Saturday, December 31, 2011

Doxology

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27 ESV)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Spirit Intercedes for the Saints

Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?"  Selah (Psalm 77:9 ESV)

He who does violence to his father and chases away his mother
is a son who brings shame and reproach. (Proverbs 19:26 ESV)

But if through my lie God's truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? (Romans 3:7 ESV)

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. (Ecclesiastes 5:1 ESV)

For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:20 ESV)

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:14 ESV)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26 ESV)

And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:27 ESV)

Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:15 ESV)

In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him. (Ecclesiastes 7:14 ESV)

Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others. (Ecclesiastes 7:21, 22 ESV)

Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity. (Ecclesiastes 11:10 ESV)

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

Though he slay me, I will hope in him;
yet I will argue my ways to his face. (Job 13:15 ESV)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

He is a Double-Minded Man, Unstable in All His Ways

Lord! Do not allow me to doubt your will! Forbid me to be "like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind"!

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-8 ESV)

I am Your servant, Lord. Why do I dwell on what could be instead of finding peace in what the days ahead will hold. Guide my tongue as it puts together the words of my heart. Please grant me wisdom and guard me against the desires of my flesh. My mind plots my own way but You direct my steps (Proverbs 16:9). I am confident Your will, will be done (Proverbs 19:21).

The "what ifs" cyclone about in my brain. The only thing that matters is whether or not I am walking according to Your will in a manner that is glorifying You! The details remain safely in Your loving hands. Softly you carry the burden of orchestration and sorting through all that must happen for the designated purpose. You precisely weave the tapestry which looks like a confusing mess to me until it is complete and flipped over. The image takes my breath away. It never ceases to astonish me! Oh amazing grace!

Whatever Does Not Proceed From Faith is Sin

The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (Romans 14:22, 23 ESV)

Please, Lord, keep me faithful!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas: God Bless Us, Every One

Jesus...

May his name endure forever,
his fame continue as long as the sun!
May people be blessed in him,
all nations call him blessed!
(Psalm 72:17. ESV.)

Merry Christmas to all. And to all, a good night!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lest I Forget

You, Lord, are sovereign.  I must keep preaching this to myself lest I forget. When addressing Roman 9, John Piper states,
"When I entered seminary I believed in the freedom of my will, in the sense that it was ultimately self-determining. I had not learned this from the Bible; I absorbed it from the independent, self-sufficient, self-esteeming, self-exalting air that you and I breathe every day of our lives in America. The sovereignty of God meant that he can do anything with me that I give him permission to do. With this frame of mind I entered a class on Philippians with Daniel Fuller and class on the doctrine of salvation with James Morgan....

Emotions run high when you feel your man-centered world crumbling around you. I met Dr. Morgan in the hall one day. After a few minutes of heated argument about the freedom of my will, I held a pen in front of his face and dropped it to the floor. Then I said, with not as much respect as a student ought to have, "I [!] dropped it." Somehow that was supposed to prove that my choice to drop the pen was not governed by anything but my sovereign self.

But thanks be to God’s mercy and patience, at the end of the semester I wrote in my blue book for the final exam, "Romans 9 is like a tiger going about devouring free-willers like me." That was the end of my love affair with human autonomy and the ultimate self-determination of my will. My worldview simply could not stand against the scriptures, especially Romans 9. And it was the beginning of a lifelong passion to see and savor the supremacy of God in absolutely everything."

I put my trust in You, Lord (Psalm 31)...to work all things for the good of those who love You and are called according to Your purpose (Romans 8:28). Whether I understand the way matters are orchestrated or not. Before long, a picture begins to emerge and then circumstances/state of affairs start to make sense and come together. Thank You, Lord, for Your sovereignty and grace!

