27 February, 2009

Not without His Guardianship!

Has his word of promise ever proved false?!

...Amid so much that is fleeting here, how the heart clings to this assurance of the abiding presence of the Savior! Our best earthly friends—a few weeks may estrange them—but centuries have rolled on—Christ is still the same. How blessed to think that if I am indeed a child of God, there is not the lonely instant I am without His guardianship!

When the beams of the morning visit my chamber, the brighter beams of a brighter Sun are shining upon me. When the shadows of evening are gathering around, "it is not night, if He, the unsetting 'Sun of my soul,' is near." His is no fitful companionship—present in prosperity, gone in adversity.

He never changes. He is always the same—in sickness and solitude, in joy and in sorrow, in life and in death. Not more faithfully did the pillar-cloud and column of fire of old precede Israel, until the last murmuring ripple of Jordan fell on their ears on the shores of Canaan, than does the presence and love of Jesus abide with His people.

Has His word of promise ever proved false? Let the great cloud of witnesses now in glory testify. "Not one thing has failed of all that the Lord our God has spoken." This "word of the Lord is tried!"—"having loved His own, which were in the world, He loved them unto the end."

(John MacDuff, from "The Words of Jesus" (see also previous post))

26 February, 2009

Unfoldings of His faithfulness & mercy

The Sonful Servitude

...Can you say with a joyful heart, "O Lord, truly I am Your servant?" He is no hard taskmaster. Would Satan try to teach you so? Let this be the refutation, "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." True, the yoke is the appointed discipline He employs in training his children for immortality. But be comforted! "It is His tender hand that puts it on, and keeps it on." He will suit the yoke to the neck, and the neck to the yoke. He will suit His grace to your trials. No, He will bring you even to be in love with these, when they bring along with them such gracious unfoldings of His own faithfulness and mercy.

How His people need thus to be in heaviness through manifold temptations, to keep them meek and submissive! ... Never is there more gracious love than when God takes own means to curb and subjugate, humble us, and to prove us—bringing us out from ourselves, our likings, our confidences, our prosperity, and putting us under the needed YOKE.

And who has ever repented of that joyful servitude? Among all the regrets that mingle with a dying hour, and often bedew with bitter tears a dying pillow, who ever told of regrets and repentance here?

...There is a promised rest in the very carrying of the yoke; and a better rest remains for the weary and toil-worn when the appointed work is finished; for thus says "that same Jesus,"

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, and you shall find REST unto your souls."

(John MacDuff, from "The Words of Jesus")

25 February, 2009

Reflections of Joy - D. Willeman

One liners from the Grace Community Church ladies' retreat this past weekend, Speaker: pastor's wife and co-church planter, Dori Willeman

* [re her husband] Our greatest common factor is that we love Jesus....We live to know Him and make Him known....

*The younger we are, the more we think we know.

*...The Lord has used those circumstances to shake, and shape, my faith in Christ.

*Sometimes it's the silent answer that speaks the loudest to you.

*...It was just an uncovering process....and God met me.

*There were no bells and whistles. We were just trying to meet people and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

*The one thing we had to cling to was the Gospel.

*Trusting the Lord is not an easy thing. Sometimes it's a wearisome thing.

*...It became obvious there was no stopping it. This woman's life was being changed by Christ and I had a front row seat.

*..."You know what I see? When you sing, you forget to not believe." [re a story of an athiest friend of hers who had joined a local Gospel choir.]

*...God is just catapulting her towards faith in Christ! And it is a beautiful thing!

*..."Why me? Why me? Why of all the people in the world, why why why would God want to be merciful to me?"

*...We want our faith to be authentic; we want our hope to be genuine and true; we want our love to be genuine and true.

*...The reality of Joy is that it is not trivial, it is not merely surface or temporary. Rather, it is a deep satisfaction in God; our participating in God's delight in himself. [with a nod to John Piper's teaching on this topic]

*...The God who called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a fountain of joy, full as a spring is full. We were created by God - not because of some lack in him, as if he needed us to be happy, but because he wanted to give...of himself. ["...for Thy pleasure, they are created...." and re "...the kind intention of his will...."]

*...God magnifies his glory by creating and redeeming creatures who would reflect back to him his Joy. [here, she quoted Piper re "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied him him."]

