Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Steadfast Under Trial

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.  (2 Timothy 4:7-8. ESV.)

Oh to be able to say this one day and hear my King respond with, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Regarding William Wilberforce, John Piper wrote,
"Consider now the remarkable perseverance of this man in the cause of justice.  I admit, this is what drew me to Wilberforce in the first place - his reputation as a man who simply would not give up when the cause was just."

Wilberforce would not quit.  Not in the face of defeat, with the sting of failure, strain of stress, tarnish of slander, discomfort of illness, and threat of harm!

Piper went on to state,
"...Wilberforce wrote, 'I have been so often disappointed, that I rejoice with trembling and shall scarcely dare to be confident till I actually see the Order in the Gazette.'  But these repeated defeats of his plans did not defeat him.  His adversaries complained that 'Wilberforce jumped up whenever they knocked him down.'  One of them in particular put it like this: 'It is necessary to watch him as he is blessed with a very sufficient quantity of that Enthusiastic spirit, which is so far from yielding that it grows more vigorous from blows.'"

Wilberforce's prayer was,
"Oh Lord, purify my soul from all its stains.  Warm my heart with the love of thee, animate my sluggish nature and fix my inconstancy, and volatility, that I may not be weary in well doing."

Lord, my King, I echo that prayer!!!  I, admittedly, am not fighting against such a powerful cause as slavery but I am battling for justice against sin.  I feel this places me in a similar boat, albeit Wilberforce was in a massive battleship (figuratively speaking, of course) and I in a dinky row boat... but I have to admit I feel the burden of tension and burn of running the race this long season.  I get tired and (at times) overwhelmed.  I beg You, my King, for reinforcements and thank You for Your many blessings.

Piper mentions Wilberforce's pain when his oldest, William, "fell away from the Christian faith and gave no evidence of the precious experience his father called 'the great change.'"  When Wilberforce got word his son was "spending his father's allowance foolishly",  
"Wilberforce agonized and decided to cut off his allowance, have him suspended from school, put him with another family, and not allow him to come home."

Right on!  Talk about tough love.  Again I can relate to Wilberforce in the heartache of having someone so beloved be apart from God... To not know God's character and grace... To not feel that peace that surpasses all understanding... To not have a future and a hope.  

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  (James 1:12. ESV.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fight the Good Fight of the Faith

12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  (1 Timothy 6:12. ESV.)

In the introduction of his book AMAZING GRACE IN THE LIFE OF WILLIAM WILBERFORCE, John Piper wrote,
"Against great obstacles William Wilberforce, an evangelical member of Parliament, fought for the abolition of the African slave trade and against slavery itself until they were both illegal in the British empire.  The battle consumed almost forty-six years of his life (from 1787-1833)."

For forty-six years Wilberforce "fought the good fight", felt the sting of defeat, heartache of failure, and perhaps even hopelessness in the face of men, slavery, and wickedness.  But how does one "fight the good fight" especially for so long?  Piper, explaining Wilberforce's motivation states,
"No true Christian can endure in battling unrighteousness unless his heart is aflame with new spiritual affections, or passions.  'Mere knowledge is confessedly too weak.  The affections alone remain to supply the deficiency.'"

Piper goes on to say,
"That is what made Wilberforce tick.  He was not a political pragmatist.  He was a radically God-centered Christian who was a politician.  And his true affections for God based on the 'peculiar doctrines' of Christianity were the roots of his endurance in the cause of justice."

I hope one would look at me and call me "a radically God-centered Christian"!  If not, them there is something more I should be doing...even in the capacity of wife/mother/lady of the house.

The Life of a Follower of Christ

Regarding Wilberforce's daily activities, Piper notes,
"Beginning not long after his conversion and lasting until he was married eleven years later, he would now spend his days studying 'about nine or ten hours a day,' typically 'breakfasting alone, taking walks alone, dining with the host family and other guests but not joining them in the evening until he "came down about three-quarters of an hour before bedtime for what supper I wanted."'  'The bible became his best-loved book and he learned stretches by heart.'"

