Monday, April 20, 2015

The History of Redemption

by Jill Claxton

Why should we struggle to understand the Old Testament? Does it have any real application for our lives today? Some would say that because there is a new covenant through the death of Christ, the Old Covenants are null and void and therefore not worth our time. Many feel overwhelmed by the historic and detailed nature of endless genealogies and laws which do not apply to the modern day church. After all, the Old Testament is the long, drawn out, heart-breaking story of God’s chosen people constantly proving their unfaithfulness; but this may be one of the best reasons to study the Old Testament: to properly understand the nature of man and, more importantly, the character of God.

I have to admit that I actually love history, genealogies, and Jewish culture, but trying to understand the Old Testament has proven to be a challenge for me over the last 25 years, especially because of all the controversy in the evangelical world about the subject. About 15 years ago I made a conscious decision to try to read it for myself several times and get a grip on the “big picture” without referring to commentaries. Once I read it through several times, then I could better understand the debates and theological points of views of others, keeping separate God’s Words and man’s opinions. As a result I have fallen in love with the Old Testament and what it reveals to us about God’s plan of redemption. In other words, from before the foundation of the world God chose the garden to be the first step in His plan for the cross!

Beginning to view God’s plan of redemption starting to unfold from before the foundation of the Earth as stated in Ephesians 4:1-4 through Genesis and the entire Old Testament through Revelation made the Bible come alive. Suddenly every word had meaning - from the smallest jot and tittle of the law to the clearest prophecy of the coming Messiah. The New Testament Church viewed the Old Testament in this way, as should we modern day readers.

In Genesis, God reveals the failures of the human race to their Creator. In the next four books, He reveals his laws and the fact that even a chosen people credited with His righteousness and the presence of the Living God would still fail to keep God’s laws even after being delivered, forgiven, and constantly promising to obey God. In Joshua, Judges, and Ruth, we see the depth of man’s evil and God’s constant mercy and grace to his wandering people. In the times of the Kings from I Samuel through Chronicles, we see the Jews struggle as they deal with the consequences of choosing a king over God to “be like all of the other nations.” In the midst of all this, we see God’s grace continue as He constantly calls the Jews back to Himself through the prophets. God brings His people to the heights of glory during King David’s and King Solomon’s times to the depths of despair during the Babylonian captivity, showing them once and for all that even under the best circumstances, an earthly King was not the answer. Once the temple is ransacked, God’s presence leaves His people and all that is left are prophets calling for repentance, retribution of the nation’s enemies, and for the one and only Deliverer to save His people.

In the book of Daniel, God shows His exiled people a glimpse of the future and promises the Deliverer who had become their only true hope. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther show us a humbled, exiled people being restored to the promises of Abraham. We begin to see everything fall into place for the Messiah to be born into this people, come to His rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem, and fulfill God’s plan to deliver all of His people - both Jew and Gentile - from the curse of the sin that began in the Garden of Eden. The Old Testament is not only the story of the Jews but is the story of the entire human race and how it is reconciled to its one and only Creator.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Quotes on Heaven

By Jennifer R.

Since we are Thinking Heavenward this semester, our new Quotable Quotes bulletin board is sporting a new set of quotes on the topic of "heaven." Below are the quotes that are on the board this month.

I had rather be in hell with Christ, than be in heaven without Him. ~ Martin Luther

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. ~ CS Lewis

Without holiness on earth we shall never be prepared to enjoy heaven. Heaven is a holy place. The Lord of heaven is a holy Being. The angels are holy creatures. Holiness is written on everything in heaven… How shall we ever be at home and happy in heaven if we die unholy? ~ JC Ryle

One should go to sleep as homesick passengers do, saying, “Perhaps in the morning we shall see the shore.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

This earthly body is slow and heavy in all its motions, listless and soon tired with action. But our heavenly bodies shall be as fire; as active and as nimble as our thoughts are. ~ John Wesley

