty, were it possible, the whole world into the soul, and still the worldling's inquiry would be, "Who will show me any good?" .... But let one devout, holy, loving thought of God in Christ enter that soul, and its satisfaction is full, its happiness complete.
Incidentally, I misspoke in class, Octavius Winslow is actually a neo-puritan in that he was writing in the 1800's, rather than the 1600's as I'd originally stated. I still love and recommend him to you. :)
Here is an online link to the whole above-referenced book:
Groups: Women of Grace
05 October, 2009
Before His Throne: Lesson 2 ~ God's "Peculiar" Affection for His People
1st third - reviewed first two weeks' materials, themes of 1) the blessings we have because we are IN CHRIST (Eph. 1:1-14), and 2) what it means to fear the Lord aright (Isaiah 40, Ps. 33, Romans 1). Intro: Read an article from a medical website I had received that same day concerning "phobias" and "anxiety" - and posed the question how that differs (or does not differ) from what we mean by "the fear of the Lord." When people are "afraid" they tend to run FROM what they fear. But running FROM God in fact exposes our pride - as if we could outrun or escape from God?
We laid out the "big events" timeline from Creation up to Malachi (and Nehemiah ch 13) where the OT ends. Emphasis on repeat pattern all throughout - especially from Judges through the time of the Kings and the Prophets, when the people were brought INTO the land of promise, the land where they were to "devote to destruction" all that was unholy, so that this place, this Jerusalem, this city on a hill, would be a place where God could dwell ("abide") with his people - where they would worship him as he deserves to be worshipped and his glory would be their joy! But instead they time after time after time turned away, doing what was right in their own eyes. We saw that despite the continuous unfaithfulness and profanity of God's people, he continued to promise them restoration and a NEW covenant wherein he would give them new hearts! so they could know him more intimately, and be righteous. We had read through Malachi ch. 1-4 during our lesson time in the week, so we could see that the book takes on the pattern of a rebuke, but even in this is God's PROMISE of rebuilding and restoring and renewing. We noted that God's very first words in this rebuke are, nevertheless, "I have loved you."
2nd third - broke into small groups, examining especially Hebrews 12:7-11 concerning how God's LOVE for his people translates into his discipline of them - for he is treating them as true sons (and not illegitimate sons) and the FRUIT of this discipline, for those who have been trained by it, is the peaceable fruit of righteousness. This small group time allowed for women to have more face-to-face time. Our class is approaching 30 women, so breaking down into groups of 4 or 5 women seemed to be positively received by the ladies as it enabled names to be put with faces, and a more intimate setting for sharing. We talked about God's "severe mercies" in our lives and how what may seem unpleasant at the time is in fact the Lord's kindness. Due to time limitations, we didn't get to explore the 2nd part very deeply - I suggested the ladies may like to take the assignment home and add that to their quiet time. Namely: to review p. 35 and 37 in their books which contained a couple of assignments through other lists of verses earlier in the week, and to read Romans 8:28-39, (and Ephesians 3:14-21) and then come up with a single sentence that summarizes God's love, based on what they learn from these verses.
3rd third - we again came back together as a larger group, revisited the timeline, and talked about the "R's of Redemption" - pointing out the various places on the timeline where the terms seemed best to fit, including: Revelation - Rebellion - Regeneration - Repentance - Redemption - Restoration - Rebuilding - Renewing - Rest - even Remnant, and so forth.
Closed with quote from John Piper's recent blog entry, which was in part our "review" at the beginning of class:
Consider two important truths in Psalm 31:19. "Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!"
1. The goodness of the Lord. There is a peculiar goodness of God. That is, there is not only God’s general goodness that he shows to all people, making his sun rise on the evil and the good (Matthew 5:45), but also a peculiar goodness for “those who fear him.” This goodness is abundant beyond measure. It is boundless. It lasts for ever. It is all-encompassing. There is only goodness for those who fear him. Everything works together for their good. Even their pains are filled with profit (Romans 5:3-5). But those who do not fear him receive a temporary goodness—a goodness that does not lead to repentance, but leads to worse destruction (Romans 2:4).
