Saturday, January 23, 2016

Thoughts on Romans 7

I've never had a real understanding of Paul's exposition about sin and the law in Romans.

Verse 7: Yet, if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. ...9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died; 10 the very commandment which promised life proved to be death to me.

Clear enough in the reading, we understand the words, right?
But maybe not really the meaning, not by experience anyway. I know I didn't.

But I got a personal glimpse this morning. I love Bible study, I really do, so when I was given a Bible study workbook that looked interesting, I thought it would be great to do. This particular workbook was first published in 1954, and things have changed a lot in Bible studies since then. I started to get into it, and felt this awful, but very real spirit of rebellion rearing it's ugly head. "You will, you will be expected to, you will complete, you will memorize, you will provide, you will master....." said the study guide. "Oh, I will, will I?" said my spirit. And caught myself short, realizing it was an example of exactly what I had been reading in Romans. The rebellion wasn't there, until the orders came.

Bible study writers that I've experienced lately make a point of identifying with their readers, give suggestions, give encouragement, offer urgent reasons why it's important to do this or that. This study simply assumes that you are in it for the work, and says "Here's the work! Do it!"

I thought it was an interesting revelation. 
Now I can go back to the study armed with this bit of realization, watching out for this rebellion (sin.)
I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Parables

I've just finished reading a great book, called The Parables, by Gary Inrig. It's here, on Amazon.

And I wanted to share a couple of small excerpts.

" The parables calls us to know our God, to enjoy and to obey him. Over and over, I meet a God whose love is unending, whose forgiveness is unfailing, whose power is transforming, whose ear is attentive, whose reward is unmerited, and whose home is open to all who trust Him."

"Our world threatens to drown us in information; meanwhile, our souls thirst for wisdom. Our deepest need is a recognition of the grandeur of God in His grace and greatness.....May God in His grace give you a delight in His person, a passion for His glory, and a confidence in His love."

Imagine if we all had a real delight in His person, were delighted to spend time getting to know Him, delighted to spend an afternoon with Him, delighted to speak with Him, to listen to Him....may God in His grace give us this delight.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Our Names Are Safe

Since I am an avid novel reader from way back, and since I want my reading to be edifying, rather than distracting, I've been dwelling in Mitford lately, in the Jan Karon novels, and there are gems for the having.
This gem is from Shepherds Abiding, the 8th in the Mitford series.

"Someone had done a study with six-to-eight-year-olds, asking them to define love, and he'd run across the results on the Internet.

When you love someone, your eye lashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.
When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.

He calls His sheep by name, and our names are safe in His mouth."

Isn't that lovely? Our names are safe in His mouth.

PS. Do any of you have suggestions for good Christian slanted novels or writers?
Let me know, please.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Take my Life, let it BE

My Aunt Nel has invited me to contribute to this blog.  
I've been thinking a lot lately about Seasons of Life.  
I would like to propose this first post as Seasons, Part 1 - the state of Being.  
Seasons, Part 2 will follow on the State of Doing. 


Take my Life, Let it BE - 
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee; 
Take my Moments and my Days, 
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

The song came up next in my Spotify playlist as I was driving to work this week.  Let it BE, Lord?  Really?  Why doesn't the song say, "Take my problems, let them go?"  After all, don't you want our seasons of life to be filled with joy, peace, clarity, direction, love, and everything wonderful in between...?"

You see, I'm a Doer. Every boyfriend I've had has told me that I walk too fast, and geez, Emily, why don't you stop and smell the roses?!  Is your life a chase? :)  To which I reply, "No, no!  I just have things to do, people to see, places to go, and dreams to fulfill!  I'm just so excited about the next thing!"

