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Posts from the ‘Character of God’ Category

For the Love of Brothers and Sisters

Living in a house with people is all kinds of good preparation for all kinds of whatever life is going to bring. That’s what I’ve been trying to communicate to my children this summer, anyway. As it has been impressed upon my heart to learn what it means to love my brothers and sisters in Christ, I’ve thought, maybe I can use teaching my children to love one another well and transfer that into loving their brothers and sisters in Christ well as they grow. 

So, the conversations have gone a little like this:

“You know the ‘one anothers’ we talk about in scripture like ‘love one another,’ ‘serve one another,’ ‘forgive one another?'”

[Insert blank stares from everyone]

“If you learn to do those with your siblings, it is great preparation for learning to do those with your brothers and sisters in Christ.” And if you learn not to slap each other in the face and play tug-of-war with the bag of Boom Chicka Pop and scream ‘I hate you’ at the top of your lungs, this will be great preparation for learning to love your brothers and sisters in Christ.

So, as I was reading 1 John this morning, I got a good reminder:

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” (5:2)

What?

John has strong words about loving our brother, Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness (2:9). Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother (3:10). If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar…” (4:20)

But, how does loving God and obeying his commandments show [by this] that we love our brother/sister?

I think the answer is in verses 8 and 16 of Chapter 4. God is Love. He is the exact definition, representation, manifestation, initiation, fulfillment. His law and his love are not exclusive of each another. When we love God first, we love his people.

Sound impossible?

It is. In and of ourselves.

What’s so incredible is that God never leaves us to carry out his commands on our own. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God (4:7). By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit (4:13). Whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (4:16b). We love because he first loved us (4:19).

I will keep training my children to love one another well, of course. I will continue to model loving The Body well, hopefully. But, knowing these flow from the love of God that flows through us is key.

A Wrong Way To Do Theology

Jason Hood, a theologian from across town, has written a blog post worth sharing. He’s pretty smart, so if the reading hurts your brain a little, it’s okay. It hurt mine, too.

Here is the link:

http://www.saet-online.org/one-very-wrong-way-to-argue-a-theological-point/09/

And, here is the website:

http://www.saet-online.org/

 

Our Ever-Hovering God

I can relate very much with the father of the demon-possessed boy when he said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” I refer to myself as a believer, but I struggle with unbelief.

God’s promises are true. They are clear. So used are they in this part of the country, we find them trite and often meaningless.

Two of God’s promises have been impressed greatly on my life this year. I think it happens that way. God has chosen this particular time in my life for these truths to have more meaning. I hope I don’t lose the seriousness of what he is teaching once this time passes.

Never will I leave you. Moses reminded Joshua. (Deuteronomy 31:7-8) David encouraged his son Solomon. (1 Chronicles 28:20) The author of Hebrews reiterated the truth, this time concerning contentment. (Hebrews 13:5) Perhaps no promise is greater in all of scripture. The fact that the God, who holds all things in his hands, never leaves us should be completely overwhelming. In the Old Testament, we learn this truth should keep us from being afraid and dismayed. It should make us strong and give us courage, help us complete the tasks God has called us to. In Hebrews, we learn the presence of God means that God is enough. He is enough to make us content with what we have.

You belong to me.  I have called you by name, you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1) I can scarce wrap my mind around this truth, yet the comfort, confidence and endurance it breeds is powerful. Those who are in Christ belong to God. Nothing can shake that promise.

The promises God gave to his beloved, chosen Israel have been given to his beautiful bride, the Church. When I look back over the ways I tried so hard to do good and be good, then gave up in frustration, I see clearly that was never the point. Just like the Israelites who couldn’t live up to the Law, I needed/need to see my need for Jesus; we’re all always being pointed to the Savior. God hovered over them as a cloud and a pillar of fire because he promised to never leave and because they belonged to him. And, he hovers over us for the same reasons. We can’t keep ourselves in him. He keeps us in him. He is faithful. He keeps his promises. He keeps his covenant with us.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

National Day of Busy, I Mean Prayer, 2012

Whose idea was it to have the National Day of Prayer on May 3rd? was my first thought when I read the headline this morning. It certainly wasn’t a mother who had a doctor’s appointment, two field days, a field trip, a pre-marital counseling appointment, and a women’s ministry gathering among others events this week. How can I ever focus on such an important day in our country when I’m racing with other moms around me?