2. The fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is the fear of straying from him. Therefore it expresses itself in taking refuge in God. That’s why two conditions are mentioned in Psalm 31:19—fearing the Lord and taking refuge in him. They seem to be opposites. Fear seems to drive away and taking refuge seems to draw in. But when we see that this fear is a fear of not being drawn in, then they work together. There is a real trembling for the saints. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). But it is the trembling one feels in the arms of a Father who has just plucked his child from the undertow of the ocean.
30 September, 2009
The awful truth is that I still prefer my own life over your love!
Your love is the means by which, in Christ, I can truly be called a "son" of God! Your love is the means by which my foot does not slip, I am saved from my adversary, and I receive your patient forgiveness! Your love IS better than life! - your love IS true life!, but I do not believe it. But oh, God, I want to! It is your mercy and kindness, God, that your love is not dependent on the voracity of my love for you in return. Rather, we love you because you have first loved us! But my God, my love is at best lukewarm (do not spew me out of your mouth!)....
How can I be made to care about this enough so that I will fall on my face and confess that I have lost my first love? YOU must do it! - YOU must break my heart concerning my sin, so that I will not neglect my confession!.....
25 September, 2009
Before His Throne: Lesson 1 ~ The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom
1st half – focus on descriptives from Psalms and Proverbs regarding the one who “fears the Lord” – that this is a desirable disposition! God “discloses his covenant,” he reveals himself – both in power, as a mighty ruler, and as a gentle comforter! to those who fear him. We reviewed how the Israelites were to prepare themselves to hear from the Lord; and we saw how the power that descended on the mountain in flames so great as to obscure the sky with the smoke was mingled with God’s GRACE in protecting the people from “catching even a glimpse” of him so they would not be destroyed.
2nd half – focus on Isaiah ch. 40 and Psalm 33 from our lesson; and summarizing from Romans 1 concerning our alertness to ~not exchange the truth of God for a lie or a half truth~ but rather to trust God’s self-revelation.
Concerning the “fear of the Lord” we talked about our “perspective” or how we “perceive” God – SEEING Him as he is, and how like in Isaiah ch. 6 and Revelation ch. 1, the first response of our hearts should similarly be a “posture” of falling face-down in worship. But we can also trust God to remove the obstacle to our fellowship and intimacy with him (as with the “burning coal” to Isaiah’s lips). This prompts us to ask the question: When we examine our “posture,” what does this reveal about what we perceive or believe about God? (Have we believed a lie? Are we coming too casually into his presence? Have we taken him for granted? Are we “exchanging the truth of God for a lie” even in how we worship him?)
Lastly, borrowed illustration from John Piper concerning his recent analogy in a conference sermon to the effect of “There are no mirrors in heaven; we will BE the mirrors in heaven, reflecting back to God his own glory.” Do we desire to be holy and righteous, do we long for heaven just because we want to look at ourselves and finally like what we see? Or do we desire holiness and righteousness because we LOVE God?
Before His Throne: Introduction ~ What blessings are ours in Christ? (Eph. 1)
1st half – talked about who we are, and why we each signed up for this study. Some said they joined because of the title of the book – reminiscent of a much beloved song “Before the Throne of God Above.” Some said they joined because they didn’t have the time to commit to all the behind-the-scenes research of “Precepts” but still wanted to participate in a study of God’s word. One woman said that as she is getting older and considering the blessing of perhaps soon seeing her Lord face to face, she wanted to explore more this notion of how to be prepared to come before him in Glory. Still others said they came because of the fellowship they anticipated with others they knew would be in the class.
2nd half – looked through Ephesians chapter 1, first 14 verses, and pulled out the repetition of the phrase “in Him” or “in Christ” or “in the Beloved (Son)” and made a list of all the blessings that are ours, and all the “things” we possess as saints who are IN HIM. (My goal in this was to give a firm foundation – to remind us of the assurance of grace, of God’s forgiveness, to remind us of our identity in Christ – before we get into this study which is focused on the theme of “the fear of the Lord” as it is presented in the book of Malachi.)