From childhood up, my mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, in choosing whom he would to eternal life, and rejecting whom he pleased; leaving them eternally to perish, and be everlastingly tormented in hell. It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me. But I remember the time very well, when I seemed to be convinced, and fully satisfied, as to this sovereignty of God, and his justice in thus eternally disposing of [dealing with] men, according to his sovereign pleasure. But never could give an account, how, or by what means, I was, thus convinced, not in the least imagining at the time, nor a long time after, that there was any extraordinary influence of God’s Spirit in it but only that now I saw further, and my reason apprehended the justice and reasonableness of it. However, my mind rested in it; and it put an end to all those cavils and objections. And there has been a wonderful alteration in my mind, in respect to the doctrine of God's sovereignty, from that day to this; so that I scarce ever have found so much as the rising of an objection against it, in the most absolute sense, in God’s shewing mercy to whom he will show mercy, and hardening whom he will. God’s absolute sovereignty and justice, with respect to salvation and damnation, is what my mind seems to rest assured of, as much as of any thing that I see with my eyes, at least it is so at times. The doctrine has very often appeared exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet. Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God. (Jonathan Edwards, Selections [New York: Hill and Wang, 1962], pp. 58-59).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

For Unto Us a Child is Born

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6. ESV.)


O Holy Night by Carrie Underwood


What Child is This by Andrea Bocelli & Mary J. Blige


Do You Hear What I Hear? by Carrie Underwood


Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Carrie Underwood

Friday, December 16, 2011

Faith. Hope. Love: Chapter Five

During my stay in Singapore I was able to finish reading a few books. One of my favorites was How Stella Got Her Grove Back by Terry McMillan. The first time I saw Stella was at my boyfriend’s apartment before I left for Singapore. His roommate (a female) had been reading it. There it sat and curiosity got the best of me as I picked it up and scanned the synopsis. When I came across it again in Singapore among the shared literature, I had to indulge.

I met Stella before grace (Ephesians 2:8). Her independence and adventurous nature struck a chord with me. I admired how at a moment’s notice she packed a suitcase and went off to Jamaica all by herself. I felt I could relate to her on some levels though our lives were nothing alike. (First of all, and most importantly, she is fiction and I am not.) There were twenty years between us and she was a successful business woman with a son and a home. I, on the other hand, was in a relationship (though lived alone), had no children, no house, and was neither prosperous nor an executive. Yes, I had an excellent job, paying me decent money, and was traveling but it was a short term gig. It would all come to an end in just shy of a year.

After a few months in Singapore I called my boyfriend to find he was moving on and in essence, dumping me. (An old flame, “the one that got away” from him was interested in rekindling their relationship…he had talked about her often, I knew it was only a matter of time.) One of my colleagues came over and I sat on my twin-sized bed, in my silk (pant and long sleeve shirt) pajamas, verbalizing my disappointment. As my heart spewed forth its sadness there was a knock at the front door. Two thoughtful associates informed me there was a party and would I come? I declined. My only desire (at that particular moment) was to remain in my room licking my wounds for a bit. Stella would not tolerate this! She would dress in a smokin’ hot swimsuit and head for the beach…and who needs a boyfriend anyway? The next opportunity I got I was going to be like Stella! I was going somewhere alluring, wonderful, and chalk full of beautiful men! (Not to say Singapore was not magnificent. It truly was.)

The ocean always has a way of rejuvenating me. Its proud waves may reach the coast yet go no further (Job 38:8-11). But, I did not frolic by the seashore while in Singapore. Though this city-state is similar to Hawaii in that it is made up of islands, the recreational shorelines are not prominent. Only twice did I go to the water’s edge in the five months I lived there. Once, a local was showing me how I could look across the water and see the shore of Malaysia. The second, was while I was attending a social gathering at Sentosa…an amusement park type place with animals, fireworks display laser light show, and picnic areas.

My mundane was time served at work. Though I loved my job---I really did---it was physically demanding and draining. My breaks were spent taking a catnap, walking around the venue, or immersed in Jamaica with Stella. I was her travel companion whether she liked it or not. (Being she went public with her trip, I assume she did not care.) I have never been to Jamaica! I would jump at the chance to go there only I have yet to find a means. So, for now, Stella’s groove-seeking-recount will have to suffice.

I sat at my table wearing my yellow, company issue sweat suit (because it is so stinking cold in the venue), head down, eyes fixed upon the pages, imagining myself digging my toes into hot sand while the crash of the powerful waves fills my ears. I put sun block balm on my lips as they are kissed passionately by the sun. The breeze coming of the water lifts my hair from about my neck and gently plays with it. I rub sunscreen like a fragrant lotion to cover my exposed, olive skin. I can taste the salty sea air on my tongue. Ah, Jamaica! You make me thankful to my Maker for all of creation (Romans 1:20).

