24 August, 2010

Choose Gratitude - 2 of 4 from July, 2010


*Chapters 3-4 from Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss*


Sorry for the lateness of the update. Truth be told, I forgot about the post until just this morning - has been a full week! I'll give a synopsis, here, in advance of our continuing discussion tonite, and maybe it will help "prime the pump" so to speak.

Ch. 3 gave us the story of a sinking ship, a rescuer nearly paralyzed for the rest of his life for his heroics on the night of the accident and not one of the 17 people he saved saying thanks; and we looked at the story of the 10 lepers healed, and the ONE who came back to Jesus to say thanks - not caring who heard him, not caring that he was the only one of the ten, he just found that out of the overflow of his having RECEIVED grace he now wanted only to be near to Jesus and express his thanks to him, a model of what we will be doing in eternity. And we were directed to Romans ch. 1 wherein one of the greatest rebukes against mankind, showing the horribleness of our turning away from God and the judgment that rightly brings - and at its root is, of all things, not honoring God as God or giving thanks to him. (v. 21)

We looked at 5 telltale signs of Ingratitude in our hearts:

*Unrealistic Expectations,
*Forgetting God and the blessings he's given,
*Feeling of Self-Entitlement ("I deserve...."),
*Comparison as if we're sacrificing more than others around us (and are therefore more "righteous"?!),
*Blindness to God's grace.

Ch. 4 gave us the example of Matthew Henry, praying after after he was robbed, expressing thanks that he had enjoyed NOT having been robbed at any time previous; and Nancy gave us 8 reasons WHY we ought to choose Gratitude.

*Is a matter of obedience,
*Draws us close to the Lord (he inhabits the praises of his people!),
*Is a sure path to peace (what's stealing your peace right now? Consider Phil. 4 and the connection between rejoicing and giving thanks, and the MEANS by which God guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus),
*Is a gauge of the heart (gratitude comes from same root as gift - namely "grace" - is the heart full of grace? it will spill over in gratitude - that is, it is "grace-full" or "grateful"!),
*Is the will of God (for our hearts and lifestyle, not mere duty),
*Is the evidence of being filled with the Spirit,
*Reflects Jesus' heart,
*Gets us ready for heaven.

We revisited the "equation" from last week - that "Unavoidable Guilt" plus "Undeserved Grace" = "Unbridled Gratitude" (p. 35). If we are not "feeling" grateful, does this give us the right to stop giving thanks to the Lord? And if we are not "feeling" grateful, is this an indication something is genuinely wrong? Or is it ok not to "feel" like giving thanks, all the time?

We talked about this pretty heavily towards the end of our time together, concluding in short that if at the Lord's right hand there are pleasures evermore (as described in Ps. 16), and if Jesus rebuked the church at Ephesus (Revelation ch 2) for having forsaken their first love, the fact we don't FEEL "grateful" (or joyful or "in love" with the Lord, or feel "hungry" for him as our only good) indeed ought to be an indicator that something is wrong.

Perhaps we don't have a right perspective about our Guilt or we have neglected to see or receive God's Grace, or perhaps we have misunderstood what biblically "feeling" grateful should look like - whatever the case we ought to a) never cease giving thanks as it is a matter of obedience to a biblical command REGARDLESS of how we "feel," but also b) never be satisfied to NOT feel grateful - or full-of-grace - and we should ask God, as at end of Ps. 139, to search our hearts and know our thoughts and see if there be any wicked way in us - ANYTHING that might set itself up as a stronghold against the knowledge of God - and beg him to lead us to where, ultimately, HE really wants us - GRATEFUL - FULL of GRACE - dependent on him, and spilling over with grace to others so that his grace and glory AND our joy is multiplied.

The plan: to continue reading through ch. 5-7 and complete up through day 18 in the dailies in the back of the book.


28 July, 2010

Choose Gratitude - 1 of 4 from July, 2010

First of Four sessions:

A few of us got together for the first of our chats over the book, "Choosing Gratitude" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, this past Wed. [1st Wed. in July] It was a fun, refreshing time to get to know each other, to pray together, and to compare highlighted passages from our readings in the Intro thru ch.2.

Here is a summary of some of the high points as we look forward to our next get-together:

Importance of Gratitude

*opening quote to intro by William Law gives having a thankful spirit credit for (at least) 3 things:
1) working miracles,
2) healing with a word, and
3) turning all that it touches into happiness.

(could it be true that gratitude is that tranforming?)

*we need to be "ceaselessly vigilant" or we get swept up in our own emotional frenzy, a world of self-focus, characterized by worry, complaining, resenting, discontentment - our "natural bent" is "toward doubt, negativity, discouragement, and anxiety," and a tendency to become "bitter, prickly and sour." (What a list of symptoms!)

*All of these things are able to be kept in check when we practice the discipline of giving thanks to God. Gratitude = "life preserver even in the most turbulent waters" but "doesn't come without effort and intentionality."

*Nancy says, Gratitude is "a choice that requires constantly renewing my mind with the truth of God's Word, setting my heart to savor God and His gifts, and disciplining my tongue to speak words that reflect His goodness and grace - until a grateful spirit becomes my reflexive response response to all of life." (First reaction) "A grateful child of God can't help but be a joyful, peaceful, radiant person." (p.17)

From Discussion questions: "We rarely think the source of our problems is tied to our lack of gratitude." Q: Is gratitude essential or non-essential for every Christian? (p. 22-23)

*what is the difference between a kind of universal, Hallmark card kind of "grateful feeling" and Christian gratitude? True Gratitude MUST have a Person as its object. (p. 36) "...True thankfulness requires a 'you' to say 'Thank you' to." (!)

*"Gratitude is a lifestyle. A hard-fought, grace-infused, biblical lifestyle. And though there's a sense in which anyone can be thankful - for God has extended His common grace to all - the true glory and the transforming power of gratitude are reserved for those who know and acknowledge the Giver of every good gift and who are recipients of His redeeming grace." (p. 29)

In ch. 2 we see that "charis" is the root Greek word for "gratitude" and itself means "grace" - similarly, "charis" is the root also for "gift" - and the word "eucharist" which is a word to describe the sacrament of the Lord's supper, taking of the bread and wine together in remembrance of him, literally means "a giving of thanks."

*Guilt + Grace = Gratitude

*So GRACE GIVES and so produces a GRACE-FULL response = GRATITUDE. We cannot worship without being grateful, or "grace-filled."

*Similarly, "Grace begets giving." (p. 40) Nancy takes us through 2 Cor. 8-9 as one example, where we see that the "grace-full" response is to give generously/sacrificially, which produces more gratitude which in turn produces even more "grace-full" giving, and so forth. So Nancy likens God-given grace to the rain cycle - bottom of page 41. "Much the same way as water comes down from the sky, replenishing the earth, then returning to the air in evaporated moisture, Christian [uniquely Christian!] gratitude keeps God's grace churning in full circle...and leaving who knows how many fruits and flowers and refreshed lives in its trail of glory."

*So God's grace poured out on us produces a grace-full - or grateful (or worshipful and praising!) - response which causes us to pour out graciously to others which in turn produces a grace-full response in them, and turns back to praise to the Lord....beautiful.

*"Imagine the impact in a world characterized by isolation, selfishness, and fractured relationships, if we were to adorn the gospel we profess to believe, with a culture of mutual care, concern, generosity, and sacrifice. The truth we proclaim would become believable. And God would be glorified." (p. 43)

From discussion:

*The equation is pretty "simple" - guilt + grace = gratitude. So if we are NOT grateful, we either haven't really appreciated how guilty we are (how in NEED of grace we are), or we haven't received grace (or haven't realized the kind of grace we've received!).

*Application - examine ourselves! where are we characterized by ingratitude, or by the symptoms listed off at the beginning of the book? have we not realized our sinfulness? our dependence on God? or have we perhaps not repented and received his grace? or having received his grace have we perhaps allowed the enemy to steal our joy?

26 May, 2010

~Meditating on Proverbs for Wisdom with [difficult] Co-Laborers~

~Meditating on Proverbs for Wisdom with [difficult] Co-Laborers~
(with acknowledgement that I *AM* the difficult co-laborer in some instances....)

copied and pasted from www.BibleGateway.com

Prov. 6:12 A worthless person, a wicked man,
goes about with crooked speech,
13 winks with his eyes, signals with his feet,
points with his finger,
14with perverted heart devises evil,
continually sowing discord;
15therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly;
in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.

Proverbs 10:8 The wise of heart will receive commandments,
but a babbling fool will come to ruin.

9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.
10Whoever winks the eye causes trouble,
but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

12Hatred stirs up strife,
but love covers all offenses.

10:17Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,
but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.
18The one who conceals hatred has lying lips,
and whoever utters slander is a fool.
19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

20The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
the heart of the wicked is of little worth.
21The lips of the righteous feed many,
but fools die for lack of sense.

Proverbs 11:12Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
but a man of understanding remains silent.
13Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.

11:17 A man who is kind benefits himself,
but a cruel man hurts himself.
18The wicked earns deceptive wages,
but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward.
19Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live,
but he who pursues evil will die.
20Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD,
but those of blameless ways are his delight.
21 Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished,
but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered.

11:29Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind,
and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.