Finally – we looked at verses 15 and following and identified (6) things we want to take as our prayer focus as we pray for each other over the coming weeks:
15 This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 [I pray] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would  give you a spirit of wisdom and  revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 [I pray]  that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened  so you may know what is the hope of His calling,  what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, 19 and  what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength.
(How is it true that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” AND “perfect love casts out fear”?)
13 September, 2009
[taken from sermon series in which these address the "Blessed Are" statements of Christ at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew ch. 5]
....Because "blessed" is a positional distinction - it also MUST be true that "the blessed ones" - those who are approved by God - are those who exhibit ALL the characteristics listed here - these things that we have NO ability to do apart from Grace. If we do not have one, we do not have any insofar as our own righteousness is as filthy rags to a holy God; but if we have one we have all, by Grace. ONLY "the Blessed ones" will enter the kingdom of God.
Poverty of Spirit is "prominant" in that it is the first of the "beattitudes" - the supreme lesson of this declaration - the kingdom of heaven will only be ours if we are poor in spirit.
"...It declares for all time that no one is saved who believes that there is something within them that would make God prefer them, ever, or accept them, ever! It is wholly of the grace of God!...Can we with the hymnwriter say...'Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; Naked, come to Thee for dress, helpless, look to Thee for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly, Wash me Savior or I die!'...or are we Christ-less Christians?....This morning we need to confess our sin of spiritual self-sufficiency & look to Christ who is the author & finisher of our faith. We need to declare spiritual bankruptcy, and then as Christ fills us we need to recognize the spiritual riches that are for us in the kingdom of God...." ~PK
08 September, 2009
i don't exhibit a life characterized by PEACE, or of strong confidence - such that i don't fear the snares of death. Though it exposes the reality of a "yawning maw" of DISTRUST, the fact of my anxieties and my discouragements and my various fears and dreads exposes the deeper truth of my idolatry and how little well i really know YOU.
You have said elsewhere that those who seek you find you; and yet here you say that THOUGH the scoffer or the fool seek you, you will NOT be found, because he has "refused to choose the fear of the Lord." Lord, i do not refuse! Though my "seeking" is nevertheless weak, it is not a kind of asking so i may merely spend what i get on my own pleasures! It is a seeking that WANTS to please YOU and not merely hear itself talk....
The only reason i do not fear you enough is that i am still too filled up with me. i have loved my own arrogances more than i have loved your self-disclosure. i have loved the deceit of my own tongue more than i have loved to be still, and to LISTEN to your word, to your instruction, even your reproof. It is the one who fears you who is able to praise you, to "ascribe worth" to you. So teach me to FEAR you! Teach me to BE STILL and to KNOW that you are God. Humble me; enable me to hear and not only so but to DO, that i may gain a heart of wisdom - faithful obedience.
In JESUS' name,
cf Ps 25:12-14; Ps 111:10; Prov 1:28-31; Prov 8:13-14; Prov 14:26-27; Rom 3:10-18; 1 Pet 1:17-19
14 July, 2009
Those mistakes, blemishes and faults in others
(Letters of John Newton)
"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." Romans 15:7
The Christian, especially he who is advanced and established in the life of faith, has a fervent zeal for God--for the honor of His Name, His Word and His Gospel. The honest warmth of zeal which he feels, when God's Word is broken, His Gospel is despised, and when the great and glorious Name of the Lord his God is profaned, would, by the occasion of his infirmities, often degenerate into anger or contempt towards those who error--
--if he was under the influence of zeal alone.
But his zeal is blended with benevolence and humility; it is softened by a consciousness of his own frailty and fallibility.
He is aware, that his knowledge is very limited in itself, and very faint in its transforming power in his own life; that his attainments are weak and few, compared with his deficiencies; that his gratitude is very disproportionate to his obligations; and that his obedience is unspeakably short of conformity to his prescribed rule; that he has nothing but what he has received, and has received nothing but what, in a greater or less degree, he has either misapplied or misimproved. He is, therefore, a debtor to the mercy of God--and lives upon His multiplied forgiveness.