This morning, I had a small break to hide in the dark for such an important day, but it was more of a reflection. My intent was to pray, but there were no words. I was reflecting how much my prayer life has changed over the last year. For most of my life, I thought praying was just something I was bad at, like running. I came to realize my failure was not in my praying but in my not praying. So, I started doing it. I started doing it more, and I kept on. What I realized this morning is that I didn’t care how much time I had, I couldn’t not pray. I had to stop and sit down. Many times, I don’t pray for my circumstances. I just pray for my heart. It needs a lot of work. Since God is faithful to change my heart, circumstances begin to fade in comparison. Andrew Murray said, “Faith in a prayer-hearing God will make a prayer-loving Christian.” My belief in God has grown deeper as my time in prayer has increased.

I have so much to do that I spend several hours in prayer before I am able to do it.—John Wesley

Love Through Discipline – part 2

Continuing Monday’s post on Love Through Discipline, I would like to add some background and means of carrying out expectations scripture has for us with parenting.

For most of my Christian walk, I saw God as a Father who only had words for me when I needed to be corrected or rebuked. I believed discipline was only a response to my behavior. This is very important because what the author of Hebrews is saying is that discipline is also training. It isn’t merely correction and rebuke. It is also training and instruction, meaning it can precede behavior.

Discipline plays out much the same way in our homes:

Bad behavior + Child = Discipline (Nothing wrong here)

But, what if more times than not, it looked like this:

(Parents + Child) + Discipline (Discipleship) = Behavior

I am not pretending that formulas work, and I am not suggesting we control the heart or the behavior of our children. What I am suggesting is that we are responsible for the discipleship of our children. We aren’t capable of predicting behavior, but Christ through discipleship can pierce heart issues if training is the natural rhythm of our homes. Perhaps if discipleship is at the forefront rather than only discipline at the back-end, we would have more effective parenting.

Scripture instructs:

Train [discipline/disciple] up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4b

How do we carry out these instructions practically?

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise [any and every time, place and activity].You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:5-10

The Lord has been teaching me much about his discipline over the last several years. He is only beginning to teach me about the discipline of my children. I will be learning of both until the day I die. But, one thing is certain, neither can fall into correct order until the beginning of this Deuteronomy passage melts into the marrow of my being —

love the Lord your God

with all your heart

and with all your soul

and with all your might.

Do your children only hear from you when they need to be corrected?

Or, are they disciplined by you on the forefront of issues as well?

Do you recognize the Lord’s love through his discipline?

Are your children able to recognize your love through your discipline?

Love Through Discipline – part 1

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrew 12:3-11)

The Lord’s discipline can bring about a wide range of emotions in me. When I am not submitting to his discipline, I am easily angered and frustrated, but it should be no surprise that discipline brings tension and pressure even when welcomed. If we keep our eyes fixed on the fruit of discipline, acceptance will be much more our attitude.

Discipline and punishment are not the same word. Discipline is training (instruction and correction). Punishment is an inflicted penalty. We often confuse the two and even use the terms interchangeably.

We cloud God’s treatment of us and take his discipline as punishment. There may be no better way to enrage a son than for his identity to be warped into thinking he is being punished rather than disciplined. How great is the love of the Father that he would discipline us!

Parenting should change dramatically in light of this.

-Not that our training of them will bring comfort, but the point of discipline is to be built up and brought near.

-We are not to provoke them to anger but bring them up in the discipline of the Lord — discipleship is our highest order as parents (Ephesians 6:4).

-“Discipline is not revenge,” as pastor Cole Huffman recently pointed out when viewing the video of the father putting bullets in his daughter’s computer.