Prov. 12:1Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid.
2A good man obtains favor from the LORD,
but a man of evil devices he condemns.
3No one is established by wickedness,
but the root of the righteous will never be moved.

12:5 The thoughts of the righteous are just;
the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.
6The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
but the mouth of the upright delivers them.
7 The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
but the house of the righteous will stand.
8A man is commended according to his good sense,
but one of twisted mind is despised.

12:11 Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.

Prov. 12:12Whoever is wicked covets the spoil of evildoers,
but the root of the righteous bears fruit.
13An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips,
but the righteous escapes from trouble.
14From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good,
and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him.
15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice.

16 The vexation of a fool is known at once,
but the prudent ignores an insult.
17 Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence,
but a false witness utters deceit.
18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

19Truthful lips endure forever,
but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
20Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,
but those who plan peace have joy.
21 No ill befalls the righteous,
but the wicked are filled with trouble.
22 Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD,
but those who act faithfully are his delight.
23 A prudent man conceals knowledge,
but the heart of fools proclaims folly.

12:26One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor,
but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

Prov. 13:10 By insolence comes nothing but strife,
but with those who take advice is wisdom.

13:20Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

Prov. 14:7Leave the presence of a fool,
for there you do not meet words of knowledge.
8The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way,
but the folly of fools is deceiving.
9 Fools mock at the guilt offering,
but the upright enjoy acceptance.

14:17A man of quick temper acts foolishly,
and a man of evil devices is hated.

14:23In all toil there is profit,
but mere talk tends only to poverty.

14:27The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.

14:28In a multitude of people is the glory of a king,
but without people a prince is ruined.
29Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
30A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
but envy makes the bones rot.

14:33Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding,
but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools.
34Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a reproach to any people.
35A servant who deals wisely has the king’s favor,
but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully.

Prov. 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
2The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
3 The eyes of the LORD are in every place,
keeping watch on the evil and the good.
4 A gentle[a] tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.

15:18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,
but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.

15:23To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,
and a word in season, how good it is!

15:28The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,
but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.

15:32Whoever ignores instruction despises himself,
but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
33 The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom,
and humility comes before honor.

Prov. 16:1The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
but the LORD weighs the spirit.
3Commit your work to the LORD,
and your plans will be established.
4The LORD has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of trouble.
5Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD;
be assured, he will not go unpunished.

16:7When a man’s ways please the LORD,
he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

16:9 The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.

16:21The wise of heart is called discerning,
and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.

16:27 A worthless man plots evil,
and his speech is like a scorching fire.
28 A dishonest man spreads strife,
and a whisperer separates close friends.
29A man of violence entices his neighbor
and leads him in a way that is not good.
30Whoever winks his eyes plans dishonest things;
he who purses his lips brings evil to pass.

16:32 Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

Prov. 17:1 Better is a dry morsel with quiet
than a house full of feasting with strife.

17:4An evildoer listens to wicked lips,
and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.

17:10A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding
than a hundred blows into a fool.
11An evil man seeks only rebellion,
and a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
12Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs
rather than a fool in his folly.
13If anyone returns evil for good,
evil will not depart from his house.
14The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
so quit before the quarrel breaks out.

17:22 A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

17:27Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
28Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.

Prov. 18:1Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment.
2A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion.
3When wickedness comes, contempt comes also,
and with dishonor comes disgrace.

18:6A fool’s lips walk into a fight,
and his mouth invites a beating.
7 A fool’s mouth is his ruin,
and his lips are a snare to his soul.
8 The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body.
9Whoever is slack in his work
is a brother to him who destroys.
10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.

Prov. 19:1 Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity
than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.

19:11 Good sense makes one slow to anger,
and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
12A king’s wrath is like the growling of a lion,
but his favor is like dew on the grass.

Proverbs 20:3It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife,
but every fool will be quarreling.

Prov. 21:3 To do righteousness and justice
is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

21:19It is better to live in a desert land
than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.

Proverbs 22:10 Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out,
and quarreling and abuse will cease.
11He who loves purity of heart,
and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend.

22:24Make no friendship with a man given to anger,
nor go with a wrathful man,
25lest you learn his ways
and entangle yourself in a snare.

Prov. 23:9Do not speak in the hearing of a fool,
for he will despise the good sense of your words.

23:17Let not your heart envy sinners,
but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day.
18Surely there is a future,
and your hope will not be cut off.

24:1Be not envious of evil men,
nor desire to be with them,
2for their hearts devise violence,
and their lips talk of trouble.
3By wisdom a house is built,
and by understanding it is established;
4by knowledge the rooms are filled
with all precious and pleasant riches.
5 A wise man is full of strength,
and a man of knowledge enhances his might,
6for by wise guidance you can wage your war,
and in abundance of counselors there is victory.

24:17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,
18lest the LORD see it and be displeased,
and turn away his anger from him.

25:4Take away the dross from the silver,
and the smith has material for a vessel;
5take away the wicked from the presence of the king,
and his throne will be established in righteousness.
6Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence
or stand in the place of the great,
7for it is better to be told, "Come up here,"
than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.

25:27It is not good to eat much honey,
nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.
28A man without self-control
is like a city broken into and left without walls.

26:4 Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest you be like him yourself.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes.

6Whoever sends a message by the hand of a fool
cuts off his own feet and drinks violence.

26:17Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own
is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.
18Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death
19is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, "I am only joking!"
20For lack of wood the fire goes out,
and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.
21As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.
22The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body.
23 Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel
are fervent lips with an evil heart.
24Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips
and harbors deceit in his heart;
25 when he speaks graciously, believe him not,
for there are seven abominations in his heart;
26though his hatred be covered with deception,
his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.
27 Whoever digs a pit will fall into it,
and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.
28A lying tongue hates its victims,
and a flattering mouth works ruin.

27:2Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
a stranger, and not your own lips.

27:19As in water face reflects face,
so the heart of man reflects the man.

28:26Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool,
but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.

29:1 He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck,
will suddenly be broken beyond healing.

29:9If a wise man has an argument with a fool,
the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet. [peace]
10Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless
and seek the life of the upright.
11A fool gives full vent to his spirit,
but a wise man quietly holds it back.

29:26Many seek the face of a ruler,
but it is from the LORD that a man gets justice.

31:8 Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
9Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.

31:26She [a godly woman] opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

27She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

31:30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.

13 May, 2010

notes from ~Beauty for Ashes~ at GCC

notes from 5/12/10, final "Girl Talk" session for GCC Women age 12 and all the way up: [NOTICE ALL THE SCRIPTURE REFERENCES! What a great way to spend an evening - look up every reference and meditate on them, collectively.]

Beauty for Ashes; speaker Andrea Griffith [from “Revive our Hearts” ministries with Nancy Leigh DeMoss]

(with apologies that the outline formatting doesn't translate well to this blog)


• Psalm 103:1-5 ~ [“I will tell you of how the Lord has done all these things for me.”]
o Forgives all your sins
o Heals all your diseases
o Redeems your life from the pit
o Crowns you with love and compassion
o Satisfies your desires with good things
o Renews / reinvigorates your youth like the eagle’s
• James 1:22 ~ Be doers of the word and not hearers only DECEIVING YOURSELVES.
o The most self-deceived people sit in church from Sunday to Sunday, hearers of the word.
• 2 Tim. 3:5-7 ~ Have appearance of godliness, but deny its power; always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
• Acts 20:21 ~ Repentance toward God AND faith in the Lord Jesus
o I had faith that Jesus was the son of God for as long as I could remember, but what was missing? Repentance!
• Matt. 7:21 ~ Saying “Lord, Lord!” [mere “lip-service”] vs. doing the will of the Father [living a life of obedience as unto the Lord!]
o ["The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me." –Martin Luther]


• df Brokenness = my response of humility and obedience to the prompting of God’s word or the revelation of God’s Spirit
• Isaiah 54:4-5 ~ forget the shame of your youth; ask the Lord to be your husband
• Luke 20:18 ~ Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.
o [“I started to get really sick....” – illustration of a “Sucker Shoot” on a plant; growing up out of the plant but robbing the true plant of its nutrients. She was diagnosed with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia….see notes re “bitterness”]


• df Confession = to say the same as God about our sin
• Is there anything in your life you have covered/hidden? That the Lord is telling you to confess? Do you need to seek forgiveness from God? From anyone else?
o [“God wanted me to have a clean conscience….” – she talked about her “Clean Conscience List” which was folks she had to go back to to ask for forgiveness, person after person.]
• Prov. 7 ~ list of the characteristics of the immoral (or “strange”) woman; she made a list of the OPPOSITE characteristics and this was her guide to show her what kind of woman she ought to be.
• [confessing to her husband before they were engaged, she told him about her past immorality and her abortion and says, “I watched as he wept over MY sin, and it was such a picture to me of how our sin breaks the heart of our heavenly Father...”]
o her word of caution: When confessing past sin, we don’t share with everyone; find a godly older woman whom you can trust with whom you can clean up all of that junk. Or we confess to someone when he is to become our husband; but we don’t just tell everyone. Share the DEPTH of the sin, but not necessarily all the DETAILS of the sin, or that could come back to have some serious consequences later.
• 2 Peter 1:3 ~ we’ve already been given everything we need for life and godliness
• 1 John 1:7 ~ the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin
• Proverbs 28:13 ~ Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
o When we confess and forsake, the Lord’s promise is that we will find MERCY
 [“God wasn’t honoring my (past) life; he was honoring his WORD.”]
 Prov. 31:10 ~ he gave her a ruby wedding band when he proposed