Many Christians dread the thought of leaving this world. Why? Because so many have stored up their treasures on earth, not in heaven. Each day brings us closer to death. If your treasures are on earth, that means each day brings you closer to losing your treasures. ~ Randy Alcorn

Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. ~ Thomas Moore

If you are a Christian, you are not a citizen of this world trying to get to heaven; you are a citizen of heaven making your way through this world. ~ Vance Havner

Eternity to the godly is a day that has no sunset; eternity to the wicked is a night that has no sunrise. ~ Thomas Watson

The brightest crowns that are worn in heaven have been tried, and smelted, and polished, and glorified through the furnace of tribulation. ~ Edwin H. Chapin

Some day you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone up higher, that is all; out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal, a body that death cannot touch. ~ Dwight L. Moody

I am still in the land of the dying; I shall be in the land of the living soon. ~ John Newton (his last words)

God conceals from men the happiness of death that they may endure life. ~ Anonymous

Because the church doesn't really have heaven on its mind, it tends to be self-indulgent, self-centered, weak, and materialistic. Our present comforts consume too much of our thoughts, and if we're not careful, we inevitably end up inventing wrong fantasies about heaven - or thinking very little of heaven at all. ~ John MacArthur

We don't seek to escape this life by dreaming of heaven. But we do find we can endure this life because of the certainty of heaven. Heaven is eternal. Earth is temporal. Those who fix all their affections of the fleeting things of this world are the real escapists, because they are vainly attempting to avoid facing eternity - by hiding in the fleeting shadows of things that are only transient. ~ John MacArthur

I can safely say, on the authority of all that is revealed in the Word of God, that any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven. ~ A.W. Tozer

Shall heaven be filled with praises for what was done on earth, and shall there be no praises on earth where it was done? ~ Jonathan Edwards

Our spiritual manhood in heaven will discard many things which we now count precious, as a full-grown man discards the treasures of his childhood. ~ C.H. Spurgeon

There cannot be heaven without Christ. He is the sum total of bliss; the fountain from which heaven flows, the element of which heaven is composed. Christ is heaven and heaven is Christ. ~ C.H. Spurgeon

Do you not think that Abel must have felt very strange when he went to heaven? How startled the angels must have been when they saw the first soul redeemed by blood in glory alone! Methinks they must have hushed their songs awhile to ask all about him. ~ C.H. Spurgeon

Such is the happiness we are looking forward to—the day-break; that we shall serve God day and night in his temple without any weariness, that we shall serve him without any sin, that we shall adore him without any wandering thoughts, that we shall be dedicated to him without anything that can stir the jealousy of his holy mind. ~ C.H. Spurgeon

I do not know that in heaven they know all things—that must be for the Omniscient only—but they know all they need or really want to know; they are satisfied there. ~ C.H. Spurgeon

The rougher the voyage the more the mariners long for port, and heaven becomes more and more “a desired haven,” as our trials multiply. ~ C.H. Spurgeon

My horse invariably comes home in less time than he makes the journey out. He pulls the carriage with a hearty good will when his face is towards home. Should not I also both suffer and labour the more joyously because my way lies towards heaven, and I am on pilgrimage to my Father’s house, my soul’s dear home and resting place? ~ C.H. Spurgeon

Ah, dear hearer! heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. If you do not learn heaven’s language on earth you cannot learn it in the world to come. ~ C.H. Spurgeon

As you come nearer heaven ought you not to be more heavenly? ~ C.H. Spurgeon

Friday, June 13, 2014

Quotes on Struggles

By Jennifer R.

Our new Quotable Quotes bulletin board is sporting a new set of quotes on the topic of "struggles.' Below are the quotes that are on the board this month.