This gives me great encouragement in contrast to individuals who have called me "extreme", "bible thumper", and/or "religious zealot" for being in God's word daily (though, admittedly, far less than "nine or ten hours a day")!  Thank you, God!

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  (Romans 15:13. ESV.)

Was Blind but Now I See

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.  (Ephesians 1:3-10. ESV.)

Amazing Grace

One of my favorite movies, "Amazing Grace", is about William Wilberforce and his efforts to abolish slavery.  Seeming torn between being a pastor or politician, Wilberforce (in the film) was encouraged to do both but remain in parliament.  Such an extraordinary man of God shines brightly while I, a writer (among a multitude) with a heart for God dims drastically...barley visible to the naked eye.

I am once again drawn to the book by Pastor John Piper entitled, AMAZING GRACE IN THE LIFE OF WILLIAM WILBERFORCE to find out more about this favored man of God.

Wilberforce stated,
"If we would...rejoice in [Christ] as triumphantly as the first Christians did; we must learn, like them to repose our entire trust in him and to adopt the language of the apostle, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Jesus Christ... Who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption."

I can imagine (and empathize with) the struggle Wilberforce faced as he was constantly met with harsh adversity while trying to do the right thing (that is pleasing to God)...the righteous anger that welled up inside of him...the moments of feeling defeat and hopelessness.  But all was NOT for nothing.  God provided the way in His perfect timing and Wilberforce won his battle regarding slavery.  It was a long, unyielding season but look at what it was worth! 

Lord, please help me to see clearly that which you place upon my heart (as You direct my steps) and to always feel strength in Christ to remain faithful.  You only call me to have faith and promise to take care of the rest.  Thank you, Lord, for all you do for your glory and my good.

Remember Those in Prison and Those Who Are Mistreated

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. (Hebrews 13:3. ESV.)

Please do not forget to visit the "Voice of the Martyrs" newsroom regualary and pray for those who are being hurt and killed because of their love for God and Jesus.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

By the Grace of God I Am What I Am

I'm trying to work through something...(incase you could not tell).  And it is insanely challenging to me so please bear with me as I preach to myself and search through scripture for answers.  (Yes, I wholeheartedly believe the Word of God ALWAYS has what I need to know lovingly enclosed within its pages.)

I feel God does not make mistakes...and that is the bottom line.  But when something looks so wrong, is it possible to find God's intent within it?  He does all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  But how can that be in some situations?  I suppose it is like what Joseph said to his brothers, "You meant it for evil but God used it for good."

I am quick to protect my children against situations and/or relationships that are harmful.  But what about the ones that are unavoidable?  It would be easy to write it off as "God messed up" or something slipped through His sovereign fingers.  But, it is my opinion, that does not happen.  I look at my own life, at what has drawn and continues to bring me ever closer to God, and would I not want my children to be solely dependent on God as well?  I feel tribulation and adversity press us into God's loving embrace.  We run to Him, our Heavenly Father, for comfort and refuge.  Yes, my kiddos need a good foundation and my instruction in what is pleasing to God but they also probably require the opportunity to exercise what they know, to practice serving God, and to tell others their understanding of God, His Son, and His character.

At the church I attend in San Francisco, the pastor has spoken a few times about not only fellowshipping with brothers and sisters in Christ but also hanging out with unbelievers, glorifying God through words and actions, and inviting them to get acquainted with God and Christ Jesus.  Being with like minded individuals is great nourishment and support but Jesus engaged with those who did not have faith...which is insanely more burdensome and strenuous.  Especially when one meets up with the "Saul of Tarsus" type who strikes fear into the hearts of followers of Christ...and harasses, hurts, and terrorizes them.