I am not always disciplining my children for their good. It is often for my own good or convenience. And, I often push them to discouragement. I can tell when their heads and shoulders drop from having not met my expectations. Not so with God. He not only disciplines for our good — that we might share in his holiness — but he also provides the encouragement for us to endure because the expectations have already been met in Christ.

Do not be discouraged in your discipline. The fact that God disciplines us because he loves us should provoke perseverance, transferring that same discipline through love to our children, aggravating that same endurance in them.

Do you view God’s discipline as punishment? Would you receive it differently if you saw it as instruction, training, correction?

Non-Failing Contingencies

“Mom, should we be glad that Adam and Eve sinned?

Sarah, my oldest posed this question one day in the car.

My response to her was that we should never be glad when someone sins, but I don’t believe that was her true inquiry.  We had further discussion, and I am certain she was aiming toward the gratitude we should have for God making a way for us, redemption, restoration, the forgiveness of sins.

It was no surprise to a perfect and matchless God that we would sin, and in his divine greatness and mercy, he already had in his plan a way for us to be made clean.  That, in and of itself, should provoke worship of him. How loving and gracious!  I think that had to be the awe my 10-year-old was expressing that morning.

Before they left the garden, God whispered a promise to Adam and Eve:  “It will not always be so!  I will come to rescue you!  And when I do, I’m going to do battle against the snake.  I’ll get rid of the sin and the dark and the sadness you let in here. I’m coming back for you!”

And he would.  One day, God himself would come.  Sally Lloyd-Jones The Jesus Storybook Bible

God always keeps his promises, and he did come — in Jesus.  Knowing that we would continually be unable to reach the mark, he goes before us and paves the way.  Jesus proved this to his disciples time and again.

In John 15:3, Jesus said to his disciples, “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.”  He spoke these words knowing they would turn their backs on him when he was arrested.  He spoke these words before Peter would deny him 3 times.

In John 16:1, Jesus said to his disciples, “I have said these things to ‘keep you’ from falling away.”  He promised to “keep them” knowing they were about to fall away.

“Your commitment to Jesus doesn’t keep you abiding, his commitment to you does.”  Greg Gibson

From the Garden of Eden to Mount Sinai to the Garden of Gethsemane to the eyes that are reading these words right now, God knows we cannot keep our promises.  The keeping of God’s promises/covenants are contingent upon him, not us.  

Our God set in motion plans from eternity past.  He has proven himself faithful.

Already he has made us clean.  He is proving himself faithful.

Upon his returning, he will fulfill his promise.  He will prove himself faithful.

Personality and Christianity

I used to take aerobics.

Now, before you get the picture of a really cool 80s class, this was in the 90s. Instead of sweat bands, leg-warmers and Olivia Newton-John’s Physical, think appropriately long t-shirts, tights and C+C Music Factory.  We all “stepped” to “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now),” well, everybody except a girl we’ll call Gina (because that was her name).  Gina was without rhythm by her own proclamation.  Because she knew she could not follow the music or the steps, she brought her walkman (more 90s fun) and listened to the music of her choice while watching the instructor.

Such is life that we step to the beat of our own walkman being that our personalities are unique in the way God has made us.

Do you expect others to look just like you?  Are you critical when another believer doesn’t react the way you do?  A great gift of a creative God is the differences he has weaved purposely in each of us.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Though we are all Christians together, we are all different… We are all in the same fight, of course, as we share the same common salvation, and have the same common central need. [We shouldn’t] act on the assumption that all Christians are identical in every respect.  They are not, and they are not even meant to be.”

Let’s look at this a little further.  Suppose Gina arrived not only with her own music but her own moves.  She would, in essence, be saying I can’t deal with your music or your moves.  This is how I am.  Deal with it. Her attempts would be the opposite of following the leader.

Personality is a beautiful gift from God, but it is not liberty to treat others however we choose, explaining ourselves away.  Under the Lordship of Christ, we are responsible to who He has called us to be under his will first.