Press forward. Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark set before you. ~ George Whitefield

What then are we to do about our problems? We must learn to live with them until such time as God delivers us from them. We must pray for grace to endure them without murmuring. Problems patiently endured will work for our spiritual perfecting. They harm us only when we resist them or endure them unwillingly. ~ A.W. Tozer

Though there is nothing more dangerous, yet there is nothing more ordinary, than for weak saints to make their sense and feeling the judge of their condition. We must strive to walk by faith. ~ Thomas Brooks

I would go to the deeps a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit. It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary. ~ C.H. Spurgeon

Our first problem is that our attitude towards sin is more self-centered than God-centered. We are more concerned about our own “Victory” over sin than we are about the fact that our sin grieves the heart of God. We cannot tolerate failure in our struggle with sin chiefly because we are success oriented, not because we know it is offensive to God. ~  Jerry Bridges

No words can express how much the world owes to sorrow. Most of the Psalms were born in the wilderness. Most of the Epistles were written in a prison. The greatest thoughts of the greatest thinkers have all passed through fire. The greatest poets have “learned in suffering what they taught in song.” In bonds Bunyan lived the allegory that he afterwards wrote, and we may thank Bedford Jail for the Pilgrim’s Progress. Take comfort, afflicted Christian! When God is about to make pre-eminent use of a person, He put them in the fire. ~ George MacDonald

If thou dost not stumble at this stone, the devil hath another at hand to throw in the way. He is not so unskillful a fowler as to go with one single shot into the field; and therefore expect him, as soon as he hath discharged one, and missed thee, to let fly at thee with a second. ~ William Gurnall

Afflictions are not to punish, but to purify the believing soul. They are not in wrath, but in mercy. Amidst the distresses and miseries of life – it is a felicity to belong to Christ, without whose permission and appointment, no evil can befall us! He always sends afflictions for our good; and knows by experience, what it is to suffer them. His kind hand will speedily put an end to all the pains we feel when we have derived from them all the good which He intends to do for us, by them. ~ John Fawcett

Your afflictions may only prove that you are more immediately under the Father’s hand. There is no time that the patient is such an object of tender interest to the surgeon, as when he is bleeding beneath his knife. So you may be sure if you are suffering from the hand of a reconciled God, that His eye is all the more bent on you. ~ Robert Murray McCheyne

I am mended by my sickness, enriched by my poverty and strengthened by my weakness… What fools are we, then, to frown upon our afflictions! Those, how crabbed soever, are our best friends. They are not intended for our pleasure, they are for our profit. ~ Unknown Puritan

The Lord afflicts us at times; but it is always a thousand times less than we deserve, and much less than many of our fellow-creatures are suffering around us. Let us therefore pray for grace to be humble, thankful, and patient. ~ John Newton

As the world is wearied of me so am I of it. ~ John Knox

Those who dive in the sea of affliction bring up rare pearls. ~ C.H. Spurgeon

Give up the struggle and the fight; relax in the omnipotence of the Lord Jesus; look up into His lovely face and as you behold Him, He will transform you into His likeness. You do the beholding–He does the transforming. There is no short-cut to holiness. ~  Alan Redpath

The Lord gets his best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction. ~ C.H. Spurgeon

God never allows pain without a purpose in the lives of His children. He never allows Satan, nor circumstances, nor any ill-intending person to afflict us unless He uses that affliction for our good. God never wastes pain. He always causes it to work together for our ultimate good, the good of conforming us more to the likeness of His Son (see Romans 8:28-29). ~ Jerry Bridges

The first second that we spend in heaven will immediately erase every affliction that we have encountered while upon the earth! ~ Tim Senn

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Journey to Joyful Living

By Kim. M.

This morning I woke up thinking about Philippians 2:14, “Do everything without complaining and grumbling.” Seriously? Everything? Really? Do I believe God means THAT? Can’t I at least grumble to myself in my heart where no one else hears? The problem is that God knows what is in my heart will eventually come out in my words and my actions. How different would my attitude and the atmosphere of my home be if I took this command seriously and applied it personally, diligently, and daily through the power of the Holy Spirit living in me? I am using “I” in my journal this morning, because this is too personal for me to point any fingers. But if you find this same attitude going on in your heart, join me on this journey toward joyful living.