*It is precisely our NEED which qualifies us for the Joy of Jesus....SIN is the means by which we approach Jesus! Until we experience our desperation and absolute [spiritual] bankruptcy before God, we won't come to him!

*Guilt makes us hide. We don't want to get close to the one to whom we are guilty.

*My primary concern cannot be to get gifts from God; my primary concern is to get the Giver!

*As he exposes us to ourselves, LET that feel good....It is a gift for him to expose [the sinfulness] our hearts. It is his kindness that leads us to repentance....It is a beautiful thing as he opens our eyes and we can experience the Joy of knowing HIM!

*Repentance is owning the responsibility for our sin and turning to Christ for forgiveness. Repentance makes us broken, and broken people are beautiful, and make for beautiful relationships.

*Our big problem with Joyful community is "rivalry" and "empty conceit." Where we tend to struggle? Self-sufficiency, self-reliance, self-importance. In a word - Pride. "I can only really trust me."

*We live by the motto: "Never let 'em see you sweat." We'd rather give than receive and have difficulty being receivers. But we need to do both - our receiving is giving others the blessing of giving.

*Conceit takes a defensive posture. We believe the lie that "I must be my own savior!" And we put others down to make ourselves feel better.

*Our perspective towards others is perpetually and incurably cloudy. [cf. Matthew ch. 7 re log vs. speck] We lobby for our own cause; we think we are worthy or able, self-sufficient. And we are thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought.

*Jesus' pattern of action is in exact contrast to ours. He, who had every right to be "puffed up," emptied himself, humbled himself.

*Our ego is empty, yet we seek to put ourselves equal with God. Christ's "ego" is full of God, but yet he emptied himself. Consider the beautiful portrait of Christ!

*When God exposes our conceit to us, we tend toward one of two reactions: One, we are crushed by it - and we need to repent. Or Two, we get angry! At ourselves for not being as good as we think we ought to be, or angry at God for making us this way. This is pride! STOP it!

*The Gospel is the only power that can break this self-addiction, our dependence on our idols.

*Here's how God graciously rescued me from the destructive kingdom of my self: He gave himself up for me and for my sin, even when I hated him! I am radically dependent on God....This produces in me a radical humility - a humility that I am unable to create on my own. On my own, I've earned nothing but death and condemnation.

*God is in total control and loves me absolutely. What do I possibly have to fear? Everything and everyone that comes my way is designed by God for my ultimate good and enjoyment in God.

*What right do I have to my own life? It is all a gift.

*To the degree that we trust in ourselves, we will feel displeasure at the world's criticism or persecution. [context was the command to be Joyful even in times of persecution. Text was 1 Peter, ch. 1]

*Some may say "But I don't experience joy when I am persecuted," and they conclude that the test has failed. No, the test is working just fine, you just don't like what it is showing you....You need to repent! Your trust and your treasure is not CHRIST!

*Self-justification robs us of our Joy. Our Joy is anchored in who God is, and what he's done for us.

17 February, 2009

"This thorn in my side is from the tree I've planted!"

and these lyrics.... (see also previous post)

BLEEDING ME (Metallica)
I’m diggin’ my way/I’m diggin’ my way to somethin’/I’m diggin’ my way to somethin’ better//I’m pushin’ to stay/I’m pushin’ to stay with something/I’m pushin’ to stay with something better//I’m sowing the seeds/I’m sowing the seeds I’ve taken/I’m sowing the seeds I take for granted/

/This thorn in my side/This thorn in my side is from the tree/This thorn in my side is from the tree I’ve planted//It tears me and I bleed/And I bleed/

/Caught under wheels roll/I take the leech/I’m bleeding me/Can’t stop to save my soul//I take the leash that’s leading me/I’m bleeding me/I can’t take it/Caught under wheels roll/Oh, the bleeding of me/Of me/The bleeding of me//Caught under wheels rollI take the leech/I’m bleeding me/Can’t stop to save my soul/I take the leash that’s leading me/I’m bleeding me/I can’t take it/Caught under wheels roll/Oh, the bleeding of me/Oh, the bleeding of me//I am the beast that bleeds the feast/I am the blood/I am release/Come make me pure/Bleed me a cure/I’m caught, I’m caught, I’m caught under//Caught under wheels roll/I take that leech/I’m bleeding me/Can’t stop to save my soul/I take the leash that’s leading me/I’m bleeding me/I can’t take it/I can’t take it/I can’t take it/Oh, the bleeding of me/I’m diggin’ my way/I’m diggin’ my way to somethin’ I’m diggin’ my way to something better//I’m pushin’ to stay/I’m pushin’ to stay with somethin’/I’m pushin’ to stay with something better/With something better....

