Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What Is Your Only Comfort?

QUESTION: What is your only comfort in life and in death?

ANSWER: That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death (Rom. 14:7–8), am not my own (1 Cor. 6:19), but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:23), who with His precious blood (1 Peter 1:18–19) has fully satisfied for all my sins (1 John 1:7; 2:2), and redeemed me from all the power of the devil (1 John 3:8); and so preserves me (John 6:39) that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head (Matt. 10:29–30; Lk. 21:18); indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation (Rom. 8:28). Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life (2 Cor. 1:21–22; Eph. 1:13–14; Rom. 8:16), and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him (Rom. 8:1).

Monday, July 23, 2012

Productive People, Good Ground

By Jennifer R.

Paul's sermon yesterday reminded me of Phillip Keller’s book “A Gardener Looks at the Fruits of the Spirit” where Keller describes each type of soil from the parable of the sower in Luke 8:4-15. In the final chapter about the "good ground," he starts off by explaining what "good ground" is and how it must be cultivated.

In bold and dramatic contrast to the three types of unfruitful, nonproductive soils, Jesus depicted a piece of good ground. He said that when good seed was sown on good soil there could be a flourishing garden full of fruit.

Although we are not naturally "good ground," none of us is too tough for God, the Good Gardener, to tackle. In spite of our perverseness, pride, and pollution, He can transform us from a wasteland to a well-watered garden. We should want it that way. It does not come easily. It does not happen in a single day. The digging, the clearing, the cultivation may seem to us to be devastating; the disciplining of our souls may seem severe. Yet afterwards it produces the peaceable fruits of His own planting (see Heb. 12:10-11).

Too many of us as Christians are content to remain wild wasteland. We much prefer to stay untouched by God's good hand. In fact we are frightened of having our little lives turned over by the deep work of His convicting Spirit. We don't want the shearing, cutting, powerful thrust of His Word to lay us open to the sunlight of His own presence. We prefer to remain weedy ground and stony soil -- or pathetic pathway people.

We delude ourselves into thinking that out of our old unchanged characters and dispositions somehow a good crop is coming forth. It simply cannot be. You simply do not gather grapes from a thistle patch nor figs from wild brambles. And the good gardener does not even come there looking for fruit. It is strictly a no-crop condition. It is a total loss to both ourselves and God.

Keller then goes on to give this beautiful picture of a good garden:
In a good garden there are no spots still littered with stones. There are no odd corners cluttered and choked out with weeds. There are no beaten paths where nothing at all can grow. All the ground has to be tilled. All the soil must finally be fitted for fruitfulness.

It will take time to do this. But it must be done. The Spirit of God is very persistent. The Good Gardener must have full management. Christ comes to take over every area made arable.

The extent to which a piece of good ground has received and responded to good sowing is eventually demonstrated by how little soil shows. The entire area planted will be taken over, covered and smothered in a luxuriance of green growth. The onlooker will see, not the soil, but the bountiful produce on it.

So with our lives. If in truth we have received the good Word, and the very life of Christ flourishes, it is the fruitage of His character, the fragrance of His conduct that will be evident to those around us.

Lord, do what you must to make us good soil so that we may produce bountiful fruit for Your glory. May our lives reflect Your constant care and work so that when others observe our lives they will see only Your fruit.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ready, Aim, Provoke!

By Ann B.

Several months ago we were challenged from our pulpit to practice friendly “provocation.” In Hebrews 10:24, the Greek word translated provoke is related to the English word paroxysm, literally “sharpen beyond,” and often translated stimulate or stir up. I'm picturing a jab in the ribs. But a loving jab, of course.

The passage tells us who to provoke: one another. It tells us to what end we provoke: to love and good deeds. And it tells us what must happen first: we must consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.

Developing what our pastor referred to as a “provoking ministry within the body” - What a compelling idea! - involves not only the intentional pursuit of relationships, but also energetic thinking about how specifically to spur one another on to Christlikeness.