I think grumbling, even when I don’t say it out loud, has almost become like a dull roar in the way I live… like background noise. It doesn’t have to be an angry rant… just a constant, dull whirring sound. Here’s what I mean:
  • I am inconvenienced. I mumble about it.
  • I don’t like the way the person in front of me is driving. I talk to them about it – out loud comments, not profane, but about how poor their driving skills are. It’s talking to myself, of course, and in my own car, but often in front of my family.
  • My schedule is interrupted. I grit my teeth (silent grumbling).
  • Someone alters my plans without my permission. I breathe a frustrated sigh (grumbling in disguise).
  • Just as I am ready for bed, one of the kids wants to START their talking for the day. I hold it in but on the inside, my tired body is saying, “Me, first! Give me what I want: sleep!”
  • No one appreciates the meal I cooked or the clothes I washed. I have a pity party in my heart.
While I may not do all this “me centered” grumbling out loud, God knows the grumblings of my self-centered heart. Oh, Father, forgive me! Help me to replace my grumbling with gratefulness. Help me to turn my complaining into counting my many blessings. Teach me Your ways:
  • When doing loads of laundry – may I thank You, Lord, for clothing and kids and the energy and health to play and get clothes dirty.
  • When cut off by someone with poor driving skills – may I thank you for a car to drive and protection from harm.
  • When dozens of dirty dishes are on my counter – may I be grateful for family meals, good and abundant food, and a dishwasher to help with the cleanup.
  • When my sleep is delayed by a child who wants to talk about what is on her heart – may I be grateful that she wants to talk to ME and that You promise to give wisdom to meet the need.
  • When my plans are interrupted – may I thank You that my times are in Your hands.
  • When my “to do” list is too long – may I trust that You will help me to accomplish what You have for me to do.
Lord, it is time for a change; time to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Turn my grumbling to gratefulness. Take my complaining, and replace it with cheerfulness. From Psalm 119:108 – Lord, may my mouth freely offer praises and prayers to You, my Maker. Teach me Your Word and Your ways and apply them to my heart.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Just Do Something!

By Diane H.

Amy Temple spoke to the ladies at the Mission Conference Luncheon. While she was addressing the subject of sacrificially serving the body of Christ, she included a wonderful description and plea for discipleship. Below is a portion of her talk transcribed for those who weren’t able to make it to the luncheon (and for those who would like to go over it again):

Ask yourself, “What’s the best way for you to live sacrificially for the body of Christ?”

If you have your Bibles, open up to Romans 12:1-8. I’m just going to read it for you quickly.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 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. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not think more highly of himself than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

In verse 1 it says this is “your spiritual worship.” Some other versions say it’s your reasonable service; it’s your true and proper worship. Giving your body as a living sacrifice is part of your mandate as a believer because it is your spiritual worship; it’s your spiritual service. Something you’ve probably heard Todd say is, “If the Bible commands us to do something, there’s probably a tendency to do the opposite.” So if the Bible is telling us to be a living sacrifice, we’re probably prone to being selfish, not living sacrificially. So this is God challenging you to do what’s not natural, to do what doesn’t come easy.

In verse 1 it says, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” Normally when we hear this, we think of it as meaning sexually, keep yourself pure. What it really means is use your whole self - your body, your mind, your talents - use your whole self sacrificially for the Lord. So, what’s the best way for you to sacrifice for the body of Christ?

In Romans 12:4-8 it talks about different gifts. Each believer is given different gifts. There’s one body; there are many members; each member has a different function. Serve according to your gifting. It talks about the one who teaches, the one who gives, the one who serves.

When I was getting this ready I asked Dave, “Could I say, if you serve in the nursery, serve with patience; if you serve in Awana serve with this…” His answer was, “You could say that, but that’s not really the main point of the passage.” (I haven’t been to seminary, so I trust my husband.) He says the emphasis is on being a living sacrifice. There’s not necessarily a title you can put on it. “I’m the nursery worker.” “I’m the Awana leader.” “I’m the music person.” It’s, “I’m living sacrificially for the body of Christ.” So be a living sacrifice by using and employing the gifts you’ve been given.