"Tear me open, pour me out"

I find these lyrics particularly compelling:

Where do I take this pain of mine/I run but it stays right by my side//So tear me open, pour me out/These things inside they scream and shout/And the pain still hates me/So hold me until it sleeps//Just like a curse, just like a stray/You feed it once and now it stays/Now it stays/So tear me open, but beware/There’s things inside without a care

And the dirt still stains me/So wash me until I’m clean//It grips you, so hold me/It stains you, so hold me/It hates you, so hold me/It holds, you so hold me/Until it sleeps...

/So tell me why you’ve chosen me/Don’t want your grip/Don’t want your greed/Don’t want itI’ll tear me open, make you gone/No more can you hurt anyone/And the fear still shakes me/So hold me until it sleeps//I don’t want it.....no//It grips you so hold me/It stains you so hold me/It hates you so hold me/It holds you, holds you, holds you/Until it sleeps...So tear me open, but beware/The pain’s inside without a care/And the dirt still stains me/So wash me til I’m clean/I’ll tear me open, make you gone/No longer will you hurt anyone/And the hate still shakes me/So hold me until it sleeps/Until it sleeps/Until it sleeps/Until it sleeps/

12 February, 2009

Driscoll on Resisting Idols - from 1st Corinthians sermon series

"Some of you are frustrated with God because you believe that God is bad....Assume that God IS good, God DOES love you, and God isn't giving you your idol because it's not good for you. You'd be doing Romans one; you'd be worshipping created things rather than Creator God. And it may not be that God isn't willing to give you a spouse or kids or a house or a job or whatever it is because none of those things are in and of themselves bad. God MAY be withholding them because your heart is evil, and you're looking for a little god and he's not going to give away the golden calf. He's not going to make that for you."

Pastor Mark Driscoll, June 18, 2006


Sleeper, Arise! and call out to your God!

"...'What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish....'" (Jonah 1:6)

**I have been profoundly affected by this verse in recent days - the cry of the captain of the ship to Jonah who was asleep in the midst of the storm was a cry of desperation - I almost envision the captain violently shaking, and maybe even slapping Jonah around with one hand while he's grabbed his garment about the throat to pull him out of his slumber with the other....

The mariners had done all they knew to do - and had cried out to their own gods to no avail. They know nothing of Jonah's "god" - only that this man hasn't done his part to try to save the ship.

What is perhaps most profoundly convicting to me is even when these men cry out for salvation from certain death, and Jonah knows precisely what is needful - because while these men may not know so, Jonah CERTAINLY knows so even by his own confession a few verses later that HIS "god" is THE God, and the Maker of the earth AND the sea, this very sea upon which they are tossed and which threatens to claim all of their lives, and yet he still refuses to call upon the Lord! It would seem he would rather drown and take all these men and their ship with him because he would rather run from God's calling on his life to proclaim the Gospel call for repentance.

That is - Jonah himself is refusing to repent.

There is just so much desperation and agony in this, as I meditate on it. As I have occasion to look around me and see so many of my own ship-mates tossed on this sea, desperate for salvation from the storm which threatens to undo them, and they have no concept of what it means to call on the Lord, or even how to do it.

Oh Jonah, where is your compassion! to say nothing of your obedience!

It compells me to my knees, and I pray to God that I would not miss the cry - that a pagan and unbelieving generation would not exhibit more faith than I - that perhaps God would give a thought to them and they would not perish!

My God, let me not be guilty of refusing, myself, to repent, and do not let me run from your call on my life - but rather let me proclaim boldly the Gospel call to turn back to God and receive mercy and forgiveness rather than His just condemnation!

My God, let me love what you love and hate what you hate - let me hate sin, but desperately love those who are as yet imprisoned by it so that I long for their freedom and love your glory.**

11 February, 2009

Oppression of the Enemy? or Conviction of a loving Father?

I have been very weighed down of late - with a variety of considerations. If you know me, you may think this is nothing out of the ordinary. But I am currently trying to ascertain the difference - if there is one - between the "oppression" of a spiritual/demonic enemy and the genuine, life-giving "conviction" of the Lord by his Spirit.