The Christian also makes the gracious conduct of the Lord towards himself--a pattern for his own conduct towards his fellow-worms. He cannot boast of himself--nor is he anxious to censure others. He considers himself, lest he also fall. And thus he learns tenderness and compassion to others, and to bear patiently with those mistakes, blemishes and faults in others--which once belonged to his own character; and from which, as yet, he is but imperfectly freed.
...Knowing that the Gospel is the wisdom and power of God, and the only possible means by which fallen man can obtain peace with God--he most cordially embraces and avows it. Far from being ashamed of it--he esteems it his glory. He preaches Christ Jesus, and Him crucified. He disdains the thought of distorting, disguising, or softening the great doctrines of the grace of God, to render them more palatable to the depraved taste of the times (2 Corinthians 4:2). And he will no more encounter the errors and corrupt maxims and practices of the world, with any weapon but the truth as it is in Jesus--than he would venture to fight an enraged tiger with a paper sword!
~ ~ ~ ~
25 June, 2009
If it be well cured* in the blood of Christ,
with that humiliation which the gospel requires,
it often proves a means of more watchfulness,
and contentation [satisfaction, reassurance],
than ever before the soul obtained.
If it be neglected, it certainly hardens the heart,
weakens spiritual strength,
enfeebles the soul,
discouraging it unto all communion with God,
and is a notable principle of a general decay."
~John Owen, from "The Effect and Strength of Indwelling Sin"
(as printed in "Overcoming Sin and Temptation," p. 387)
*Cured: to prepare (meat, fish, etc.) for preservation by salting, drying, etc.
to restore to health. to relieve or rid of something detrimental, as an illness or a bad habit.
to promote hardening of (fresh concrete or mortar), as by keeping it damp.
to process (rubber, tobacco, etc.) as by fermentation or aging.
23 June, 2009
I desire one and cannot have it;
I do not desire the other, but could have it rather than having nothing.
I find I want to "manipulate" the one I don't want so that I don't have to wait for what I do desire....
This is an idolatry! I can "feel" it is such, because the arguments with which I am trying to persuade myself sound like "You shouldn't have to wait any longer," and "You know it would be better to have SOMEthing rather than NOthing," and "It wouldn't really be disobeying God....he could stop you if it wasn't meant to be, and maybe you'll find you're happier in the long run!"
Sick, sinister, manipulative, Indwelling Sin, my ENEMY!
I will not.
I will wait.
19 June, 2009
29 April, 2009
In that, we lose respectively our Dad, Granddad, Great-Granddad, and we each of us also lose something of our own previous innocence as we are called upon to step up into the next phase of life.
But there are other losses for which, sometimes, we cannot be prepared. Perhaps they are, nevertheless, universal experiences, but somehow the weight of them is something we must carry Alone. Like harboring some very deep and abiding Torment within our breast, and even "torment" is not strong enough a word....Some very agonizing pain as our heart has wrapped itself in love around some thing or some one, and then without warning - as if to defy that happiness or Forever that we innately expect - that some thing or some one is wrenched from our grasp, torn from our affection, and we are left standing there trying to make sense of these dripping, coagulating pieces of what once was a pulsing, life-giving organ.
In Galatians, chapter 6, the Apostle Paul states very early on in the chapter that we are to bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. This is a verse with which I have been familiar since childhood. But I find it somewhat funny, then, that I didn't notice that very few verses later he states that each one must bear his own load (v. 5). My pastor had pointed this out to me in a conversation a couple of years ago, and the thought has been rolling around in my head ever since - not as though there is some contradiction, here, but how could he be stating both things, how could both be true, and NOT be opposites as they might appear to the naked eye. My pastor had also suggested the solution to the problem in that same conversation - namely; when you come alongside someone and thrust your shoulder, for example, up under a corner of his heavy load (thinking metaphysically) to help him carry it, it is NOT as though you are taking it FROM him, but simply carrying it WITH him, as was your intent all along. Thus, some of that weight is still his, and his Alone, to shoulder....