If you say, “I don’t know what gifts I’ve been given,” here’s what you can do… Find a need; find a hole that needs to be filled. If they need people in the nursery, go serve in the nursery. If they need people to wash dishes, go wash dishes. If they need people to disciple younger women, disciple younger women! I know that’s really hard. Brian said it last night… find somebody who knows less than you and come alongside them and disciple them. It’s not a fancy, “you have to teach them all the points of exposition.” Find somebody who knows less than you and tell them what you know.

I encourage you, even as I’m talking, to think of somebody’s name and write it down on your paper, somebody who you can pursue, that you can disciple, that you can mentor, that you can come alongside and encourage. Also, think of someone who is a step ahead of you, who you would like to learn from, and approach that person and say, “Will you tell me what you’ve learned? Will you tell me how to handle my 3 year old child? Will you tell me how to send my child to college? Will you tell me what you’ve learned about…this?” You are an amazing resource for each other and in one another’s lives. Don’t ignore, don’t forget the trials each of you have gone through, because some of you have gone through things that the women right behind you are going through now. Don’t wait for you guys to approach each other. Go find each other and say, “Hey, I did that, and I see you’re in it now. Let me help you.”

So find a hole that needs to be filled. Find a need that’s not being met, and meet it!
And, if that is your gift, people will say, “Hey, I see you’re doing that and you’re doing a great job. Will you also come do this and this and this?” And they’ll be giving you more responsibility and more opportunities to serve. If that’s not your gift, people will probably say, “Hey, I see you’re serving and you’re willing. Will you come do this thing instead?” And they’ll help direct you to where you’re most gifted. You probably won’t be able to figure it out until you get out and start doing something. Just do something!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Christ-Directed Friendships

By Diane H.

What do we have to offer others as women who love Jesus? Many of us are busy women, either with jobs or with families. We look at our schedules and think, “There’s just no more time!” But really, who of us doesn’t want a friend? And who doesn’t want to be an encouragement to someone who just needs an ear, or advice, or to hear about what God has taught you along the way?

Often discipleship ministry just happens. It’s one of those things that develops, and you look up one day and realize – “God actually used me as His tool! How great is that?!” At other times, we have to be more purposeful and prayerfully seek someone to befriend – whether you are the one giving or the one receiving encouragement. That’s exactly what I would like to encourage you to do today.

When God gave the directive in Titus 2:4-5 for the older women to “encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored,” He wasn’t asking us to do anything that is unnatural to us! We ladies are relational beings! We love to be with others and interact and talk and learn from one another.

When I was newly married and then expecting my first child, I developed a friendship with a precious woman in our church. Joyce was a wife and mother of teenage boys, but most of all she loved Christ, and her love for Him was contagious. I remember camping out at her house for many afternoons and sitting on the stool at her kitchen bar to visit while she got dinner started. She would tell me what she was learning, and I would ask questions about marriage, about her Christian experience, about children, or about life in general. When Aaron was born, she and her husband were like surrogate grandparents to him because our parents lived so far away. Another way to describe our relationship could be a “Christ-directed friendship.”

For those of you who hear the term “mentoring” or “discipleship” and immediately think, “Oh, I could never do that! I don’t know enough Scripture or don’t know how to answer questions very well.” I implore you to open up your life and heart to let a younger woman share time with you! You will be enriched, you will be challenged to grow in wisdom, and you will blessed by her enthusiasm and desire to learn.

For those who would love to be on the learning end of a relationship like I just described, I heartily encourage you to seek out someone you admire or someone you are naturally drawn to and ask if you can get together sometime. Look in the areas at church that you frequent. Are you in the choir? Do your kids go to Awana? How about your care group? All of those venues are great and natural contact places for a new Christ-directed friendship!