The next thing.  We are always looking towards or for the next thing, aren't we?  My Mom said I crawled at 7 months.  And when I learned how to crawl, I learned to walk at 8 months.  And when I learned how to walk, I wanted to climb up on the counters and tables and chairs to SEE and peer over the heights of whatever I couldn't see to catch a glimpse of what was BEYOND.  And when I finally got up on the edge of the counter, whoopsies!  I slipped and cracked my chin open and my Mom takes me to the hospital 5 times for stitches before the age of 5....because, well, I was a busy-body-being...

I scan back through the years, through my seasons of life, and not much has changed, I suppose.  I am still so good at running through seasons of life checking things off my To-Be List (I call it the "To-Be List" because there is a difference between the Identity-I-Want-to-Be List and His-Child-State-of-Being list.)  If I'm enjoying a season of life, I go 120% like a madman, living whole-heartedly and soaking it up, and driving myself into the exhaustion of production -- and then the season is over, and I look back, and wonder, gosh, maybe I should have stopped and smelled the roses more!  Or, if I'm despising a season of life like a child refusing his green peas, I shrink back in fear, despair, anger, bitterness, sorrow, and doubt, and beg God to get me out of this season, and just grin and bear it and pray-to-God-on-my-knees that I won't break and crumble and that somehow people will still think I'm confident and brave and getting things done and being a rockstar.

And, I chuckle because in every transition of life -- whether a joy or a trial -- in every ebb and flow of seasons -- in every break of the chapter to the next one where you feel like a Nomad wandering through the Sinai desert, hoping to stumble upon the next camp and the next cloud covering that God promises to provide -- I come right back to the same ole' question: Who am I really, Lord?  And, what do you want me to Be?  And what is my life?

In every season of life, I believe we must ask God this question, and let His Spirit answer quietly to our souls as we ponder our true state of Being in Him. This morning, He answers us in Psalm 90 by turning our gaze to David's discovery of the dwelling place we find in God through time, through every season. Bear with me as I slightly modify this passage so that the theme can soak into your heart:

"Lord, you have been my dwelling place in all seasons...from [season to season], you are return man to the dust.  For a thousand seasons in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.  You sweep them away as with a flood - they are like a dream.  like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning each season flourishes, and is renewed; in the evening, each season fades, and withers away.  For all our seasons pass away under your holiness; we bring our seasons to an end like a sigh.  The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength, eighty; yet their span is toil, and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.  So teach us to number our seasons (days) that we may gain a HEART of wisdom.  Satisfy us in the morning, in each season, with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice, and be glad all our seasons.  Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.  Let YOUR work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to our children.  Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands in each season - yes, establish the work of our hands."

Some things to note about this passage:

1) In every season, we can rest in the fact that God is our dwelling place, the beginning and the end of our travels through seasons.  I'm not just talking about a physical dwelling place -- but a dwelling place for our minds and hearts, when they are scattered and detoured and dashing about for answers.

2) 1,000 years is like YESTERDAY to Him. We are so impatient, aren't we?!  God's Timetable isn't our own - to keep us in a season, or to move us on.

3) Our days are (yes, get over your wrinkles and gray hairs growing in!) passing away -- and their span is toil and trouble.  My Mom always said to me, "Most of life is lived in the mundane.  God's love and blessings and the joys we have in this world, family, friends, and loved ones make it extraordinary -- but most of life is pretty darn ordinary."  

4) God wants to teach us to number / count / cherish / ponder / treasure our days.  Part of the state of Being God's child, His daughter, His loved one, His own, is being still and knowing that He is God - the God of our hearts, our problems, our desires, our sins, our days, our seasons.  I like the use the word cherish / ponder / treasure, because I think it isn't just about having a sober, realistic view of our days, and their fleeting nature -- it is about truly cherishing the present, and the present work that God is doing in and through us. Otherwise, He would have said, "Teach us to forecast our days." :) 

5) We cherish our days, THAT we may gain a HEART of wisdom. A lot of people are super wise - intellectually, mentally, in a worldly sense, in a professional sense.  Even men and women of God are wise as it relates to their head-knowledge.  But, in various seasons of life, are we letting God season our hearts...?  The deep seasoning of the soul is a process by which we allow God to speak into the cracks of our thinking and logic, and through trial and error, fault and failure, testing and trembling, we allow God to season our hearts with the beauty, and surety, of His wisdom and commands and law and testimonies and statutes (Psalm 19).