This provocation business is no small quest! Perhaps these questions will help you, as they have me, to focus on the "who" part of the task at hand.

1.      Who are the women who have called you out to love and good deeds in the past? Who are you currently imitating? Have you encouraged your "spiritual mothers" by thanking them? Would you appreciate the nurturing of an older woman? If so, I challenge you to observe many, set your sights on one, ask her to spend time with you, and watch her beautiful face light right up!
2.      Who are your precious "spiritual daughters"? Who are those younger women already within your sphere of influence? How are you pouring your life into theirs in greater and greater measure? Are you walking worthy of your calling before their watching eyes? Are they often in your thoughts and prayers?
3.      Who are the acquaintances you will target, pursue, and turn into friends? A year from now, which women will be more encouraged and better equipped to live for God's glory because of your ministry in their lives?
4.      Who are the women in your life who are yet apart from Christ? How will you reach them with the gospel?

Dear ladies of BCLR, thank you for stirring me up to love and good deeds! So many of you have had a profound impact on my life as I have observed your winsome godliness. How blessed we are to be mothers, daughters, and sisters, one to the other!

May our arrows and aim be sharp, and may we be ever ready to pursue and provoke to the glory of our God!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Helping Our Children Remember God’s Hand in Their Lives

Last night we watched reminders lighting up the sky all around us. Fireworks, sparklers, booms, and cracklings all helped us remember the battles that men fought to earn our country’s freedom. Independence Day commemorates the beginnings of our nation, and if we want to do our job well, we will take advantage of the holiday to teach our children about God’s hand in our country’s history.

Memorials are powerful teaching tools. God uses them. We should use them.

God used physical things to help the Israelites remember.
  • A pot of manna in the ark of the covenant reminded them of God’s care and provision in the wilderness (Ex. 16:33-34).
  • The Passover celebration reminded them of God’s merciful sparing of their firstborn while Egyptian firstborns died. “And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him,  ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of  slavery’” (Ex. 13:14-15. ESV).
  • A stone called “Ebenezer” proclaimed, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us“, a pile of stones commemorated crossing the Jordan River on dry ground, two stones were on the priest’s ephod “for a memorial” and twelve stones were on his breastplate “for a memorial”.
  • Many Psalms (78,105, 106, 135,136) reminded the people as they sang, of their history and of God’s mercy and power displayed in that history.
  • Even the fringe at the bottom of their robes was designed to remind them of God’s commandments and the importance of obeying them (Num. 15:38-39).
God uses physical things — like bread and wine — to help us remember.

“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

We can use physical things to help our children remember.

God is constantly at work in our lives. His grace is always evident. We can use physical things to help our children remember that grace — the day of their births, the times of special provision or deliverance, the times of shared joy and shared sorrows. We can say with the Psalmist about all our days, “My times are in thy hands” (Ps. 31:15), and help our children remember that truth with memorials.
  • Baby books, photo albums, pictures on the walls. (By the way, when it comes to scrapbooking and photo albums, don’t let perfectionism keep you from being a faithful family historian. If God could use a rock named Ebenezer as memorial for the Israelites, He can use whatever our humble efforts produce — even if it’s a box full of jumbled photos — to help our children remember and give thanks for His grace!)
  • An empty book filled with God’s answers to prayers. What a blessing to read back over the record of God’s faithfulness in our households!
  • Your own unique family holiday that commemorates God’s special deliverance or provision in your family. For years our family celebrated the day that God graciously spared our little two-year-old son from death.
  • Special trophies, figurines, and certificates (purchased or homemade, and remember again, God used rocks to help people remember; it doesn’t have to be fancy) that memorialize special events and accomplishments, made possible by God’s grace, in the lives of our children — physical remembrances that we can point to and remind them of God’s empowering grace
  • A tree planted in honor of a significant event or person in the family
  • A few words embroidered into the hem of a dress or outfit that was worn on a special occasion
  • A piece of jewelry that seals a covenant and reminds its wearer of God’s past, present, and future work in his or her life.
  • A just-for-you song that continually points a child back to God as his strength and protector
  • A book of family courtship stories and photos to point future grandchildren to God’s loving hand in their family’s history
  • Special days of celebration that honor grandparents and earlier ancestors who have been used by God to profoundly influence your family
The possibilities are almost endless (and we can be as simple or as elaborate as we like)! As mamas, the role of family historian primarily falls to us. In the midst of all the other duties we have, the time we invest in celebrating and memorializing can continually point our children to God and His faithfulness — and that’s where we want to point them!