The smell of coconut tanning oil fills my nostrils. I should get a drink…something cold, crisp, maybe even fruity with a cute umbrella poking out the top. My cabana chair creeks as I shift in it. The tide is threatening to come close and try to jump in my lap. I move my fabric bag to a safer location…wouldn’t want my wallet and book to get wet. I exhale audibly as I close my eyes and lay my head back. Mmm, Jamaica! You seem so lovely. I open my eyes to find words gazing back at me. I close the book. Ten more minutes then it is back to work.

Faith Hope Love: Chapter Five

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Perspective: God is Still on the Throne

All I Have Is Christ from Sovereign Grace Ministries on Vimeo.

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.

I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.

And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me.

Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose.
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.


© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI), by Jordan Kauflin

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Faith. Hope. Love: Chapter Four

Have you ever sat on a balcony, at night, in Hawaii? When the wind is calm and the air is warm like a soothing bath? If you hold your breath, there is no sound except for perhaps the ocean waves crashing to the shore (if you are close enough to the beach). Everything is tranquil and comforting. That was my experience in the temples in Singapore. Silence, warmth, stillness.

Some of these holy places were in busy areas. Other, smaller ones, were in secluded spots. One in particular was on a hiking trail surrounded by lush, green plants and trees. Everything seemed motionless. As I approached, candles burned like tiny, dancing lights. But there was not a person in sight. Sometimes there was a stone Buddha standing by, watching over the moderately sized places of worship. A pleasant expression, unyielding, upon his face. Though not familiar with his teachings I believe them to be about harmony, maybe enlightenment, and to respect all forms of life big and small. Possibly reincarnation is mixed in there too. (In 2009, my younger children and I briefly studied the history of Buddhism…along with Islam and Hinduism.)

I stepped closer to the establishment although not wishing to stay long just incase I was not properly dressed…I did not want to offend anyone. I picked up what looked to be a stick or piece of incense. I held it to a flame until it caught fire, smoldered, and offered up thin plums of scented smoke. I did not meditate while there. My God is not Buddha. He is Jehovah and He has a Son, Jesus (John 3:16). When I wish to commune with Him, I simply go before His throne of grace.

Growing up in the church I learned about all the most popular events in the bible. You know, the ones that have been turned into children’s stories. I sat in the pew every week we attended, half listening and partly daydreaming, following along in the hymnal as we sang---(which I have to say I much prefer hymns to the contemporary songs that are used in services now days).

The best part is, God’s word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11). So though I was not paying attention 100% of the time I was still receiving the message which was going straight to my heart.

Because of the nature of my job in Singapore and the popularity of the company for which I worked, it was not unusual for me (and my associates) to get stopped while in public for pictures and the occasional autograph…though I could not really understand why. Would they not look back on the photo years from when it was taken and ask, “Who is that and why did I want a picture with her?” I am just me…a young adult exploring the intoxicating city-state of Singapore…no different from an individual who backpacks through various countries and stays at hostels.

This particular day (while I was wandering and discovering houses of prayer) was no different. A small group of people approached me at the beginning of the footpath. “Excuse me,” said a soft, gentle voice. I turned to find an agreeable young lady. “May we get a picture?” she continued. “Oh course,” I answered as I stood amongst them and smiled. They humbly thanked me as their eyes sparkled and faces showed with excitement. They went about their way and I started my trek.

In Alaska, one can begin at the foot of a great, thick glacier (accented with deep blues) and make their way along a winding path to the glacier head. The calving ice announces its separation and departure with a roaring proclamation we called, “White Thunder”. Free from the mass, the ice crashes into the body of water peacefully at rest below. The walkway coils through dense, scenic forest. Butterflies flit about among the foliage as the breeze makes her presence known. She whirls about delicately, careful not to step on anyone’s toes. Her hair whips about her face and there is tranquility.

In Singapore, the finish line of the course is not only marked by a breathtaking view at the top of a steep, inclined plain, (perhaps it was the highest hill in Singapore) it is also marked by what was like a flag pole encircled by medium sized, black, glossy rocks with rounded edges (which stood on end) that massaged the soles of the feet as one stepped upon them.

“In quietness and in trust shall be your strength,” (Isaiah 30:15) flows through my thoughts. There is nothing like the cool patience of serenity as sunshine warms the depths of the heart and soul as it touches the skin. I was not only a traveler on this unfamiliar island, I am also a pilgrim in this world searching for peace and love.