So too, I am coming to appreciate that there are some pains in life which, in the attempts to explain them to others and in this way so rid myself of them, I simply must bear Alone. Only I can feel and endure the hurt of what I have lost. And in my reflections on this - as I am currently enduring one such loss and praying to God for some relief lest I be done in - I am reminded also of the counsel I received from my much younger brother - who is, every now and again, very wise beyond his years - just this time last year.
He had been meditating on what it means to possess and cultivate that "quiet and gentle spirit" which is precious in the sight of God (cf. 1 Peter, chapter 3). And the Lord revealed to him again the passage in the account of the birth of Christ which described how his mother, Mary, had "treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." And so, the Spirit convicted my brother, and through his testimony convicted me, that one - perhaps even the Main - way in which I could [intentionally] cultivate that very same "quiet and gentle spirit" which I have so longed for and which has always seemed (to my view) to ellude me, was to recognize those moments when some thing or some one was only mine to treasure in my heart, and ponder it there, untouched, as it were, by any other onlooker.
A way of cultivating a greater intimacy with and indeed dependence on that same Christ who is by this means the only One left with whom I can share the inner workings of my heart - for joy or for sorrow - when I discipline myself to withhold that which I would otherwise (by my particular and perhaps peculiar nature) feel "compelled" to spill to any listening ear!
So the pain isn't necessarily even lessened, but it is somehow mysteriously sweetened as it becomes a means of communion with the God who made me and who is conforming me each day more and more to the likeness of his Beloved Son in whom he is well pleased.
Still, I must bear my own load. This is only mine, and by it the Lord teaches me to wait on him, to treasure up all these things - my joys and my sorrows - and ponder them in my heart, as if a sacrifice or an offering just for Him....
10 April, 2009
That second Sunday evening, as my parents were able to be present to stand up, and commit themselves also to displaying Christ before their little granddaughter, there was a very sensible passing of the mantle - Granddad had gone on to Glory to be with the bride of his youth who had preceded him, and Dad and Mom were now the grandparents, and my sister and her husband are now the parents, I and my brother now the aunt and the uncle respectively, and my niece - along with her older brother - the new generation.
These are moments that occur in every family - and no doubt it was the space of the experiences - both Sunday evenings but a week apart - that highlighted for me this graduation of the generations, and this connectedness with the "human" experience of this life. But more than this, I was overwhelmed with a desire to worship God - the Lord of both life AND death. He has been working in me (at least for this moment) the ability to see that "our times are in his hands" and that he knows the numbers of our days before we have as yet lived even one of them.
I rejoice that my Granddad is now with Christ, because he was revealed to be one of the sons of God in Christ...and I pray with great depth of soul and longing that my nephew and my niece, now but in their first years of life, will eventually also come to be revealed as having been chosen in Christ before the foundations of the world.
And I rejoice - in our smallness, in our powerlessness, in having the "illusion" of control stripped from us for at least a moment, and I worship God, the author of salvation who has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and compassion on whom he will have compassion. Who am I that I should say back to him "why have you made me thus!" And again, who am I that he would be mindful of me? have mercy on me? redeem my life from the pit - and give me a new heart, soft and teachable rather than a heart of stone? Surely it is not because of anything that I have done, but because of his OWN purpose and grace.....
How merciful is our God.
07 April, 2009
13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me. 14 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. 15 Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: "The LORD's right hand has done mighty things! 16 The LORD's right hand is lifted high; the LORD's right hand has done mighty things!"
17 I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done. 18 The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD.
20 This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. 21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. 22 The stone the builders rejected [Christ! HE is the gate of righteousness!] has become the capstone;
23 the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
26 March, 2009
It does not escape my notice that as a general rule, our culture seems to look upon the aging with at best a kind of disdain. Commonly, the aging are featured in their weakest moments in our films and conversations, and scorned and mocked for their lapses in memory or their impatience toward the impertinence of the younger generation.