• df Bitterness = Harbored hurt; When we are bitter, we assume the negative (worst), and have a critical, fault-finding spirit.
• Ps. 32 ~ One who is bitter feels the consequences physically; they have no rest, no strength.
• Hebrews 12:15 ~ see to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.
• John 11:44 ~ when Jesus brings Lazarus back to life, he says “Unbind him, and let him go.”
o we too are called from death to life; we lie to ourselves and continue to say “but I deserve these grave clothes; I have the stink of death on me,” etc. In truth: We ALL “deserve” the grave clothes, but Jesus made ATONEMENT to set us FREE. (do you see the truth?)
o God’s specialty: He loves to take broken things and bring them to full restoration, to make them beautiful.
o Like Joseph with his brothers: “What you meant for evil, God intended for good.”
o Don’t minimize the sin – no! – you stare it STRAIGHT in the face and see it for the evil that it is. And THEN you THANK God for his sovereignty, that he makes even the darkness to be as light; he redeems, he restores, he recreates.
 1 Thess. 5:18 ~ give thanks in all circumstances

Forgiveness and Healing

• [“God has given us only ONE way to find healing, and that is through forgiveness.”]
• Isaiah 61:1-3 ~ Parallel passage in Luke 4
• God longs to:
o Heal the broken hearted
o Set the captives free
o Tell that NOW is the day for salvation
o Comfort all who mourn
o Give beauty for ashes
o Give joy for pain
o Give a garment of praise for our spirit of heaviness
• Q: Does this list sound to you like God is waiting for you to “crawl over broken glass” to get to him? To find forgiveness and healing? [This sounds like a God who LOVES to be gracious and merciful and set us free....!]
• Isaiah 43:18-19 ~ Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past; the Lord is doing something NEW – making a way in the desert, and streams in the wasteland.
• Deut. 4:29 ~ Seek the Lord; you will find him if you look for him with all your heart
• Hebrews 12:1-2 ~ Renew your mind by fixing your eyes on Jesus (laying aside all sin and ANY thing that encumbers us as we run towards him)
• 2 Cor. 10:5 ~ Renew your mind by taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and by demolishing the strongholds of the enemy (ANY thing that sets itself up against the knowledge of God)


12 May, 2010

The Gifting IS the Calling!

recommended reading - "Just Do Something" by Pastor Kevin DeYoung

God's "calling" on our lives is no mystery. He EQUIPS us, he POSITIONS us, he COMMANDS us, he GIFTS us, and he thus makes use of us by his own design and for his purposes, but we need not necessarily "discern his calling" to WALK in it.

We also make a great mystery out of discerning our Giftings, in the Body. (Rom 12, 1 Cor 12-14, etc.) Even a most rudimentary reading of these passages should - in context - give us an idea that we are making mysterious mountains out of plain molehills. (so to speak)

God gives us his SPIRIT, and his WORD, and I suspect the rest is not nearly so complicated as we - well-meaning as we are - make it.

So what is the "natural result" of having his Spirit and his Word and of our submitting to him in each respect but that we will be exercising certain gifts [which we may or may not discover about ourselves along the way], and we will be - if we are faithful to walk as sons of God, LED by his Spirit - therefore obedient to his "calling" [even if we do not necessarily have a conscious awareness of it as such].

I think the Lord has given me gifts of discernment and possibly prophecy (in NT sense), and teaching (though this is more a "byproduct" of the first two, and not my primary gift). Similarly, as regards the heart, I think the Lord has molded/equipped me, uniquely, to "rejoice with those who rejoice" and "mourn with those who mourn."

So ... if I'm right, what is the Lord's "Call" on my life? ....

What kind of KIND?

~What kind of KIND?~
("making nice" vs. "kind-but-firm" when dealing with a Bully)

When faced with difficult situations, particularly as regards the bullying behaviors of others from whom I must nevertheless solicit cooperation (such as a teacher or a co-worker or the like), I have tended [unwittingly] towards this motto - "Kill them with kindness." And I even thought this was godliness - consider that "The man whose ways please the Lord makes even his enemies to be at peace with him." [Proverbs 16:7]

I have, thus, gone out of my way to be friendly, to respond to the bullying with a smile and even a clever remark back intended to convey that I'm laughing WITH the bully rather than being brought down BY the bully, and I have used what I now realize to be excessive sweetnees, and niceness - showing concern over their struggles and difficulties, giving them gifts that show I'm being thoughtful of them, etc. - as a way of trying to "get them" to do what I want or need them to do. Which might be anything from giving me a good (fair?) grade to ensuring that a shipment confirmation gets sent to a customer as required.

No doubt, I could explode this topic with a series of examples that would probably cause you to go into shock as all the appearances of boldness on my part wither under the fiery stares of brutish people, and I immediately flop about trying to make them happy so that what I need to have done will get done.....

This is NOT "making peace" with my enemies.

This is manipulating with niceness.

And this is NOT biblical "kindness" which has wrapped up in it a component of resolute truth-telling which leads to repentance!

[Romans 2:4, Galatians 5:22-23, Romans 11:22, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13]

Truth is? I "make nice" to try to CHANGE people - not for THEIR good, but to a) make them see me in a favorable light so that b) I can be more productive.

We use the expression - "kill them with kindness." And by this we have some concept of "pouring out nice" to "get back nice" as if such qualities really are all about karma. And/or as Christians, we might even spiritualize it as some kind of divine right to revenge that we are staving off now with the expectation God will zap them later. [Romans 12:20] (which is at best a warped understanding of what it means to "heap burning coals on their head" which has more to do with making of others a sacrificial OFFERING than it does any reference to eternal damnation....)

But what if we were REALLY "kind" to them?

Is it not a kindness for a surgeon to cut off the gangrene-infected limb? Is it not just that kind of kindness by means of which God himself leads US to repentance and thus salvation (and peace with God)? [Sometimes what is most needed is accurate diagnosis and even creating hurt (scalpel to tender flesh) to bring about healing.]

What if "being nice" or "sweet" is just another way of serving my OWN ends? (ie - feeding my own heart idols, such as fear of man? or being perfectionistic in whatever else I do?)

What if "being KIND" includes being WISE - and both standing up to bullies as well as drawing a line in the sand and KINDLY but firmly saying that THIS behavior is UNACCEPTABLE and unless you repent, there can be no true PEACE between us. A "cease-fire" perhaps, but no peace. [or put another way, "I will not allow you to bully me in this way anymore - it is not good for me, and it is not good for you - and if that means I can't 'save the day' this time, then so be it..."]


Lord, make me a woman characterised by the COMPATIBLE [intermingled] fruits of KINDNESS, GENTLENESS, rejoicing together with the TRUTH, and WISDOM....and let me not BE a bully, myself, in my zeal....

29 April, 2010

The Law of my Flesh - I have a RIGHT to be angry!!

The Law of my Flesh - I have a RIGHT to be angry!!

How quickly we can jump to conclusions about other people and their motives for doing what they do. How quickly we "assume the worst" rather than the best. How unprepared we are to examine ourselves when we feel that flash of anger - we'd rather burst into flames than acknowledge that perhaps one of the idols of our heart was just toppled - and why? Because we think we're entitled....

Just one such day for me, today. So a random personal blog entry, here we come.

Not so important the who and the what as the after.

Reality? I am slow to listen, quick to speak and quick to become angry. I am easily provoked, insist on my own way, and have no patience - especially when I feel my "rights" are being trampled. And I don't mean actual "rights" in a political sense - perhaps then I might be justified in whipping out the trump card of my "roman citizenship," to borrow from the story of the apostle Paul. But I mean "rights" in a I'm-not-meek! and You-better-not-make-me-mad! kinda way.

Such as - the right to do things when I want, the way I want; the right to not be interrupted but to nevertheless interrupt at my liesure; the right to peace and quiet when I want it and yet nevertheless be loud and inconsiderate when I feel like it, and so the list goes on.

In short, I'm reminded, today, of something that my Mom used to say to me when I was a child - by way of trying to train me up in the way I should go. She would tell me I operated by my own kind of universal law which was:

"What's mine is mine, and what's yours is mine, TOO!"

Oh sad day - apparently I have continued to nurse and pet and coddle this awful beast, because it has grown up and seems quite healthy even still these 30-some years later!

So. I am reminded again, through circumstances in my daily life, that I have many rough and pointy edges - most of which I am quite content to ignore or hide away - and most of which I use to point at and damage others to prove my RIGHT to all my various uglinesses - oh, who are we kidding, my UNGODLINESSES! - and so assert my own will and ultimately to accuse God for not catering to MY desires for comfort and ease, et al.

"LOVE is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."


"So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other."


"Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."


"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt[a] water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness."

God, make me a sower of peace.

23 April, 2010

A Holy Ambition! ~ Being MOST Blameless and Upright

Today's "Grace Gem"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
There is no one on earth like him!