7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7. ESV.)

Faith. Hope. Love: Chapter Four

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Guest Post: Intentional Living

I am so stoked to introduce you to today's guest blogger! We actually went to high school and youth group together for a period of time and now Jason has an "Intentional Christian Living" blog over at wordpress...which I highly recommend! Thank you so much, Jason, for agreeing to guest post here! Best wishes to you and your family treasured friend.

Some (More) Thoughts on Living Intentionally
by Jason Ashcraft

OK, so I made a resolution at the beginning of 2011 that I would live more intentionally this year. I even programmed my welcome greeting on my cell phone to read “Live Intentionally” when I turn it on. It’s been harder than I expected it would be. It was a great thought, I think, and a great jumping off point, but I found that putting intentional living into daily practice has been a chore. Sometimes I even forget that I am trying to live intentionally. Life moves fast, and there are many things vying for my attention. So not only do I have to remember to live intentionally, but have to remember to be intentional about remembering to be intentional. Confused yet?

Some might ask, before I get too deep here, what I mean by “living intentionally.” It’s a valid question. And I don’t know that I have a definitive answer for you. I think that the answer will be different for each person. I think that to arrive at your own answer, you need to ask yourself some honest questions about what is really important to you verses where you spend your time and energy.

You know, it’s really easy to simply exist…to let life just determine where you will end up. It’s easy to come home at the end of a long day and plop down in front of the TV. It’s easy to do nothing! But is that truly living? Or does God have something more for you? I think God does have something more for me, and for you. God didn’t create us to be robots, but he also didn’t create us to just be lumps of clay.

When I think of a life that exudes intentionality, I think of someone who lives with a purpose, who understands the responsibilities and call they have been charged with, someone who values the lives of those around them. I think that when you see a person who lives an intentional lifestyle, you take notice. They have a spark and appear to be present in the moment with whomever or whatever they are involved with. They exhibit a true joy because, I believe, they are not just letting life happen. We shouldn’t either. We only get one life, and it’s pretty short.

An example that comes to mind for me is life with my kids, my 2 girls, ages 5 & 3. I know am to spend time with them, build them up, teach them, help them grow, right? The Bible is full of instructions on how we are to live, and it addresses children specifically…Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”… Psalm 127:3, “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.”… Mark 10:14, Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Jesus makes time for the children (and for us!), so we should too.

But often I find myself being in the same room or the same house as them, but not actually being with them. I am working on my own projects or on the computer or whatever. Being “with” them means more than simply being in the same place as them. It means interacting, showing them that they are important to me, that I value them, and that I “want” to spend time with them. And that takes effort…effort that I sometimes don’t feel that I have after a long, stressful day at work. But I really do have it, if I’m being honest. I seem to have enough energy left to do “my own thing.” But is that what I know God has called me to do when he entrusted these 2 precious lives to me? They are only kids once, and I have very few years to be with them at this precious stage where they are changing so much and learning so much and becoming who they will become. And I definitely want to be a part of that. I want to influence these lives. See, while it is so much about them, it’s not only about them…it’s also about me.

That’s one area of my life where I need to live intentionally, investing my time and energy intentionally in my children (and my wife). That’s where I have to check myself throughout the day and week, asking if I am truly living this intentional lifestyle I have decided to live. I have to look honestly, and make adjustments to get back on track. Again, it takes work. But doesn’t anything worth having and worth doing a quality job on take work and concentrated effort? If you think about the performance level we see from professional athletes or musicians, you know that it doesn’t just happen. They are intentional about their craft. We’ll see it in our results too, if we invest our time intentionally.

What is it in your life that you need to be more intentional about? Is it relationships…with spouse, kids, family, friends? Is it in your prayer life, or walk with God? I think this is where you can take the ball and run with it, seeking how you can best live intentionally in the various areas of your life. I’ve talked about my kids (I guess I really am a parent now!) because they are important to me. We aren’t going to get any more minutes added to our days, so I think the decision is ours to make regarding what activities or habits or other “time suck” it is that we need to give up in order to maximize the time we do have. I don’t think when I am on my deathbed (or when you are…) that I will be saying that I wish I had spent more time surfing the web or watching TV or playing Angry Birds, instead of investing in these few precious years I was given on earth.

Good luck to you as you endeavor to live a life worth living and spending wisely the time you have been given.

(Photo Information.)

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