Experientially, historically, I have found it very difficult to differentiate between the two and so may have been tempted to suggest they were one and the same - citing as my defense the passages of Scripture which make it clear, for example, that "even the darkness is as light to him" and Job's exclamation that "should we receive GOOD from the Lord and not also calamity?" That is to say, I HAVE known the enemy's oppression to be the MEANS by which the Lord has brought about his conviction in my life.

But of late, I am coming to realize that this stops too far short of the reality of what is going on. There is, in both cases, a very definite spiritual "weight" - a "pressure" perhaps. But just as there is a GODLY sorrow which leads to repentance and therefore life, and there is a WORLDLY sorrow which brings about death, so also I think there is a GODLY pressure and a WORDLY pressure (stress?)....

So I am meditating on this distinction - because this also ties in, I believe, to how one who is a follower of Christ DOES in fact KNOW the voice of his Shepherd, and how one who is IN Christ - though his "feelings" lie to him - is NOT under "condemnation."

I am suggesting that though all the outward signs may appear identical - weariness, perhaps anger, depression, exhaustion, weeping - there IS a way to discern, internally, the difference between whether this is caused by the chatter and condemnation of a spiritual enemy subject to the Lord's REBUKE (which would by God's grace and in due time lead to the saint's deliverance), or whether this is caused by the guiding, gentle, kind, perhaps stern, but always edifying and establishing voice of the Shepherd (which would by God's grace and in due time bring about the Lord's revelation, and the saint's continuing sanctification and even fruitful ministry).


**Lord - let me not be guilty, myself, of trying to minister "relief" to my spirit if the "pressure" is in fact the work of YOUR spirit to drive me to my knees in prayer, and to enable me to effectually receive your word. Many who would see me struggling would desire to minister compassion to me, because outwardly the symptoms are that of a suffering. And indeed, inwardly the weariness can seem to be quickly approaching "unbearable," though I know that you will NEVER give me more than I am able, by the strength and grace of your Spirit, to bear. But I would be more apt to minister relief to myself "too soon" - to seek for comfort before I have let the trial "have its full effect" and bring about IN me the peaceable fruit of righteousness and perseverance. Instead, Lord, teach me to seek your revelation - mindful of the fact that you yourself minister TO me during the season when your hand is upon me. Though you may be holding me or pushing me down, it is a loving instruction and discipline. And if I perceive that it is anything BUT this, let me run to you quickly that you might deliver me from any other accuser. So, Lord, whether it is a "pressure" because your hand is upon me, or whether it is an "oppression" because the enemy is prowling about me as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, let my first response always be to cry out to you - because only you will be able to bring about either my deliverance and therefore comfort, or my sanctification and therefore joy. Have mercy on me, my Father. Let me not neglect to receive your word, and to abide in your presence!**

03 February, 2009

Discipline me, Lord, that I might be Faithful

**Lord, my inclination to consider you such that my mind would be "stayed on Thee" is so weak. Thank you - as I am beginning to experience the joy of my "first thought" each day being directed to you! Please continue to make yourself known to me, teach me to surrender my desires so that they are in line with your will, and grant me your continuing discipline in my life. I may feel knocked down at any given moment, but when I turn to look at you and get up again, I KNOW I am strengthened. Let me be aware that EVERY thing that knocks down is ordained by your sovereign hand to conform me more to the likeness of Christ - I can feel, in those moments, the exposure of my heart and soul, the selfishness which is laid bare for all to see, and I need you - in your grace and kindness which I know will not give me more than I can bear! - to continue to expose me to myself, and in the exposing not to make me mindful of condemnation but your mercy. Let me, therefore, be GLAD for your discipline, and let me receive it joyfully, as a true "son." Lord, let my continuing prayer, this year, be that you would make me faithful - and for that, I must endure. Thank you, so, for your grace. Without your kindness, my God, I would be undone!**


Hebrews 12:3-13
3 Consider him [Christ!] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives."

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.

11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame

may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

02 February, 2009

Extinguishing the Fiery Darts of the Enemy

Listening for the voice of my Shepherd

2 Cor. 7:10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Luke 18:13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

Rom. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
v.33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

Matthew 11:28 [Jesus speaking:] ”Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

1 John 5:18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he [Christ] who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

Phil. 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 13:3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, 4 lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him," lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. 5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me....

(all Scripture references ESV)