(Joseph Caryl, "Practical Observations on the Book of Job")

"Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him! He is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." Job 1:8

We ought not to be satisfied with low degrees of grace; or content ourselves to be like others in grace. We should labor (if it is possible) to go beyond all others in grace. It did not satisfy Job that he had gotten to such a degree, to such a frame and temper of heart, to such a course of holiness--as his neighbors or brethren had attained unto; but he labored to go beyond them all, "There is no one on earth like him!"

It is a holy ambition--to labor to exceed all others in grace and godliness.

We have a great many in the world who desire to be so rich--as none should be like them; to be so luxurious in their apparel--as none should be like them; or to be so beautiful--as none should be like them. But where are those who desire and endeavor to have such a portion or stock of grace--that none should be like them; to be above others in holiness--as Job was?

True grace never rests in any degrees or measures of grace--but labors to increase. He who has any grace--always desires to have more grace. Do not think it enough when you are like others in holiness--you ought to labor to be beyond others!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For more like the above - visit www.gracegems.org!

13 April, 2010

LCM - CH. 9 (final in this series): Being Salt and Light in this world....

*NOTE: Click on GCC - LCM tag at end of this post to see others in this series.

Blog entry LCM - CH. 9 (final in this series): Being Salt and Light in this world....
Submitted by Leah Page on Tue, 04/13/2010 - 9:42am LCM010 Sermon on the Mount

LCM - CH 9: Being Salt and Light in this world…
~GCC WOMEN'S BIBLE STUDY (final in this series)

Sorry for the overdue posting! I hope you will find this a helpful reminder of our last week together, as well as thought-provoking with respect to an increasing appreciation for the various nuances of what Jesus meant in his Sermon on the Mount concerning the fact that his followers are the “salt” and the “light” of the world.

Matthew 5:13-16 (Amplified Bible)
13You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste (its strength, its quality), how can its saltness be restored? It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men.
14You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.
16Let your light so shine before men that they may see your [a]moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and [b]recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.

Characteristics/uses of salt – preserves against decay, acts as an antibiotic, adds flavor, creates thirst, was used as a means to destroy the ground to prevent an enemy’s land from producing crops (from where we get the word “assaulted”)....

We talked about how “saltness” can be lost – for example, if something isn’t salt to begin with but only has a bit of salt “mixed in” it could be sold by a merchant as salt, but in fact was mixed with another “filler” compound that only mimicked the appearance of salt, and in fact would not hold its value or be effective as salt.

Characteristics/uses of light – dispels darkness, exposes what is hidden, gives direction – showing where the next footfall should be, provides warning of coming danger – like a lighthouse to unwitting ships as they approach the crushing rocks, causes critters who hate the light to scurry – like cockroaches scampering to shadowy cracks and crevices....

Among other things, we talked about how “Lightness” is a means by which others see what IS, that light exposes our self-deceptions.

I shared a story of my experience at work – When I first started working for the company by which I am now employed, the environment was very NOT “Christian friendly.” It was commonplace for the profanity to reach and sustain a “rated R” level for the entirety of any given work day, and it was also commonplace for my coworkers to YELL and SCREAM out their differences all about the halls of the offices and the plant. Not only was the newness of the job wearisome, but I also was ushered into a difficult situation concerning how the Customer Service office was being run, and I felt VERY keenly my inability to do anything apart from the empowering of the Lord’s spirit.

It was commonplace for me to spend several minutes every morning sitting in my car before I would go in to the building just BEGGING God to make me to be salt and light in this environment. I don’t now recall how many times I had prayed this way before I felt the Lord answered me in my spirit. It was as if he was saying, “I don’t need to make you salt and light, here. I already made you salt and light – now you just need to BE what you already ARE.”

It was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I could “rest” in my dependence on his spirit. I didn’t have to “try” so hard to say the right things, to confront “evil” at just the right time, or to perform in that perfectly admirable way, etc. This is not to say I ceased to be strategic in my approach, or that I somehow STOPPED doing and saying the right thing. But my focus shifted – and I was able to just ... Be what I already was. A child of my heavenly Father, being conformed to the likeness of Christ, dependent on his Holy Spirit to walk faithfully, day in and day out.

I do not know – perhaps I’ll never know – to what extent my being here has made any difference. Only the Lord knows! But today’s environment at work is no longer characterized by the crazy extremes that were normative when I started. People still have their outbursts to be sure. But the profanity has significantly diminished so that the occasional “F-bomb” is the RARITY, and the yelling – if it occurs, and that is also now more rare – is typically behind closed doors, and only between the two or three persons arguing.

The point is this – yes, salt needs to “get out of the salt-shaker” to be effective. But you’re STILL just salt in the LORD’S hand – be obedient, be faithful, but let HIM place you where you’re needed, trust HIM to empower you, to MAKE you salt (to make you REAL) and thus genuinely effective, and just be what you already ARE because you are in CHRIST. Follow hard after HIM, and the “natural result” will be that you will have that “salt and light effect” in the world. You won’t be able to help it any more than the full moon can help reflecting the sun when it has “fixed its gaze” upon it!

Our study through the Beatitudes and our study guide, “Lord, Only You Can Change Me,” has come to an end. BUT! We will be back – first this week starts the next Wednesday night adventure with “GIRL TALK” – a study in biblical womanhood for girls 6th grade on up through ladies of all ages! – and next fall we will pick up with more studies of varying kinds, including a study on the biblical theme of “Covenant,” Lord willing.

Ladies, I thank the Lord for your desire to know him more intimately through his Word! I hope and pray this study has been a helpful tool in your quiet times, as you learn more about him and abide IN his word and in prayer and fellowship with him.

One last word: “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.”


*a partial interview with Kay Arthur, below*


Do you feel like the Christian community
has lost their fear of the Lord?

KAY ARTHUR: Yes. I feel that the Christian community has lost the fear of the Lord, and because we have lost it, the world has lost it. We are salt and light. When I have a fear and a reverence for the Lord, then it spills over on people. I think that we have greatly lost it, and I think we have lost it because I don't think we are people of the Book. We don't have a biblical concept of God.

Why aren't people reading their Bibles?

KAY ARTHUR: I think because we are so busy, and I think it is because we have so many Christian books and so many Christian novels and that the enemy is going to do everything He can to keep us away from the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, which is the One and Only offensive weapon of the Christian. Everything about the armor in Ephesians 6 is connected with the Word, so he wants us to be standing there, spiritually buck-naked, so to speak, with no armor, not dressed for war, no Sword in our hands. He succeeded by deceiving us. Everything has been substituted for the Word, yet prayer is based on the Word: 'If you abide in Me and My Word abides in you'; revival -- 'Revive me according to Your Word'; evangelism -- 'Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God'; reconciliation -- 'Be reconciled to God.' It is all based on the Word. It is the foundation.

(taken in part from interview located at: http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/biblestudyandtheology/perspectives/bagby-kay_arthur_0404.aspx)

09 March, 2010

LCM - CH8: "Peacemakers...But Persecuted" ~ GCC Women's Bible Study

Submitted by Leah Page on Tue, 03/09/2010 - 10:13pm Blessed AreLCM010Sermon on the Mount

"Peace" is a very significant theme throughout Scripture - namely, the purchasing of our peace with God is THE theme of God's Scriptures! So there is this running picture of how God pursued us and gave his Son to die for us and purchase our reconciliation when we were yet ENEMIES of God (see Colossians 1:19-22 and Romans 5:10-11).

But this is not to say that God merely obliterated the punishment for our sins, as if to merely call a "cease fire" - rather God has, for as many as have received Christ, given us the right to be called CHILDREN of God!!

"The Greek word for peace signifies a harmonious relationship. This is important because it shows that peace is not merely the absence of war; peace is harmony. It's not a 'cold war.' It's not 'an uneasy truce.' It's not two frowning parties sitting back to back with their arms folded in stony silence. No, peace signifies a willingness to turn toward each other and embrace one another -- in spite of differences of opinion." (LCM p. 192)

So fundamentally, "peace" is reconciliation for relationship/intimacy/communion - and peace-MAKING, then, is a MINISTRY of reconciliation. (see 2 Corinthians 5:14-21)

For the sake of brevity - I broke down the application of this in the following way:

1) PEACE WITH GOD = RECONCILIATION; so our ROLE as concerns "making peace" with those outside of fellowship with Christ is to proclaim to them the Gospel - to seek their reconciliation with God.
2) PEACE WITH OTHERS = FELLOWSHIP/FORGIVENESS; so our ROLE as concerns "making peace" with those in the BODY - those who have already been reconciled to God through Christ - is to be merciful, quick to forgive, patient and longsuffering with each other, etc.
3) PEACE WITHIN OUR OWN SOUL = 1st OUR reconciliation to God and an ONGOING SPEAKING-THE-TRUTH-TO-OURSELVES from God's word so that our hearts are CALM (we likened this to the glassy surface of a calm lake) in our dependence on the Lord's spirit; so our ROLE as concerns "making peace" within ourselves has to do with abiding in the Word, examining ourselves according to God's word and walking by faith not by sight.

[And I daresay (at least this is true for me!), this also involves a continual reminder of the KINDNESS of God, of his AFFECTION and great LOVE for us as his CHILDREN! so that we are able to discern the difference between an assault of the enemy which is for our condemnation versus the loving voice of our Shepherd who, while he may gently convict, NEVER condemns us.....]