Bible studies and special events are ministries that require a great deal of planning and organization. Discipleship is a ministry that is best done without an over-emphasis on structure and organization. As the coordinator for the Discipleship Ministry, I’m available to help ladies get together, to give suggestions as to topics to discuss, and to get the ball rolling if that would be helpful. I also hope to submit more articles on the blog in the future. If you are currently meeting with someone regularly, let me know so I can pray for you. And I would ask you to pray for this ministry in our church – that we would have a greater desire to come alongside one another to encourage and to learn from each other.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Danger of Getting What We Think We Want

By Kim. M.

DISCLAIMER: I want you all to know why my journal thoughts are on the page for you to read. It is not because I am a great writer or a great teacher. It is not because I have it all together. On the contrary, it is because I have so much to learn that I write down the things the Lord is teaching me on this journey. The Women’s Ministry Board has asked some of us to share what we are learning, so that we might encourage one another and spur one another on to love and good deeds. So here it is; my heart on paper. May we journey together. Love you all my BCLR sisters.

Psalm 106:15 has been on my mind a couple of different times this week and I have been pondering the danger of getting what we want at the expense of leanness of soul. When Nancy Leigh DeMoss mentioned this same verse in her daily devotional this morning, I decided it was time to do some exploring. (I never cease to be amazed that when God is teaching me something, how often a verse comes across my path – in conversation with someone, in a sermon, or in my reading!) If you want to join me in the discovery, you can read on in my journaling journey.

I began by reading Psalm 106:13-15 in the NKJV and in NASB:

They (the Israelites) soon forgot His works;
They did not wait for His counsel,
But craved intensely in the wilderness,
And tested God in the desert.
And He gave them their request,
But sent leanness into their soul.

What a warning - words that capture my attention. Yellow caution lights flashing! Red flags waving! DANGER AHEAD. Stop. Turn around.

First Corinthians 10, verses 6 and 11 teach that these things happened as examples for us; that they were written for our instruction; for keep us from craving the evil things, as they also craved; to warn of idolatry and grumbling.

How did the Israelites go from slavery to freedom, from miraculously crossing the Red Sea on dry land to grumbling in the journey so quickly? Four things I notice in this downward spiral:

  • They forgot - forgot God and all His mighty works
  • They forged ahead - forged ahead without waiting for God’s counsel
  • They fixed their focus on their cravings… intense cravings.
  • They foolishly requested their own desires, to their own detriment.

The result? God gave them their request, but sent leanness to their soul.

These words cause me to examine my own heart. Am I ever like the Israelites? Sadly, I think so. When I forget what great things God has done for me and the love He has lavished on me, I am acting like the Israelites. Or when I find myself thinking, “What are you gonna do for me today, God?” I am acting like the Israelites. Oh, I may not say these words out loud, but in my heart, life can easily become all about me.

When I forge ahead with my own plans without waiting for His counsel, and I refuse to wait for God’s timing, I run the risk of wandering in a desert place of my own making. When I am not content with my circumstances or with God’s plan or with His timing, I am in a dangerous place.

When I fix my focus on my cravings – what I want, when I want it, and how I want it – I become the center of my own world. I worship me. My prayers morph into self-centered essays… God hear me and give me what I want now. Oh, Lord God, keep me from my own foolishness and selfishness!

Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes on leanness of the soul in her Quiet Place Daily Devotional Readings:

How dangerous it is to insist that God give us our own will… contentment is a choice. True joy is not the result of having everything I want, but of gratefully receiving exactly what God has given me. The enemy has robbed many of us of our joy by getting us to live in that foolish realm of ‘if only’… The fact is, if we are not content with what we have, we will never be content with what we think we want.


Lord, teach me to be content and grateful, to remember all Your kindnesses toward me, to let Your Word be my counselor. May I never demand my own way but rather delight in Your way. Keep me from leanness of soul. Grant that I may be like the tree in Psalm 1 - firmly planted, flourishing, and fruitful – for Your glory. Protect me from the danger of getting what I think I want.