As a beloved friend of mine reminded me, God loves my young ones far more than I ever could.  Yes, He has entrusted them to me but ultimately, there is only so much I can do and it is not my place to speak for God or "play" God...and any attempt at either is highly prideful (a sin which comes before a fall).  Not to mention, I completely believe a person's sin seeks them out!  I do NOT want that either!  So, where does that leave me in conclusion?  I'm not quite sure.  What scripture springs to your mind?  What about,

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  (Galatians 2:20. ESV.)

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.  (1 Corinthians 15:10. ESV.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sovereign Grace Ministries Under Fire?

I have visited a few Sovereign Grace Church plants across the United States (U.S.). Fact be known, I attend one currently. And, I have been a big supporter and raved about it time and again here. But it seems Sovereign Grace Ministries is under fire and though I do not know the exact details, Tim Challies has a good read over at his blog "Challies.com".

C.J. Mahaney and Difficult Days

These have been difficult days for C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM). On July 7, in the midst of what has become an increasingly public controversy, Mahaney announced that he would take a leave of absence from SGM. He did this so the ministry’s board can evaluate charges that have been brought against him and so he can examine his own heart and seek reconciliation with people he has wronged. Joshua Harris has since resigned from the SGM board due to disagreements with the board’s handling of the situation; C.J. Mahaney’s two sons-in-law have resigned as pastors at Covenant Life Church (CLC) due to disagreements with CLC’s handling of it.

To continue reading this post, please click here.

Do Not be Overcome by Evil, but Overcome Evil with Good

What happens when a season in life falls into gray area where God's word is concerned?  There are numerous topics that are very cut and dry (i.e. The ten commandments (Exodus 20:1-17)) and clear repercussions for sin (i.e. One may divorce if his/her spouse commits adultery).  But other things are vague and take much studying and dissecting of the Word of God to come to the best conclusion possible without God's all knowing capabilities.

But what about, say, something like disagreements between two believers who feel they are both correct in their understanding of the scriptures?

One of the greatest areas of debate is Arminian (free will) verses Calvinist (God's complete sovereignty even over dust particles blowing in the wind).  Both sides quote scripture to support their points and the bible does not say which is more accurate or if either is spot on.  So each is left to try and get it right without a bat-phone to God Himself for audible answers.

Could you imagine if we could conference call God and say, "Okay, Lord, here is my situation.  What do you want me to do?"  Most likely He would say, "Just wait."  At least that's what He's always telling my heart.

It's All Relative

When it's all relative or undefined I have to:

1. Pray for wisdom.  (Lots of it!)
2. Be in the Word of God every single day.
3. Stick with what I absolutely comprehend to be truth (based on scripture).
4. Break down the challenging stuff to simplify it as much as possible.
5. Seek doctrinally sound biblical guidance.
6. Pray for more wisdom.
7. Ask others to pray for me.

2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  (Romans 12:2. ESV.)

9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.. (Romans 12:14-21. ESV.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why are You Afraid, O You of Little Faith?

One of my favorite books (aside from the bible) is RESPECTABLE SINS by Jerry Bridges.  A sin he addresses in his writing is that of anxiety.

O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  (Matthew 6:30-33. ESV.)

But I'm talking more of the type described in Matthew 8 and 14:

26 And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.  (Matthew8:26. ESV.)

31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, (A) "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"  (Matthew 14:31. ESV.)

Someone once described it like this (which I feel is a great illustration)... If I get bit by a dog (especially a big, real mean one) I am going to have distress and apprehension each time that animal comes near me.  I can try to preach to myself in an attempt to encourage and calm my nerves but physically it is impossible for me to stop trembling.  Perhaps Daniel felt that way in the lion's den?  But God delivered him, unharmed.

I KNOW God would do the same for me however, to be honest, I would probably have peed my pants if I had been in Daniel's position.  (Had Daniel ever been attacked by a wild cat before?  Would it have changed his level of angst or comfort?  Had Peter ever nearly drown before he went walking on water with the Lord?  Is there an excuse for concern or discomfort or does God have a no tolerance policy?)

I believe God sees and understands my heart.  I feel He would expect one to be wise around such a dog.