The Peace Christ gives us - as both reconciliation with the Father AND as the "calm" over the lake of our soul - is not as the world gives. We need not be afraid. (see John 14:27)

In this way, we can endure much persecution because we have so cultivated our trust in our Father, and our dependence on HIS sovereign hand, we can receive ALL things as GOOD - for our good, and for his glory....

LCM - CH7: "How Can I be Merciful?...Pure?" ~ GCC Women's Bible Study

Submitted by Leah Page on Tue, 03/09/2010 - 8:59pm Blessed AreLCM010Sermon on the Mount

Blessed are the Merciful...
One of the definitions of "merciful" in ch. 7 was "actively compassionate" - we talked about how this captures both the notion of the "doing" of mercy - such as offering a cup of water in Jesus' name - and also the more stringent requirement which is the heart "affection" of having compassion as Christ did - which is something we cannot in and of ourselves engender - but we must have a NEW heart from which to have God's affection for those in need of mercy.

We looked at various passages in the book of Hebrews which again reminded us of how God showed us in the Old Testament (the old "covenant") that mercy could not be obtained apart from a blood sacrifice - that the holiest place in the Tabernacle, in the Holy of Holies, was the Mercy Seat above the ark of the covenant which is where the blood was to be placed. And likewise, then, Jesus is the fulfilment of this OT picture - and Jesus himself has purchased for us the great mercy of God -

We see, in the parable in Matthew 18:21-35, that it is in fact unnatural (!) to the one to whom so great a mercy (forgiveness) has been given to refuse to show mercy (forgiveness) in return. In the parable, the slave refused to show compassion, and in return was denied the very mercy he would otherwise have received. To be so merciless is oh so ugly....

The requirement for us to "forgive from the heart" is a much greater duty than merely cancelling debt, or demonstrating kindness. This aspect of "from the heart" is only possible if GOD gives us HIS heart.

Blessed are the Pure in heart....
We looked at how the meaning of the "purity" mentioned in this beatitude isn't so much indicative of a once-for-all kind of made pure, but rather has wrapped up in it this idea of "being continually purified" - so it is not just a matter of having once been saved/forgiven/mercied, but rather it is an "abiding in a state of continually being cleansed."

In this chapter, we looked at several ways that we can be intentional about this kind of actively "purifying" our hearts before God - There are, here, at least 7 practical ways to pursue this end according to Kay (Arthur):

1) First and foremost, we can only be pure in heart if we have been given a NEW heart - see Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 36:26-27, Hebrews 10:19-22. We enter the holy of holies, purified, because of the blood of Jesus. [FOUNDATIONAL]
2) We must be washed by the water of the Word - see Ephesians 5:25-26, John 17:17.
3) We must continually be cleansed by confession - see 1 John 1:9.
4) We must make restitution - Does your heart condemn you? Perhaps you have confessed before the Lord, but you have not made restitution to the person(s) against whom you sinned. (If and when you do, you can be assured that this accusing voice is not your Father, once you have "done all," you can now stand firm.) - see Ezekiel 33:14-16, or consider the story of Zaccheus (Luke 19:8).
5) Carefully watch what you think about - see Philippians 4:8, 2 Corinthians 10:5.
6) Guard the company you keep - sed 1 Corinthians 15:33.
and finally,
7) Set your mind on things above - see Colossians 3:2.

To summarize - We have received a new heart from our Father, a heart of flesh rather than a heart of stone. In giving us this new heart, he is also teaching us to continually grow to love what he loves and hate what he hates. He is teaching us to do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with our God. We ourselves are needy! We could not stand if it were not for his great mercy toward us! How quickly we reveal ourselves NOT to have the heart of our Father when we refuse to also give mercy to others, or when we do not regularly bathe in the water of the word, and instead allow ourselves to again become soiled with the stench of our dead, sinful flesh.

Our Father, who is in heaven, HOLY is your name. We pray you would teach us to be women of mercy who long for the purity of heart that YOU have purchased for us with the blood of Jesus. We pray that you would continue - even as we know you are faithful and you WILL finish the good work you have begun! - to mold us more into the likeness of Christ - your beloved Son in whom you are well pleased! We pray, Father, that you would be pleased with us, that we would be "favored of God" - that we would be an "aroma of life" to those who are being saved, and a "pleasing scent" in your nostrils. Remind us, by whatever means, of how very great a mercy it is that we have received. Multiply our understanding of how very MUCH we have been forgiven! so that it might magnify how very GOOD the good news of your Gospel is, and that we may in turn LOVE much! In JESUS' name, amen!

04 March, 2010

~ a prayer for today ~

Lord - HERE [work] is where I most often and MOST readily need to be prayerful and dependent on the Lord to fill me with his Spirit. HERE is where I have the MOST time and opportunity to grow in faithfulness cuz HERE is my everyday, my most wakeful hours. So today, Lord, let me practice meekness - let me be patient and gentle! Let me show respect where due, and God help me! let me not think more highly of myself than I "ought."

Insofar as "being filled with the Spirit" is a command to be obeyed, I can "feel" that my ... drinking deeply of your presence DOES cause me to walk differently! With the gentleness and patience and self-control, and kindness and peace that YOU possess, and make manifest in and through me....

My God, APART from my Faith. Full. dependence on you, I am a natural Ogre.

God, be merciful! CAPTIVATE me, that I may give you my full attention, and joyfully so!

[fix my passions and my gaze; sweet submission, all glorious!]

LCM - CH5 and CH6: Re Meekness, and Hungering and Thirsting for Righteousness ~ GCC Women's Bible Study

Submitted by Leah Page on Wed, 03/03/2010 - 5:53pm LCM010 Sermon on the Mount

CH. 5 ~ Meekness: Is it Weakness or Strength

See Ps. 37:1-11
"...Trust is a facet of meekness because meekness trusts in the Lord, delighting in Him....Because of its steady trust, meekness can commit its way to the Lord....Meekness rests in Him, waiting patiently for whatever is God's pleasure. It does not fret and stew over the apparent prosperity of the wicked but focuses all its energies into waiting upon the Lord....Meekness knows that no matter how desperate the situation may appear, in the long run it will gain a glorious inheritance in the Lord. To put it in a single phrase, meekness is humble submission to the will of the Father." (LCM p. 109-110)

Jesus modeled meekness (see Matthew 11:28-30): While meekness is complete dependence on the Father, it is NOT weak - in fact often the opposite, because it takes great strength to hold oneself in submission. Strenght which in ourselves we do not naturally possess! We see Jesus' STRENGTH in submission modeled in the Garden as he faced not only his death, but taking on the very wrath of God for all our sin in the moment of his crucifixion. Yet he prayed 3x, "Not as I will, but as YOU will, Father." (see Matthew 26:37-44)

We talked about the practical outworking of this, particularly as it refers to confronting sin in others - which must first mean we have confronted it in ourselves. (see Galatians 6:1, and 2 Timothy 2:24-26) ~ [This would come up again later when we discussed MERCY, also.] Meekness is, therefore, a preservation for us - it protects us by keeping us aware of our OWN vulnerability to temptation, and helps keep us from presumption. It is teachable, gentle, kind. (see also the singular, "nine-fold fruit" of Galatians 5:22-23)

Meekness is forgiving - it cries out for mercy on behalf of another; it gives up it's own "right" (or perceived right) to retribution.

CH. 6 ~ Hungering and Thirsting for Righteousness

Longing - Appetite - Craving - Satisfaction

"...Righteousness is an attribute of God. It is the very essence of God's being. To hunger and thirst after righteousness is to have a deep, inner longing to please God. It is a longing that God Himself plants within our hearts to cause us to seek after Him. To hunger and thirst after righteousness is to desire with all our being to live and walk the way God says to live and walk. It is to crave God. It is to crave holiness...." (LCM p. 138-139)

We discussed how many commentators, Kay Arthur (LCM author) included, suggested that if someone does NOT possess this hungering, this thirsting, this LONGING for God and rightouesness, that it very well may mean that someone is not truly regenerated, and they need to do some serious business with the Lord.

"...This is not a hunger that stands at the open door of a full refrigerator, trying to decide if anything looks appealing. This is not a hunger that debates whether it can handle a third helping. This is a hunger that has to have food or it dies!" (LCM p. 141)

This is a call to examine ourselves - see if we indeed hunger and thirst with this kind of longing! If not - we must beg God....

"It is a craving that must be satisfied if life is to be sustained....What do you absolutely HAVE to have?" (LCM p. 144) ... "Ours is to be an ever-increasing hunger and thirst. The more we get, the more we want; the more we want, the more we get." (LCM p. 148) ...

And even the WANTING is its own kind of satisfying, because JESUS is so deeply satisfying!!

God, increase our thirst!

23 February, 2010

LCM - CH4: “Meekness in the Presence of Sovereignty” ~ GCC Women's Bible Study

Submitted by Leah Page on Tue, 02/23/2010 - 7:36pm Blessed Are LCM010 Sovereignty

My apologies, ladies! It has been a frenzied few weeks, and I have neglected updating our blog as a result. I will try to catch up Ch. 4-6 in short order.