“The natural man is always controlled by his temperament, he cannot help himself; but the difference that regeneration makes is that there is now a higher control even over temperament.  The moment the Holy Spirit enters in, He controls everything including temperament, and so He enables you to function in your own particular way through your temperament.  This is the miracle of redemption.  Temperament remains, but temperament no longer controls.  The Holy Spirit is in control.”  Lloyd-Jones

That’s just the way I am we are prone to say.  And, that is true.  But what Lloyd-Jones is saying is also true. When the Holy Spirit enters our life, our personality no longer controls.  That personality is redeemed.

Do you delight in the personality God has given you?

Have you seen Christ’s redemption in your personality?

Spirit

“Live in the present to the maximum and do not let your future mortgage your present any more than you should let the past mortgage your present.”  Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The trap for me is not so much dwelling on sins of the past.  The trap for me is dwelling on fears concerning the future.

This revelation has helped me arrive at my word of focus for this year:  SPIRIT

In Spiritual Depression:  Its Causes and Cure a collection of sermons by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a chapter is given to Fear of the Future.  Dr. Lloyd-Jones expounds on the text 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

SPIRIT OF POWER

“And as I understand it, the big thing that Paul is saying in effect to Timothy is:  ‘Timothy, you seem to be thinking about yourself and about life and all you have to do as if you were still an ordinary person.  But, Timothy, you are not an ordinary person!  You are a Christian, you are born again, the Spirit of God is in you… God has not given us the spirit of fear.  He hath given us the Spirit of power.’  So do not think of your own weakness; think of the power of the Spirit of God.”  Lloyd-Jones

SPIRIT OF LOVE

Next, Lloyd-Jones asks, Why love?  “For what after all, is the main cause of this spirit of fear?  The answer is ‘self’ –self-love, self-concern, self-protection… There is only one way to get rid of self, and that is that you should become so absorbed in someone or something else that you have no time to think about yourself. Thank God, the Spirit of God makes that possible.  He is not only ‘the spirit of power’, but He is also ‘the spirit of love’.  What does it mean?  It means love to God, love to the great God who made us.”  Then, love of others.

SPIRIT OF SOUND MIND

Lastly, he’s given us the spirit of wisdom and a sound mind.  “He will tell you what to do, He will tell you what to say, He will if necessary, restrain you.  We are not living on ourselves.  We must not think of ourselves as ordinary people.  We are not natural men; we are born again.  God has given His Holy Spirit, and He is the spirit ‘of power and of love and of a sound mind’.” Lloyd-Jones

The Spirit of God is in me.  A Spirit of love and of power and of sound mind.  I do not have to fear the future.  I just have to remember.  That will be my focus as I join the community of OneWord365 this year.

Do you have a focus God is impressing on your heart this year?

You Can’t Have One Without The Other

For the first 25 years of my life, I was given “Moses.” I’ve never really liked to be told what to do. The rules made me angry. I couldn’t live up to them or follow them. I rebelled, fought, couldn’t submit and was enraged by the law.

In my mid 20s, I was given Jesus, and the difference was freedom.

Those years were not useless. If it weren’t for the law, I wouldn’t have known my need to be set free. If I didn’t know my inability to follow the law, I wouldn’t have been looking for the one who fulfilled it.

In thinking about my freedom this morning, I keep thinking about these verses… But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:4-9)

He did it for us. We can’t be good enough.

John Stott says, “Some try to go to Jesus without first meeting Moses. They want to skip the Old Testament, to inherit the promise of justification in Christ without the prior pain of condemnation by the law. We need the law to lift off the lid of our respectability and disclose what we are really like underneath — sinful, rebellious, guilty, under the judgement of God and helpless to save ourselves. Not until the law has humbled us even to hell will we turn to the gospel to raise us to heaven.

There are some, however, who go to Moses and the law to be condemned and stay in this unhappy bondage. They are still living in the Old Testament. Their religion is a grievous yoke, hard to be borne. They have never gone to Christ to be set free.”

Stott describes two responses to God’s law and follows up with the question:

Which one tends to describe your life?