Not surprisingly, in a society that seems to worship youth, we explore without the slightest pangs of conscience, even the possibility that killing off such weak and failing human beings is perhaps the most merciful - and so we deceive ourselves that we the young are not only worthy of preeminence in this world, but are noble for finding additional ways to exalt ourselves (like the playground bully exalts his own sense of self-importance by picking on the little guy) and remove any frail (condemning? convicting? costly?) presence. And, it seems, the elderly begin to think that perhaps we are correct – they are, after all, a burden on our economy with their end of life care, and a burden on their families, with their increasing dependence, and a burden to themselves with the mounting physical sufferings they must endure as they approach the end of life.
Sacrificing Wisdom on the Altar of Self Worship
What if, for one moment, we could collectively consider the wealth of experience and life-taught discernment and wisdom that we are so quick to abort and discard?
What if, instead of our love for the sound of our own voices, we would pause from our frenzied pace, and ask the tough questions for which it may even seem there are no answers, and listen to what those with years and “hoary hair” might be able to bequeath us?
What if, taking time to “be still” rather than so consumed with our own here and now, we would consider – I mean really consider, such as the kind of which it has been described as “treasuring up all these things and pondering them in your heart” – the years that have preceded us?
*The wars that have been fought on foreign soils and the blood of our fathers and great uncles and so on and the mothers left at home to work their fingers to the bone and the children who had to grow up so fast.
*The technologies that have incrementally improved lives and the cost of obtaining them.
What if we confessed that – contrary to what we would rather believe – we really do not know everything...or always know better?
“Even what he thinks he has will be taken away....”
Holy Writ exclaims that it is better to be in a house of mourning: “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to heart.” (Ecclesiastes 7:2) It is GOOD for the living, we who remain, to consider the brevity of life, to weigh the matters of eternity and – if it were possible – to make an accounting for our souls’ sake.
I spent a small (relatively speaking) amount of time in a “house of mourning” recently as I watched my Granddad pass from this life into the next. (He didn’t pass away – he passed through, and is now near to his Lord, Jesus Christ who paid the redemption for his soul.)
The phrase “he went peacefully” would be the most likely applicable phrase in the case of my Granddad’s passing. He was 86 years old – by any present standards a “good old age,” a man “satisfied with life.” And his passing, though exacerbated by an advanced and too-late discovered cancer, was accepted by most everyone as the “normal” course of things. And I am grateful – there are plenty of more violent ways that a soul is torn from its body and hurled into the eternal presence of the Creator God. That my Granddad went “peacefully” is, by all accounts, a mercy.
But I take issue with the notion of dying, even peacefully, as the “normal course of things.” As if that means it is an acceptable reality. At least here and now, I am again angered over the course of sin in this life. By this I do not even mean a man’s OWN sin, but rather the effects of sin – the consequences of sin in humanity and in this fallen world – such that all creation veritably “groans” because of it “until the sons of God be revealed!”
It seems to me a great tragedy that we – when we are MOST weak, MOST frail, MOST vulnerable – are MOST subject to the vilest, brutal and gruesome consequences of sin.
*Cutting off the flow of blood to the ends of our limbs.
And what to do when the body in decline becomes your own prison and the instrument of your torment and torture!
You strain against your own flesh just to try to make eye contact with your loved one by your bed. You muster all the powers of your mind to try to control your lips and your dehydrated and now crusting tongue just to say, one last time to your daughter holding your unresponsive hand that you love her, and she’ll always be your little girl. And at last, the only thing that you can manage is a single tear which escapes your unblinking eyes and rolls down your cheek as your grandchildren sing to you of the sweetness of the Lord whose eye is on the sparrow, and you know he watches you, even now, as you are longing for heaven. And home.
The effects and consequences of sin on the body, bringing about death, rob him of his words of wisdom, his experiences, his expressions of love for his family which has – over the years and by the grace of God – only multiplied! When, in the life of a man, he has the MOST to offer, and he is least able to give it. And “even what he thinks he has will be taken away.”
Should this not cause us to shudder? Should this not cause us to fear – for even in the BEST of circumstances, even if we would go peacefully (!), we have but the mere delusion of control over our lives, over even our breaths.
How dare we suspect we could over-state this!
I fear how often we willfully neglect the truth of such things! I fear how often we avoid the bedside of the dying, and comfort ourselves with platitudes and common phrases of acceptance – our way, it would seem, of trying to maintain SOME illusion of control even of our dying.