~ Originally posted on July 5, 2012, by Pam on Doorposts of Your Home

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Recommended Books

by Deborah H.

Because of my involvement in the Living in a Fallen World Series from Day One Publishing, I want to read all the books in the series to ascertain which ones I solidly endorse and which ones I don’t. Recently Day One came out with another 8 books in their series, of which my Help! Someone I Love has Alzheimer’s is a part.

After reading a number of these new books, I have two more I’d like to heartily endorse.

The first is Help! I’m Confused About Dating. Joel James, a friend of BCLR through his association with Dr. Mack’s ministry in South Africa, did a beautiful job writing this book. It points young people to the Lord, showing them how they can honor Him through their relationships and still have a deeply rewarding and enjoying time in the process. It provides practical guidelines for what to look for in a potential mate and how to navigate some of the tricky twists and turns that any relationship can present. I can enthusiastically recommend it to those who have dating-aged children. I have given it to one of the young women I mentor and have received favorable comments from her.

I wish they’d selected another title because this book is not just for those confused by the problems dating presents. It is for any young man or woman who is entering this season of life—especially those who care about conducting themselves in a godly, disciplined and God-honoring way. Though the writing is light, personal, practical, and fun, it packs a punch for those seeking to live a life pleasing to the Lord. It shows just how “do-able” dating can be – all the while honoring God through these relationships. I wish I’d read it before I started dating about 100 years ago. Please get several copies of this book. I guarantee you’ll want to give them to lots of families you know.

The second book I can enthusiastically endorse is written by Glenda Hutton: Help! I Can’t Submit to My Husband. Just as the above-mentioned book is one of the best I’ve read on Christian dating, this is one of the best I’ve read on godly submission to our husbands. It tackles some of the difficult objections women have to this important doctrine, and does it in a way that doesn’t threaten, doesn’t beat you down, or present a "holier than thou" attitude to those who struggle with this command.

Her advice and philosophies are richly supported by many sound biblical passages where she truly comes alongside the hurting, frustrated woman struggling with the practicality of such a teaching. She deals with questions like, “Does God think I’m a 2nd class citizen just because I’m a woman?” or “How can I treat my husband with respect when he doesn’t act in a manner deserving that respect?” “How can I follow his leadership when I don’t see evidence of anything resembling leadership?” “My husband is not even a Christian. Surely this submission thing doesn’t apply to me!”

Not only does she deal with biblical submission to our own husbands in a theologically sound manner, but in a personal, warm, intimate way that reflects her own struggles before she came to understand, love, and appreciate this highly misunderstood doctrine. She demonstrates in biblical ways what a freeing, joyful way of life this can give us, reminding us that placing ourselves in our biblical roles with our husband is one way we can obey, love, honor and glorify our Lord Jesus Christ. So we serve Him by loving, respecting, and yes, submitting to the man He has given us. This is an excellent book which I found to be clearly written, biblically sound, and highly encouraging. Again, I urge you to buy several copies so you can give them to those who struggle with this concept.

With several books remaining for me to read, I may have more I’d especially like to recommend. In the meanwhile, get these books. They’re quick reads – only 60 pages each – but really effective as ministry tools for others, as well as informing, challenging, and supporting each of us as we seek to live lives pleasing to the Lord.