20 He said to them, "Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you."  (Matthew 17:20. ESV.)  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me

Just when I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, there is a cave-in and when the dust settles I realize I must continue to be still and wait on the Lord.  I cannot help echoing David's words,

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
   Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
   and by night, but I find no rest.

 3 Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our fathers trusted;
   they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried and were rescued;
   in you they trusted and were not put to shame....

11 Be not far from me,
   for trouble is near,
   and there is none to help....

21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!...

24 For he has not despised or abhorred
   the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
   but has heard, when he cried to him....

26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
   those who seek him shall praise the LORD!
   May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
   and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
   shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the LORD,
   and he rules over the nations.
 (Psalm 22:1-5, 11, 21, 24, 26, 27-28. ESV.)

My sin of frustration boils.  Why does my God not answer?  Lord, my prayers meet you at your mercy seat.  I call out to you at the foot of your throne.  I am eager for your response.  My sin of irritation weighs upon me.  Do you not hear my  heartfelt petition?!  

7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.  (Hebrews 5:7. ESV.)

You see my heart.  For you, I have great adoration!  Please hear my prayers!  Please do not leave me standing in this place.  Remove the rocks that block the Way from me.  You are my hope and my future.

11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  (Jeremiah 29:11. ESV.)

Monday, August 08, 2011

Until Death Do Us Part

You know, try as I might I cannot find "wedding vows" in the Word of God. And yet I used to cling to them as if they were the end all, be all. Idolatry! But scripture does have plenty to say about marriage. I just have to make sure I have everything straight and give each their due weight. In other words, less worldly-wise and more godly.

God's Definition of Marriage

What example does the bible use to illustrate marriage? That would be Jesus and the church. And Christ Jesus NEVER divorces the church but rather gave himself up for her so:

26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:26-27. ESV.)

2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2. ESV.)

God's Instruction for the Husband

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, (Ephesians 5:25. ESV.)

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:28. ESV.)

33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, (Ephesians 5:33. ESV.)

7Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7. ESV.)

God's Words for the Wife

I am aware there are "How to be a Good Christian Wife" books out there that some believing wives find offensive and perhaps judgmental, without grace, and/or overwhelming. I have to believe the author's intent was to encourage, but actually ended up discouraging a percentage of Christ following wives. (It is my understanding 1/3 of relationships are abusive and I can see where a "How to be a Good Christian Wife" manual would cause upset instead of comfort in such cases.)

I read the intro of one publication where the writer had picked up a "How to be a Good Christian Wife" bestseller and stated it made her feel like throwing it across the room. Again, I'm sure the work was meant to be a loving guide.

(Pride can also be a factor here so I am just going to quote verses verbatim.)

and let the wife see that she respects her husband.. (Ephesians 5:33. ESV.)

5to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:5. ESV.)

3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. (1 Peter 3:3-6. ESV.)

"I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you
(Genesis 3:16. ESV.)

10 An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
11The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.

13She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
15She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
16She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17She dresses herself with strength
and makes her arms strong.
18She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
24She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26She 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.
28Her children rise up and call her blessed;

her husband also, and he praises her:
29"Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all."
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

31Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
(Proverbs 31:10-31. ESV.)

For Those with an Unbelieving Spouse

16For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Corinthians 7:16. ESV.)

1Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2when they see your respectful and pure conduct. (1 Peter 3:1-2. ESV.)

12To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (1 Corinthians 7:12-14. ESV.)

And, For the 33.3% Making Up Abusive Relationships

If the abusive relationship is marriage, I must say, please be wise! God has provided the body of Christ and pastors for support, encouragement, and bible based counsel. And please pray for your spouse and your situation. Also, God abhors oppression! His Word speaks out against it. Further,

9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9. ESV.)

26 Be angry and do not sin; (Ephesians 4:26. ESV.)

11let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
(1 Peter 3:11-12. ESV.)

10To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11(but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife….
15But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 16For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
(1 Corinthians 7:10, 15-16. ESV.)

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