Our scoffing at the aging – using an iconic toothless, wrinkled and sun dried character as the “fool” of story – is only a symptom of our greater efforts, deceiving even ourselves (!), to keep from thinking about the fact that some day we will no longer be able to hide from the strain and pull and snatching and snagging death grip of sin! After all, it comes only to take its due! Its wages, its just recompense!
There is no “peaceful” dying!
There is no “peaceful” way that the soul is stolen from its flesh, and the man – any man! – is immediately face to face with God, more brilliant than any sun or star, and infinitely more consuming!
It truly IS better to go to a house of mourning than the house of feasting – because in death we lose our self-deceptions. And though the kindness of the Lord, indeed even the mercy visited upon us in our dying, may well be visible, it is nevertheless the mercy of the Lord as concerns our living toward which we should be sober-minded and alert.
Who will pay our Redemption? How will we find hope in the face of death? How can we have any hope to withstand the all-consuming blaze of the Holy Father God – be it not even his wrath (!) but just his glory! Only ONE has ever truly paid the penalty, himself a sacrificial, “pleasing aroma” to God. If we will not have Jesus, to whom will we go; who is left? If we will not yield our lives to the Lord’s Christ, what other hope have we?
We cannot even keep breathing by our own strength and will!
...How frail we are.
16 March, 2009
**I have reflected on this very thing - the emerald rainbow around the throne of God - I have seen, similarly, a statistic to the effect that the color "Green" is the most soothing to the human eye. It would stand to reason, then, that God himself would surround himself in a light upon which it is most SOOTHING to gaze for eternity! How right, then, that we could consider such a mediating glow that of God's covenantal LOVE for his children in Christ!**
"...Love is the principal thing which the gospel reveals in God and Christ. The gospel brings to light the love between the Father and the Son, and declares how that love has been manifested in mercy; how that Christ is God's beloved Son in whom he is well pleased. And there we have the effects of God's love to his Son set before us in appointing him to the honor of a mediatorial kingdom, in appointing him to be the Lord and Judge of the world, in appointing that all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father.
There is revealed the love which Christ has to the Father, and the wonderful fruits of that love, as particularly his doing such great things, and suffering such great things in obedience to the Father, and for the honor of the Father's justice, authority and law. There it is revealed how the Father and the Son are one in love, that we might be induced in like manner to be one with them, and with one another, agreeable to Christ's prayer, John 17:21-23, "That they all may be one; as thou Father art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me."
The gospel teaches us the doctrine of the eternal electing love of God, and reveals how God loved those that are redeemed by Christ before the foundation of the world; and how he then gave them to the Son, and the Son loved them as his own. The gospel reveals the wonderful love of God the Father to poor sinful, miserable men, in giving Christ not only to love them while in the world, but to love them to the end. And all this love is spoken of as bestowed on us while we were wanderers, outcasts, worthless, guilty, and even enemies.
The gospel reveals such love as nothing else reveals. John 15:13, "Greater love hath no man than this." Rom. 5:7-8, "Scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
God and Christ in the gospel revelation appear as clothed with love, as being as it were on a throne of mercy and grace, a seat of love encompassed about with pleasant beams of love.
Love is the light and glory which are about the throne on which God sits.This seems to be intended in that vision which the apostle John, that loving and beloved disciple, had of God in Rev. 4:3. He tells us that when he had a vision of God on his throne there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
That is, God as he sat on his throne was encompassed round with a circle of exceeding sweet and pleasant light,' pleasant like the beautiful colors of the rainbow, like an emerald. An emerald is a precious stone of exceeding pleasant and beautiful color. This represents that the light and glory with which God appears surrounded in the gospel is especially the glory of his love and covenant grace. For the rainbow, you know, was given as a token of God's love and covenant grace to Noah. Therefore this spirit, even a spirit of love, is the spirit to which the gospel revelation does especially hold forth motives and incitements. And this is especially and eminently the Christian spirit, the right spirit of the gospel...."
(Jonathan Edwards, from Charity and its Fruits)