6) Lastly, God constantly promises to satisfy us with His steadfast love.  Steadfastness doesn't alter through seasons and changing circumstances.  

I want to extend #6 into something personal here -- my last boyfriend, for better or for worse, taught me a very valuable lesson in the art and vulnerability of love.  He taught me how to let someone love me, how to be cherished, valued, served, blessed, accepted for who I was without make-up, and loved for who I was in the ugliest moments when my true self came out.  I argue that this is hard for Doers and Type-A women.  We are good at loving ourselves, understanding ourselves thoroughly enough to comprehend how best to take care of ourselves, do things that make us feel good about our identity and body and career and status before God and man.  But, we aren't always good at being dependent, and letting God love us, our husbands love us, our families and best friends love us.  And, we must learn to be loved by others, by first letting God love us -- which requires BEING in His presence and open-hearted before Him; to give Him the time of day to declare His intentions towards us, His affections, His ardent and enduring loyalty towards us.  

My recent season of having a boyfriend ended about six months ago.  And, I have truly wrestled, like Jacob, to be vulnerable with God again, let alone a man someday in the future.  To open up my heart again and again, only to watch relationships be 'swept away like a flood' before my eyes, and sweet seasons end and the transition back into singleness happens AGAIN.  My heart shrinks back in fear, I close it up, and don't want to let anyone love me, even God.  I don't want to be hurt.  I don't want the pain.  I don't want the heart-ache or the loneliness or the hopes deferred...again.  

And yet, my Dwelling place is with God, and His with me.  And, so I meekly stagger back up to His throne and into His arms, and hold up my face with tears streaming down my cheeks, and say, Yep, Here I am again, Lord.  My messy self and my weary heart and my doubting mind and my distrusting thoughts towards you -- take my life, let it BE - AGAIN.  

BE yours, BE pure, BE holy, BE loved, BE resting, BE hope-filled, BE still, BE established, BE envisioned, BE healed, just BE.  And, through the past 10 years of this cycle, I have been blown away by God's steadfast love to accept my unveiled face and heart, raw and broken and tainted and bruised.  And despite my heroic (and foolish) attempts to mold my own identity of being in this life and figure out "Who I am," He says three words to me, season and season again -- You. Are. Mine.   

And, then I let all my hopes, dreams, visions, longings go up into the cavity of His love, and ceaseless Praise begins to flow out from my heart, because in the making of space for His love, and the letting go of my self-loves and thing-loves and doing-loves, there is a wide open plain for Him to consecrate me. To His covenant, to His promises, to His plan, to His timing for my present season, and future calling.  It's ironic, isn't it?  If we clench our fist tightly to hold onto all that we want to hold onto in each season of life, somehow everything seems to slip through the cracks of our fingers, even though we thought our hold was tight enough to keep everything intact.  But, if we loosen our grip, and open up our hands so that He can take my life and let it BE (whatever He wants), somehow He ends up filling our hands with more than we could ever dream or dare to have landed into our lives.

Oh, Lord, truly, you have been our Dwelling every season.  From season to season, you are God.  Establish us for your glory, and for our Good. Give us a heart of wisdom, as we number of seasons.  Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love.  Make us glad for as many days as we have felt afflicted or bruised or battered or broken down by the disappointments of hopes deferred, of longings unfilled, of trials borne, of Your will awaited.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Prone to Wander...

Oh, Father, let this be our confession and our fervent prayer:
 "O, to Grace, how great a debtor
   Daily I'm constrained to be:
   Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
   Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
   Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
   Prone to leave the God I love;
   Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
   Seal it for Thy courts above."