(Mediating) Lesson concerning God’s Sovereignty – LCM, Ch. 4

“Meekness speaks of a submissive and trusting attitude toward God. It is an attitude which accepts all of God’s ways with us as good. It does not murmur or dispute. It neither rebels nor retaliates. It realizes that what comes to us from the hand of man has been permitted by God’s sovereignty, has been filtered by His fingers of love, and will be used by God for His glory and our ultimate good. Meekness looks beyond circumstances – no matter how upsetting and hurtful – and bows the knee to the sovereign God....If we are to walk in meekness, we must know our God. We must accept His sovereign rule. We must grapple with the character of this One who rules over the affairs of men and the hosts of heaven. Of all the truths I have learned, none has brought me more assurance, boldness, calmness, devotion, equilibrium, gratitude, and humility than this study of the sovereignty of God.” ~Kay Arthur, p. 78

df. Sovereignty:

“God rules over all. He is totally, supremely, and preeminently over all His creation. Nothing escapes His sovereign control. No one eludes His sovereign plan.” (p. 79)

*We looked through many Scriptures in this lesson, “beholding God” in the pages of his word, his “self-disclosure”....

That he who is so far beyond our comprehension would “declare” and so make himself known is in itself miraculous!

For the “summary” of this lesson, let it suffice to “worship” God according to the way(s) he revealed himself to us – we recorded our observations on pages 100-103 in our books:

He is the most high
He lives forever
He deserves blessing and honor and praise
His dominion (df) is everlasting - his rulership, the borders of his territory!
His kingdom endures from generation to generation
He does according to his will in the host (armies) of heaven
He does according to his will among the inhabitants of the earth
No one can ward off his hand
No one can (has the right to) question him
His thoughts are not our thoughts
His ways are not our ways
He “declares” – self-disclosure / revelation
His ways are higher than our ways (as far as the heavens are above the earth / incomprehensible / eternally expansive / beyond our ability to search it out!)
His thoughts are higher than our thoughts
He possesses DEEP riches of wisdom and knowledge
His judgments are unsearchable
His ways are unfathomable (df) - we cannot explore their depths!
No one has known the mind of the Lord
No one can counsel him or advise him
God OWES no one
No one gives TO God [as if he possessed any lack]
All things are FROM him
All things are [subsist] THROUGH him
All things are FOR him
He alone deserves glory and FOREVER
He intends
All that he intends occurs JUST as he intends it
He plans
All that he plans occurs JUST as he has planned it
No one can frustrate his plans
No one can turn back his outstretched hand
God justly repays affliction with affliction
God gives relief to those who are afflicted
Jesus will be revealed from heaven
Jesus’ angels deal out retribution to those who do not know God
His penalty is eternal destruction
His penalty is to [cast] “away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power”
He is [the one true God]
He alone is God
He puts to death
He gives life
He wounds
He heals
No one can deliver [make a way of escape] from his hand
He [Jesus] is the first and the last
He [Jesus] is the Living One
He [Jesus] was dead
He [Jesus] is alive forevermore
He [Jesus] has the keys of death and Hades
He is the Lord
He is the only true God
There is none beside him
He is the Lord
He forms light
He creates darkness
He causes well-being
He creates calamity [in some translations “evil” / “disaster”]
He is the Lord
He is the one who does all these [claims responsibility]
What God has bent no one can make straight
God has made adversity as well as prosperity
He is indeed GREAT
He is the ROCK
His work is perfect
All his ways are just
He is faithful
He is without injustice
He is righteous
He is upright
He is worthy of our praise

He is MOST WORTHY of our praise!!

Daniel 4:34-35; Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:33-36; Isaiah 14:24, 27; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9; Deuteronomy 32:39; Revelation 1:17-18 (Jesus); Isaiah 45:5-7; Ecclesiastes 7:13-14; Deuteronomy 32:3-4

29 January, 2010

LCM - CH3: "Do You Weep Over Sin?" ~ GCC Women's Bible Study

LCM - CH3: "Do You Weep Over Sin?"
Submitted by Leah Page on Fri, 01/29/2010 - 2:04pm Blessed Are hypocrisy LCM010 Luke 7 Sermon on the Mount

“Lord, only You can change me!” - Ch. 3 “Do You Weep Over Sin?”
~Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.~


Q: Is the remedy for “hypocrisy” – which we have said is this kind of putting on a front, showing ourselves to be something we’re not – Is the remedy for this merely a matter of “being real” or “being honest” or, if you prefer, “taking off the mask”?

Does that solve the real problem? Cuz there are some who would suggest that the MAIN issue with the traditional church is its legalistic and hypocritical past, and the way to overcome this is to strive for authenticity.

Removing the mask is certainly a STARTING point – but it is not an end in itself. We talked about a variety of reasons for this – but in main, this is due to the fact that our hearts are deceitful and we, even in our best efforts to “be real”, might not be so, and the fact of merely SEEING that we are dead / unclean / filthy inside does not in fact cleanse us or make us alive!

“beatitudes” are NOT “natural” to us
apart from the LORD doing a work in us, these characteristics are not at all “desirable” to us
God changes our “want to” so that we LONG to love what he loves, and hate what he hates


John Stottt (and no doubt others have too) said that “God reserves his secrets for his lovers,” meaning the community of the redeemed! He chooses to reveal himself – and he does so uniquely to those on whom he has set his affection and preserved in Christ (our “ark” of safety!).

God is in the business of removing our blindness so we can see HIM more clearly, because he is OUR Beloved, and so we can see ourselves more clearly – that we are very far indeed from what He has made us to be as Image.

(Not that we love Christ just because he makes US look good! No – we want to be LIKE him because HE is so good!)


We saw in our lesson through a few small glimpses (Genesis 6, Ezekiel 6, Luke 19 and Matthew 23) how sin breaks the heart of God – it “hurts” Him! (And of course it would, for sin is anything that is contrary to the will and nature and heart of God, it is at its heart our making ourselves to be god and king and ruler of our own hearts – which steals our affection from the One who is God and King and Ruler of all!)

Whether we have lived a history where we have seen the story of forgiveness the Lord wrote in our lives, or whether we are NOW living our lives where the Lord is graciously peeling back layer by layer the brokenness of our hearts, He is showing us how – in Christ – we are ALL forgiven MUCH! ...and why? Not for our condemnation! (Romans 8:1) But because he wants us to LOVE him much!

Our sin is SO vile, and the Lord’s grace is SO brilliant and beautiful – the Lord must bring our eyes into greater focus so that as the “law” of God brings conviction and repentance! (2 Corinthians 7:10), it is like the black velvet on which the diamond of the “grace” of God is displayed.


We also looked briefly at 1 Corinthians 5 and Ezekiel 9 – sin in the Church, in the hearts and corporate, “together” lives of God’s people.

Are we alert to and grieved by sin in the BODY?
How do we lovingly confront sin in the BODY? Or do we? Are we more interested in demonstrating our “tolerance and diversity”?

Part of the “application” of this included talking through the necessity of what Jesus describes in Matthew 7 as getting the log (or beam) out of our own eye so that we may see clearly to help our brother with the splinter (or speck) in his own eye. We are called to “judge” those within the fellowship of believers (and leave to God to judge those “outside”), but we are to do so with humility, an eye (if you’ll forgive the pun!) to our own confession and repentance!, a dependence on God’s grace and forgiveness, and the priority of God’s heart in the matter – which is for the other person to repent and receive forgiveness and restoration!

Looking forward to next week – we are going to look through a lot of different Scriptural passages, this week, to help us ... get our spiritual eyes more into focus, to see God as he really is! As he has “disclosed” himself to be! (It is, after all, the light of God’s presence, as we saw in Isaiah 6, that exposes the desperation of OUR need FOR him, but it also is the means by which we see how much we’ve been forgiven so that we may LOVE MUCH!)

Let us be women who LOVE MUCH our great God!


PS - prev. post answered some additional questions that were raised during our discussion.

28 January, 2010

LCM ~ A couple questions answered - followup to last night's class (re ch. 3)

Submitted by Leah Page on Thu, 01/28/2010 - 9:35am humility LCM010 Luke 7 Poor in Spirit

Good morning, ladies!

Last night, I double checked on a couple of the questions that were asked, and thought I'd share with you what I found (I'll post on the blog, too):

Q: Was the woman in Luke 7 Mary Magdalene?

A: The text doesn't say so, and I have heard from several sources that it is widely believed to be Mary Magdalene. But we don't know for sure. There are other Gospel accounts of a similar event, (such as Mark 14), but the details are different, and we know that the woman there mentioned was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Luke 7 seems to be a different event altogether - though possibly the fact that the other accounts mention a "Mary" and there is even another "Simon" present (Simon the Leper), perhaps these similarities help inform the speculation about the women in the text with which we have concerned ourselves, here?

(We DO know this was a woman who washed Jesus' feet out of love for him and a "weeping joy" for his grace! Would that we were all such women!)

Q: Was "Simon" in the Luke 7 account the name of the Pharisee hosting the gathering? Or referring to Simon/Peter, Jesus' disciple, who may also have been present at this event?

A: In v. 44, Jesus addresses Simon directly and accuses him of not having welcomed him even half as well as this so-called "sinner" woman. So Simon is contextually understood, here, to be the name of the Pharisee hosting the gathering.

