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!