February 20, 2012

Quote of the Week

"The law was given to lead the unbeliever to her Savior, not for the believer to try to keep it."           Emily P. Freeman

 "But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."  
                                                             Romans 3:21-22

February 17, 2012

God's Promises - Adoption

We all have times in our lives when we feel we don't belong or fit in. But isn't it comforting to know, as adopted children of God, we will always belong to the Lord. He has redeemed us.

"God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." Galatians 4:4-5 

I use to have a hard time with this promise of adoption. I often felt you could lose your salvation. That God could turn his back on you if He chose, and you would no longer be his child. Especially if you weren't living up to His standards. How could I truly trust God if he might leave me? My problem was that I was depending on my own strength, abilities and faith to serve God, which gave me a warped sense of who God really is. He does not give us a spirit of fear but a spirit of adoption, as children of God we belong to Him.

"For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." Romans 8:15

But now I'm learning that God is a good Father, one who will not turn his back and leave me alone. Just because he sometimes chooses to be silent does not mean He has left.

J.I. Packer says here:

"The very concept of adoption is itself a proof and guarantee of the preservation of the saints, for only bad fathers throw their children out of the family, even under provocation; and God is not a bad father, but a good one." 

In the Old Testament God says of Abraham's seed (Israel):  

"But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine." Isaiah 43:1

And in the New Testament God says:  

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus...If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed."              Galatians 3:26-29

I'm now learning to trust that I am really His. That God is a good Father and that he is always good on His promises. Now instead of worrying about being good enough, I can rest in his promise that I am His. Always.

"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! 
Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 
And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." 1 John 3:1-3

February 8, 2012

50 People Every Christian Should Know

This is a great introduction to 50 people who spent their lives serving Christ. Each chapter is dedicated to one person and gives a brief overview of their life and teachings. The chapters also give you plenty of references to their work and books written about them and by them.

I especially liked the chapters on the women of faith. Women like Amy Carmichael and Katherine von Bora (Martin Luther's wife). I thought I'd share a little about each of these two women.

Amy Carmichael was a very strong-willed woman who did things God's way. She was a missionary who believed in loving people and sharing the gospel with them. She was shocked to see so many missionaries in the field who were living away from the people they were ministering too. She believed in immersing yourself into the culture of the people, living among them and getting to know and love them personally. She was also disturbed that no one was coming to Christ through them and that the missionaries weren't even expecting any to!  She wanted more than anything for people to experience the love of God and his saving grace.

While in India her heart went out to a young girl who came to her after fleeing one of the temples. She later found out many young girls were being sacrificed as prostitutes to their gods. She went right to her knees to fight for these children and God brought forth a beautiful ministry to help these young girls.

Amy never once came home from the mission field. For nearly 60 years she served these young girls and later young boys as well. The last 20 years being a near invalid, she still served and worked from her room.

Amy depended on the Lord for funds to run her mission, never asking or soliciting for money. Any money received was put into a general fund that served where God led her to use it.

Many came to Christ through Amy's obedience to the Lord. This 'Confession of Love,' she wrote for a group of Indian girls who came together to serve Christ, best puts into words what Amy believed and lived:

My Vow: Whatsoever Thou sayest unto me, by Thy grace I will do it.

My Constraint: Thy love, O Christ, my Lord.

My Confidence: Thou art to keep that which I have committed unto thee.

My Joy: To do Thy will, O God.

My Discipline: That which I would not choose, but which Thy love appoints.

My Prayer: Conform my will to Thine.

My Motto: Love to live-live to love.

My Portion: The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance.

Katherine von Bora was a 25 year old nun when she married the older priest of 42, Martin Luther. She was a steadfast companion and loved her husband well. Luther nicknamed her 'Kitty my rib' and also called her Selbander, which means 'better half' in German. They had 6 children together.

It was the example of them both that set a standard of godly marriage between a pastor and his wife. Something that just wasn't done back in the 16th century. She was also the epitome of the proverbs 31 woman, taking great care of her family and home by planting a garden, keeping cows for milk, butter and making cheese. Also being "an excellent nurse and dispenser of herbal medicines" she often helped with the needs of the people of Wittenberg.

I also loved her sense of humor. While Luther was often joyous in nature he did have many times of trail and became depressed and worried.  The book says here of an attempt at cheering him up:

Katherine endured this for days. One day, she met him at the door wearing a black mourning dress.

'Who died?' the professor asked.

'God,' said Katherine.

'You foolish thing!' said Luther. 'Why this foolishness!'

'It is true,' she persisted. 'God must have died, or Doctor Luther would not be so sorrowful.'

This must have made him smile. :) In fact it snapped him out of his depression that day. It very much sounds like they enjoyed each other, often bantering back and forth in jest and love.

I love that these two women were so different and how God used each of them in a special way.

This book is filled with great stories and histories of some of the greatest spiritual giants of the faith. Some familiar like Oswald Chambers, D.L. Moody, and Charles Spurgeon and some I'd never heard of like Samuel Rutherford and Christmas Evans. In reading this book, I have come to know and admire them all. It's also given me many new books to read, inspire and learn from!