Q: In Ezekiel 9:8, we speculated that perhaps this phrase (as worded in the NASB), "I alone was left," meant that Ezekiel was in fact the only one to survive the divine execution of the idol-worshippers in Jerusalem, the only one who was "marked" to be saved?

A: However, the opening phrase of the verse helps to clarify - and looking further at the context, ch. 10 is where "God's glory departs from the temple" and ch. 11 is where Ezekiel is called upon to give greater rebuke to the people (I don't know if such "order of writing" is meant to be explicitely chronological, but that seems to be the "plain meaning" of the text).

The ESV helpfully translates this verse this way: "And while they were striking, and I was left alone, I fell upon my face, and cried, 'Ah, Lord GOD! Will you destroy all the remnant of Israel in the outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?'" <-- a great case of finding help in other reliable translations of the text, and interpreting on the basis of context! ;) It seems Ezekiel is saying simply that while this horror (!) was being carried out, he remained in the presence of the Lord and - like Moses and others before him had done - was pleading with God on behalf of this rebelious people.

This is an event that is intended to "mirror" the Passover events in Exodus - though it is interesting, as we noted, that where in the Exodus account the faithful put the blood over their own doorposts, in this event, the Lord chose angelic messengers to somehow "mark" the foreheads of those who had "sighed and moaned" over the abominations committed in God's city. (Reminded me of how Peter in the NT [2 Peter ch. 2] describes Lot, Abraham's nephew who willingly lived in Sodom and Gomorrah and even rose to some prominence in the city!, and nevertheless was "vexed in his righteous soul" over their collective wickedness....)

Q: And finally, regarding good ol' Uriah Heep?

I had brought up one of the incidents that D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones mentions in his book "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and it was a point of interest because he actually names the person with whom he interacted, and it was one "Uriah Heep" and Betty had pointed out that this was the name of a character in a Charles Dickens' novel, so I thought perhaps I had misread the story!

A: I double checked and in fact, the man's name was Uriah Heep, so perhaps he was named after the Dickens character? Or perhaps it was just strange coincidence? Either way, it appears to be a "true story" and not just an illustration to make a point. Here is the quote if you're interested:

"...To be 'poor in spirit,' therefore, does not mean you are born like that. Let us get rid of that idea once and for ever.
Neither does it mean that we are to become what I can best describe as imitators of Uriah Heep. Many, again, have mistaken 'poor in spirit' for that. I remember once having to go to preach at a certain town. When I arrived on the Saturday evening, a man met me at the station and immediately asked for my bag, indeed he almost took it from my hand by force. Then he talked to me like this: 'I am a deacon in the church where you are preaching tomorrow,' he said, and then added, 'You know, I am a mere nobody, a very unimportant man, really. I do not count; I am not a great man in the Church; I am just one of those men who carry the bag for the minister.' He was anxious that I should know what a humble man he was, how 'poor in spirit.' Yet by his anxiety to make it known, he was denying the very thing he was trying to establish. Uriah Heep -- the man who thus, as it were, glories in his poverty of spirit and thereby proves he is not humble. It is an affectation of something which he obviously does not feel...."

(DLJ, SITSOTM, p. 38)


~Growing in grace, and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ~

27 January, 2010

~How to become Poor In Spirit~ D.M.Lloyd-Jones

"...The way to become poor in spirit is to look at God. Read this Book about Him, read His law, look at what He expects from us, contemplate standing before Him. It is also to look at the Lord Jesus Christ and to view Him as we see Him in the Gospels. The more we do that the more we shall understand the reaction of the apostles when, looking at Him and something He had just done, they said, 'Lord, increase our faith!' Their faith, they felt, was nothing. They felt it was so weak and so poor. 'Lord, increase our faith. We thought we had something because we had cast out devils and preached Thy word, but now we feel we have nothing; increase our faith.'

"Look at Him; and the more we look at Him, the more hopeless shall we feel by ourselves, and in and of ourselves, and the more shall we become 'poor in spirit.' Look at Him, keep looking at Him. Look at the saints, look at the men who have been most filled with the Spirit and used. But above all, look again at Him, and then you will have nothing to do to yourself. It will be done. You cannot truly look at Him without feeling your absolute poverty, and emptiness. Then you say to Him,

'Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.'

Empty, hopeless, naked, vile. But HE is the all-sufficient One --

'Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come.'"

~David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, from "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount," p. 42

26 January, 2010

LCM - CH2: "Where True Happiness Begins" ~ GCC Women's Bible Study

Submitted by Leah Page on Tue, 01/26/2010 - 7:14pm Blessed Are LCM010 Poor in Spirit
"Lord, Only You can Change Me" (by Kay Arthur)
Ch. 2: "Where True Happiness Begins"

Review week 1: John the Baptist was chosen by God to "make ready a people prepared for the Lord" and in large part, this very "preparation" was the call to REPENT! The "red carpet" of John's ministry was to declare the "BAD NEWS" of our sin, our deserving God's judgment, and the proclamation that the kingdom of God was at hand. Bookmark chapter for week 1 (intro) was Luke 1 (and connecting back to Malachi ch. 3-4)

Review week 2: The "theme" of the infamous "Sermon on the Mount" - which we discerned from Jesus' own words - is "the righteous lifestyle of those who belong to the kingdom of heaven." (LCM p.6) One of the key verses of this sermon is Matthew 5:20 which says "For I [Jesus] say to you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees [the religious leaders of that time, the most "holy" people who were supposed to know all about God], you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." But as we saw, Jesus' rebuke against the so-called religious was very severe. Bookmark chapter for week 2 (ch. 1) was Matthew 23, where Jesus soundly rebukes these religious folks for their hypocrisy! They exert all this effort to clean the outside of the cup, but inside they are as filthy and dirty as ever. They are like whitewashed tombs - concerned about their outward appearances, but inside are DEAD and unclean.

So we come to chapter 2, and there were 2 main topics for us to discuss:

Jesus opens this sermon with a series of statements concerning those who are considered "blessed" or "happy/ecstatic" - and gives us a glimpse into their condition. Before we got into the first "beatitude" (which comes from the latin word to describe this series of "blessed are's"), we needed to understand better what this actually means.

For one, "blessed are" refers to a "STATE OF BEING," not a set of doings. The sermon to follow is going to be filled to overflowing with all kinds of "do's" and "don'ts" - but Jesus is FIRST, LAST and ALWAYS concerned with the condition of the HEARTS of his people. As we have said before, "Being precedes [comes before] Doing" - what we DO is the overflow of who we ARE. What we DO, is the "natural result" of who we ARE.

Additionally, in the Scriptures, "blessedness means 'a sense of God's approval.'" (LCM p. 21) BLESSED first refers to God's approval, God's favor, God's...pleasure. These statements of character, of the heart, of "being" in the inner person, all fall under the category of "blessed" because they describe the heart and character that is PLEASING to God, and therefore as an overflow of his pleasure, God blesses us and we are filled with joy. We used the picture of a tree to get this idea. It would be as if we could say the ROOT is God's being pleased, and the FRUIT is our joy.

However, if we have not been given a new nature? If we are still in our sin - God's pleasure would be worse than meaningless to us. It would certainly not be our aim, our desire or at all OUR pleasure! (Recall, we talked about God changing our "want to's"?! so that we long to love what he loves and hate what he hates!) But if we desire to please God, and Jesus has told us that these characteristics are at the HEART of what brings pleasure to God, wouldn't it be to our benefit to understand what these things mean? To, in effect, if it were possible, "strive after" this kind of character and heart and inner person?

"Is it any wonder that Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount so amazed His listeners?....Here was a man who spoke with ringing authority, a man who was God in the flesh. Here was the mighty Creator of all speaking to His created ones, telling them that the wellspring of what they craved was found in a sense of His approval. Yes, friends and loved ones may belittle and ridicule our words and our choices, but what does it matter as long as God continually whispers, 'I know who you are, My child, and it brings Me pleasure.' Man, after all, was made for God's glory, God's pleasure. How then can man be complete or satisfied until he achieves that for which he was created?" (LCM, p. 24)

We looked through several Scriptures during our study, including Luke 18:9-14 where we saw the Tax Gatherer crying out for mercy, Isaiah 6:1-8 where we saw how Isaiah - when he was confronted face to face with God - cried out "WOE IS ME!" as he recognized how sinful he was, and 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 where we saw that God chose for himself people who were (in their natural selves) foolish, weak, base, despised, who were not wise, were not mighty, were not noble. And yet God place them in CHRIST (his beloved Son in whom he was WELL PLEASED!), so that he would become to them (and us) all that they were NOT - Jesus is our wisdom, Jesus is our righteousness, Jesus is our sanctification, Jesus is our redemption - so Jesus is our all in all.

We used the image of a "cup" again to talk about how we come to God - and that if we try to bring him anything, as if we could bring anything acceptable to God?, we are in effect trying to stand on our own righteousness or value or worthiness. But God is most glorified when we come to him with EMPTY cups, seeking to be FILLED by HIM! After all, how could we hope to bring anything MORE pleasing to the Father than Jesus?? So "poverty of spirit" isn't an expression of "how much spirit" do we possess, but in effect "how much righteousness" does our spirit possess - It is not as though we suddenly possess less righteousness when we see ourselves compared to a holy God! It's just that the light of God's presence EXPOSES our poverty - that we have nothing to offer to commend ourselves to him.