Rev Robert Robinson, 1758
Listen to the entire beautiful hymn here: (oh, yeah, push that volume button up, it's inspiring!)
Scroll down past the main photo, and give the video a moment to load up. Enjoy!

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Monday, January 4, 2016

Daily Devotional by Email

If you like the idea of getting a daily devotional by email, I've found one that I think is good, solid. This organization is called "Truth for Life" and you can investigate them by using this link : Truth for Life    The devotional this morning was about how well the Lord knows each one of us, (intimately, with deep affection, since before we were born) and how much we still have to learn about Him.

"The Sun of Righteousness shone forth, and we could not see Him. Heaven came down to earth, and earth perceived it not. Let God be praised, those days are over with us; yet even now what we know of Jesus is small compared with what He knows of us. We have only begun to study Him, but He knows us altogether."

The material is written by a pastor named Alistair Begg, and the footnote at the bottom says that it's revised from writings (Morning and Evening)  by CH Spurgeon, updated for us.

There are also sermons to listen to, and a blog to follow.
If you want the daily devotional, there is a sign-up form in the right bottom corner.
Just fill it in.

Good stuff!

Friday, January 1, 2016

No Room

As we look towards this new year, and wish each other Happy 2016, this snip from a sermon provides some sobering thought. So, wishing us all a blessed year of growing closer, being more fervent in our prayers, and being willing to be less, so that He can be more.

From a sermon by C.H. Spurgeon

I conclude with this point, that if you "have room" for Christ, then from this day forward remember, "The world has no room for you;" for the text says not only that there was no room for Him, but look--"There was no room 'for them,'"--no room for Joseph, nor for Mary, any more than for the babe. Who are His mother, brother, and sister, but those who do the will of His Father in heaven. So, as there was no room for the blessed Virgin, nor for the reputed father, remember from this time on there is no room is this world for any true follower of Christ.
There is no room for you to take it "easy," no, you are to be a soldier of the cross. There is no room for you to sit down "content with all your achievements," for you are a traveler, and you are to forget the things that are behind, and press forward to that which is ahead; no room for you "to hide your treasure" in, for here the moth and rust destroys; no room for you "to put your confidence," for "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength." From this day there will be no room for you in "the good opinion of the world." They will count you to be rubbish; no room for you in the world's "polite society"--you must go on without the sophisticated, bearing His reproach. From this time forward, if you have room for Christ, the world will hardly find room for "tolerance" of you; you must expect now to be laughed at; now you must wear the fool's cap in men's esteem. The song that you must sing will be at the very beginning of your pilgrimage:
"Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee;
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou, from hence, my all shalt be."
There is no room for you in the world's love. If you expect that everybody will praise you, and that your good actions will all be applauded, you will be quite mistaken. The world has no room for the man who has room for Christ. "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." "Woe to you when all men speak well of you." You are not of the world, even as Christ is not of it. Thank God, you need not ask for the world's hospitality. If it will give you a stage for action, and lend you for a short time a grave to sleep in, it is all you need; you will require no permanent dwelling-place here, since you seek a city that is to come, which has foundations; whose builder and maker is God. You are hurrying through this world as a stranger through a foreign land, and you rejoice to know that though you are an alien and a foreigner here, yet you are a fellow citizen with the saints, and of the household to God.
What do you say, young soldier, will you enlist on such terms as these? Will you give room for Christ when there is to be from this time on no room for you--when you are to be separated forever, cut off from among the world's relatives--cut off from fleshly confidence forever? Are you willing, nevertheless to receive the Babe of Bethlehem in? The Lord help you to do so, and to Him will be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Being Filled

“If thou could'st empty all thyself of self
Like to a shell dishabited
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf
And say This is not dead and fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity
That when He comes He says This is enow Unto itself - 'twere better let it be
It is so small and full there is no room for me.”

Madeleine L'Engle, A Ring of Endless Light
Read more quotes from Madeleine L'Engle