February 3, 2012

Jonathan Edwards: Lover of God

I'm really enjoying this series of books, written by Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney, on Jonathan Edwards and his teachings. "Lover of God" is the third book I've read out of this series of five. This one is an introduction to the man, Jonathan Edwards, and his life and ministry.

A prominent preacher during the mid 1700's, he was raised in a devoted Christian home and went on to study at Yale University. While studying for his master's degree in theology,  1 Timothy 1:17 changed everything. 

"Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." 

 He says here:

"As I read the words, there came into my soul, and as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the divine being; a new sense, quite different from anything I ever experienced before. Never any words of Scripture seemed to me as these words did. I thought with myself, how excellent a Being that was; and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be wrapt up to God in heaven, and be as it were swallowed up in him."

"And my mind was greatly engaged, to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ; and the beauty and excellency of his person, and the lovely way of salvation, by free grace in him."

Jonathan went from being  a student of God and His Word, to God transforming him into His child, and from that moment on he began to fall in love with his Savior.

The authors say here:

"Jonathan would never again abstractly study God. From this moment on, he would enjoy Him. He would seek to know the Lord, a journey that involved the full capacity of his mind, his emotions, and his soul."

One thing that stands out to me, in the life of Jonathan Edwards, is the joy of life in Jesus and the appreciation of His beauty and all He has created. He believed and taught that..."we should not simply know the faith and its inherent goodness, but taste it. We should not shy away from emotion, passion, or joy, but should celebrate these things as gifts from God."

He believed as the authors also put here: 

"Becoming a Christian does not kill delight; it intensifies it."

Before I had read anything by Edwards or about him, I'd always thought of him as a strict puritan preacher, someone who preached rules and regulations and who would  probably be boring to listen to. But I was so wrong!! I've come to see that he was actually a very charismatic man who didn't just preach the gospel but lived it out. The authors say here:

"Edwards did not see the Bible as a static collection of timeless truths and moral maxims. He viewed the Scripture as a living thing. It pulsed with life; it shone with beauty; it bore the glory of God."

And in another chapter:

"He did not seek to change the emotions of his flock, nor did he wish merely to equip his people to win theological arguments or memorize a body of doctrine. Edwards labored to communicate truth to his people so that their souls might brim with passion and love for God. Doctrine, then, was a means to love, the factory of passion, the genesis of joy."

Jonathan Edwards is best known for his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" where he spoke of the hopelessness of the sinner and the great mercy of God. Near the end of this sermon Edwards called out to all that would hear:

"Therefore let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over great part of this congregation: let everyone fly out of Sodom: 'Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.'" (Genesis 19:17)

The author's of this book go on to say:

"Edwards aim was not to merely scare his people or share frightening stories, but to cause them to look honestly on their sin and their deserved fate, and then to joyfully flee to Christ, the sinner's substitute, for salvation...Preaching for him was not merely about forming strong character or delving deeply into a passage. Edwards aimed at transformation. For that, only the gospel would do."

This book also talks about the humanness of Edwards. How he fought against his own indwelling sin, just like us. The authors say here:

"He preached great sermons, and he ministered powerfully to his family, church and society, but he also hurt his wife, and wronged his children, and spoke bitterly against his church, just as every christian does. He tried to work hard without complaining, but he surely did; he yearned to stop pride in its tracks, but he sometimes could not."

"Jonathan's life was like that of every Christian. It was a struggle, a fight for faith, that did not rest until the end of his life."

I find this so relate-able. A life of faith can be a lifetime of struggle with ourselves and our shortcomings. It will be a constant fight till God takes us from this life. But I'm so glad there is hope, hope in our Savior, who  experienced many struggles, heartaches and betrayals during his earthly life, and who now is always near to help us through.

I love what the authors say here about having a relentless pursuit of the Lord:

"Similarly, like Edwards, we must never think that we have arrived as wholly mature Christians. We must always read and listen to good sermons and talk freely and humbly with others for the purpose of growing in grace. Too many Christians reach a certain level of maturity and then content themselves with a faith that merely coasts through life...Christians should train themselves to engage in a humble but dogged pursuit of the Lord, never settling for a static level of maturity when a higher one is attainable. If athletes push for an earthly prize, one that fades and is forgotten in a matter of years, how much more should we pursue the Lord, whose rewards will not spoil or corrupt but will satisfy the soul into all eternity?"

At the age of 54 Edwards was installed as the president of Princeton University. A mere week later he decided, after careful thought, to be inoculated for small pox. Soon after, he started to feel the effects of the disease itself and his body became consumed by it. Within weeks he passed away. His last words were to his children... 

"And as to my children, you are now like to be left fatherless, which hope will be an inducement to you all to seek a Father, who will never fail you."

What beautiful last words for him to leave with his children...to seek a Father who will never fail them.

I highly recommend this series of books for an introduction to the life and teachings of Jonathan Edwards. They are each only about 150 pages which make for an easier read and study. I really enjoyed this particular book in this series and look forward to reading the last two.

Buy it HERE on Amazon