The proper response to "seeing God" is to fall on our faces, exclaim "WOE IS ME" and cry out for mercy. That is what Jesus means by poverty of spirit. How do we "strive after" this poverty of spirit? We fill our gaze with God - see as MUCH of him as we can, as Isaiah did, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

Jesus says this is the condition in which we are BLESSED! To these individuals who have despaired of their own self-effort and fall on God for grace and mercy - To these belong the kingdom of heaven.

Take heart! The Lord has promised - the good work he BEGINS in us he WILL be faithful to bring to completion! He does not leave us fallen on our faces, but intervenes on our behalf....

Bookmark chapters for this week are Isaiah 6 and Luke 18.

"What is poverty of spirit? It is an absence of self-assurance, self-reliance, and pride. It is the deepest form of repentance. It is turning from your independence to total dependence on God. It is brokenness. Listen, my friend, as difficult as it might be to receive right now, you ought to open your arms and welcome anything that will break you, that will bend your knees, that will bring you to utter destitution before your God....To walk in poverty of spirit means to abide in the Vine [Jesus!] and to allow the life of the Vine, by God's Spirit, to flow through us so that we might bear fruit. For apart from Him we can do nothing. (John 15:5)...." (LCM, p. 30, p. 42)

22 January, 2010

GCC Women's Bible Study ~ LCM - CH1: "Getting Beyond Our Masks"

Submitted by Leah Page on Wed, 01/20/2010 - 12:22am hypocrisyLCM010

LCM – CH1: Getting Beyond Our Masks

Started off in overview of Matthew 5-7, seeing the pattern of both "heaven" and "righteousness" in the Sermon on the Mount – the theme of which is in short "the righteous lifestyle of those who belong to the kingdom of heaven." (LCM p.6)

"Bookmark" chapter for this week was Matthew 23.

Highlights of discussion centered around the following:


Jesus starts the sermon concentrating on what makes up the "character" of those who are the "favored ones of God" – and what follows is the righteousness that is the "natural result" of having been changed by God, given a new heart. We re-stated this as "Being precedes Doing" – what we do stems from who we are. We sin because we are sinners; if we are "saints" / "sanctified" / the "holy ones of God" / set apart, we increasingly do as God’s Holy One does, because we are made into His likeness.

We ARE changed [given a new heart / the righteousness of Jesus] and so we LIVE that way.

Where we typically mess up is in flip flopping the process, as if "doing" righteousness is what earns God’s pleasure. This will become a theme in our study as "blessed" means "favored" of God which is intimately tied to what it means to say "God is pleased by..."


There is an inescapable connection between our "doing the will of [Jesus’] Father who is in heaven," and pleasing God. Jesus is explicit that those who do not do the will of the Father are among those of whom "on that day" Jesus will say "Depart from me, I never knew you..."

But does this invite, then, some kind of doctrine of "salvation by righteous works"?
Well...I suppose that depends on whose works are righteous!! In whom is the Father well-pleased? Who lived a perfectly flawless life, fully righteous life? By whose righteousness are WE able to become the righteousness of God? Our own?

How do we obtain the righteousness that pleases God? The righteousness that God rewards?


"Real Christian life – the genuine article – is never hypocritical. Authentic Christian life is something higher, brighter, and infinitely more powerful that pale, phony substitutes. It will take you from the valley of sin to the mount of blessedness. It will take you from the depths of destitution to the heights of God’s approval...." (LCM p. 3)

"True Christianity is discipleship. It’s the willingness to turn around to leave everything, and to let Jesus Christ be all in all. It’s the willingness to follow Him wherever He leads, and to do whatever He says. True Christianity is a total commitment of oneself to the lordship of Jesus Christ." (LCM p. 10)

Matthew 23 – "woe to you, hypocrites" – the "religious ones…the ones who claimed to know God...." (p. 14)

v. 3 they say and do not do
v. 4 they bind heavy burdens (works to earn God’s favor!) and lay them on the shoulders of others, but they themselves won’t lift a finger
v. 5 they do all their works to be seen by men, to DRAW attention to themselves
v. 6 they love the BEST places at the feasts, the BEST seats in the synagogues
v. 7 they love to be recognized and greeted in public places and called "Rabbi, Rabbi" (teacher, teacher!)
v. 13 they shut up the kingdom of heaven to prevent others from going in
v. 14 they give long prayers for pretense
v. 15 they move heaven and earth to make one convert, but make him twice as much a son of hell than themselves (increasing his dependence on his own "works" of righteousness)
v. 23 they are caught up in the tiniest of details! Regarding what to offer of the least of the herbs, and LOSE the weightier matters (which the lesser were meant to serve and reveal!) – law, justice, mercy, faith
v. 25 they clean the outside, but inside are full of extortion and self-indulgence
v. 27-28 outwardly appear clean, but inside are DEAD, UNCLEAN, full of hypocrisy and lawlessness....


We do not approach God with our "cup" full of our "offering" as if to bring some good thing to God, or to add to God’s pleasure. His GREATEST pleasure is derived from our coming to him with our "cup" EMPTY, so as to RECEIVE from him of HIS fullness....

We will look at this more in the next week as we study "poverty of spirit."

09 January, 2010


Submitted by Leah Page on Sat, 01/09/2010 - 12:18am LCM010

The first night of our new study launched this past Wednesday!

We got off to a good start, with an ice breaker forcing us to introduce each other – I think this gave us a lot of good opportunity to laugh together and learn some unique things about each of us. I hope this serves us well as we go through these next couple of months together and commit to pray for one another.

We began by reviewing some of the high points of our study in Malachi from last semester; primarily the pattern of the Lord’s [kind!] Rebuke which leads us to Repentance which is the posture that receives the Restoration of our fellowship with the Lord. ("The Lord opposes the proud, but gives grace (!) to the humble.")

Though the last word before the Lord goes silent for 400 years (between the old and new testaments of the Bible when there was no prophet in Israel) is "curse," nevertheless the last words are ultimately, collectively, the Lord’s PROMISE – that he would send a forerunner, "Elijah," who would prepare the way for the Lord’s coming and our salvation! One who would turn the hearts of the fathers to their children....

And we picked this up in Luke 1, then, where the priest Zechariah receives a visit from the angel, Gabriel, to tell him the good news that he and his wife Elizabeth are to have a son in their old age, an answer to their prayers, who would come "in the spirit and power of Elijah." And this son – John the baptizer – would be set apart, filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (!), and his ministry would be to "turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous," and to "make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

And what was this ministry? What was this "red carpet" rolled out to lead up to the arrival of the Lord Jesus? Notice, John’s message was NOT – "I have come to bring you good news which shall be for all the people!" Rather, John’s message was "REPENT! The Kingdom of God is at hand! The Lord is coming, judgment is imminent! And you are sinners deserving of the wrath of God! Cry out for mercy!"

In effect, the red carpet that prepares the way for the GOOD news – of the salvation purchased by Jesus’ blood – is the message of the very BAD news about our sin and the fact we will never be able to achieve the righteousness that will earn God’s favor. (It must be a gift!) The fact that the BAD news is so very BAD is what then makes the GOOD news of God’s grace in Jesus so very very GOOD.

This set the stage to launch into our review of Jesus’ famous "sermon on the mount" toward the beginning of his earthly ministry. And in Matthew chapters 5-7, we see Jesus take the Old Testament "LAW" and raise the bar even higher. "You have heard it said…..but *I* tell you……" Always taking the requirement for righteousness deeper – through to the heart.

We read through all of Matthew 5-7 to end class by way of giving us a bit of a "jump start" into the first lesson – highlighting as we went any mention of the word "heaven" (which appears at least 21 times in these 3 chapters, depending on how you count to repetitions/synonyms, etc.).

It is clear, just in these verses, that Jesus starts with the heart (the character of those who are "blessed" – highly favored of God!), and then brings every thing that we "do" thereafter and lines it up alongside the heart, examining each area of life and whether it measures up to God’s standard of perfection. ("...the holiness without which no one will see God.")

To put it another way – there are the beginning hints, here, of the fact that what we DO springs from who (whose) we ARE. And we will get into this a bit more fully in the weeks to come, Lord willing!

For next week, we dive right in to chapter one – completing the overview of the whole "sermon on the mount," and particularly focusing on the nature of the "masks" we wear – The ways we hide and cover ourselves so we might appear to be more righteous (more praiseworthy) than we really are.

Jesus exposes our hypocrisy – and our study starts here, because only when we remove our self-made garments of fig leaves (and the trees behind which we like to hide) can we humbly admit we are weak and vulnerable and shameful, and we need Jesus’ righteousness, because our own best is "as filthy rags."

How fitting, then, the title of our little book: "LORD, only YOU can change me…."

Again, I challenge you - let us not be "battle weary" before we even begin. Let's "change our minds" and think of this study not as another activity which adds to our busyness, but rather think of this study and time in the Word of God as part of our REST before him.

We are looking forward to a truly blessed time in the next few weeks.

~Leah (Page)