Psalm 45:10-11, 13-15

Listen to me, O royal daughter; take heart to what I say. Forget your people and your homeland far away. For your royal husband delights in your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. [...] The bride, a princess, waits within her chambers, dressed in a gown woven with gold. In her beautiful robes, she is led to the king, accompanied by her bridesmaids. What a joyful, enthusiastic procession as they enter the king's palace!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Jane Austen prays...

I finally got around to reading some of the "Prayers" in Sandition the last few days. I wanted to leave a few lines that I found particularly encouraging.

"Thou art every where present, from thee no secret can be hid. May hte knowledge of this, teach us to fix our thoughts on thee, with reverence and devotion that we pray not in vain."
"Teach us to understand the sinfulness of our own hearts."
"Give us a thankful sense of the blessings in which we live. "
"Above all other blessings oh! God, for ourselves and our fellow-creatures, we implore thee to quicken our sense of thy mercy in the redemption of the world."

Twenty Minutes a Day

In college I was an English major. Growing up I was the kid who was put to bed reading, then when mom came to turn off the light I'd get the flashlight out. When mom came to get the flashlight I'd go sit by the window and read from the light of the moon. I love reading, but it seems over the last year I really haven't read that much. I always felt like I didn't have enough time to read or I wanted to read too many books and just couldn't do it. Over the summer I was encouraged back into reading with a reading plan from the girltalk ladies. It's really quite simple: start with only twenty minutes a day.

My first reaction was that wasn't enough time to actually finish a book any time soon. But look at the "statistics" of a 20-minute a day reading habit as told by John Piper,
“One of the most helpful discoveries I have made is how much can be read in disciplined blocks of twenty minutes a day. Suppose that you read slowly, say about 250 words a minute (as I do). This means that in twenty minutes you can read about five thousand words. An average book has about four hundred words to a page. So you could read about twelve-and-a-half pages in twenty minutes. Suppose you discipline yourself to read a certain author or topic twenty minutes a day, six days a week, for a year. That would be 312 times 12.5 pages for a total of 3,900 pages. Assume that an average book is 250 pages long. This means you could read fifteen books like that in one year.”

Fifteen books in a year! That's more books than I can think of wanting to read right now. Although, I'm sure if I thought about it long enough I'd find fifteen books to read. Carving out twenty minutes in my day is much more manageable (and relaxing) than being frustrated by having so many books I want to read, but no time. So, over the summer my fiancee and I began reading twenty minutes a day, but after a while we waned. Finally, this week I started to get back into my twenty minutes routine. It's been really good and refreshing.

Which leads me to where I am today. I was reading Biblical Womanhood blog, and was looking at the list of books for her fall reading challenge and was inspired to make my own list.

So far I'm in the midst of beginning (and finishing)

In Pursuit of His Glory by Gerry Fry
Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leight De Moss
The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
Let the Nations Be Glad! by John Piper
Sandition and other Stories by Jane Austen
The Magican's Nephew by C. S. Lewis
Miracles by C. S. Lewis

Hopefully, I'll carve some time out later to say a thing or two about each of these. What's on your reading list this fall? Leave a comment and let me know. Happy Reading!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Cost of Following Christ

Since I've been dealing with entitlements lately, I started studying the topic and since I process things better when I regurgitate it. So, here it is...

There is a cost in following Christ. He calls us to leave everything behind in pursuit of following him in our obedience. Through our life we pick up bad habits, ideas, and lies from the world that there are certain things we have earned or deserved. But, truly, we deserve nothing. We were born into sin, corrupted and enemies of God. We were saved from death and the judgment of God. There’s no way around it, we deserve death apart from Christ. Through the mercies of the Lord, we were saved. A way has been made for our reconciliation to God through Christ. The only catch is that to pursue Christ we must give up anything and everything we possess and attain. We must abandon ourselves to His will, so that he may freely work in our lives for His kingdom’s glory. The cost seems insignificant compared to the pit of hell, and yet we struggle with relinquishing our self, possessions, families, and achievements to God.

We must face the truth that “rights mean nothing in the pursuit of Christ” (Jesus-Ministry 2, 3). Entitlements occur in our life when we pick and choose which areas we will obey God. A person walking in entitlements “looks at the cost of following Jesus, and is unwilling to give up certain areas of life to Christ” (Freedom Resource Manual, 69).

Jesus demands that those who follow him give up everything or they cannot go with him. Look at Luke 9:57-62, Jesus meets three different men. The first one tells Jesus that he “will follow you wherever you go” (v. 57) and Jesus’ reply is that the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Jesus’ first demand is to give up the entitlement of comfort. He was a traveling miracle-worker; he had no guarantee for a hot meal and a comfy bed to come home to at night. The next man Jesus tells, “Follow me.” The man replies, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus’ response was not the typical sympathic remark we might have expected. Jesus responds, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

The second entitlement we must give up to follow Christ is our time. The Jesus didn’t ask this man to consider following him, he gave a direct command. Jesus gave a similar command when he called his disciples and they left everything and followed him. It’s also interesting to note that Jesus “you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” This man was thinking of his own needs and Jesus was focused on his mission: proclaiming the kingdom of God. When we try to tell God when we will work for him or what times are convenient for us, we are trying to pull the reins of control. When we choose to follow Christ we gave up our right to control when God directs us to work for his purpose. Our time is the Lord’s and our focus should always be for His glory, His kingdom work.

The third man approaches Jesus saying, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family” (Lk. 9:61). Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Lk. 9:62). Having no rights before the throne of God is serious business. Jesus is very clear here that if we are holding back, if we put conditions on our following Christ then we are not fit to serve His kingdom. Jesus is calling us unworthy to even serve, to even be lowly for the kingdom of God if we do not give up everything!

The third entitlement we must give up is our service. We must relinquish “picking and choosing whether or not to serve, and the where and how of service” (Jesus-Ministry 2, 75). This man put conditions on his service to God. He had the desire to serve and follow Christ, but he was not yet ready to be extreme for Christ. He was not yet ready to throw everything away to follow Christ. Yes, we must even give up our hold over our family in following Christ. It is a cost some are not willing to give up, but if we don’t then we lose the greatest prize of all—the kingdom of God! When the man uttered that conjunction “but” he was putting limitations of what the Lord could ask of him. Is it too much for the Lord to ask us to leave behind all of our family—our most precious commodity—for Him? Did he not give up his only Son for the least of the world? If God is not entitled to save His very own Son, then we are not entitled to even our family.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

This morning I'm battling with some entitlements of my time. Basically, I'm just not feeling like going to work. I'd rather sleep in, read a book, sew, scrapbook, or just sit around. My attitude is just a little blah...not feeling up to much. So, yeah...I know I'll push through it and obviously go to work and do my job, but when I'm like this I just don't care to be there and I don't like that feeling. I've prayed "it's not my time, it's yours Lord," but I can feel my heart is still in that position of me. It's control. So, today I'm relinquishing all to the Lord (it'll probably happen quite a few times), but I'll choose to say, "all of me for the sake of others." If I want to be a servant of Christ, I cannot forsake being a servant of others and what that means is I have to be a servant as Christ was a servant. Having no rights, making myself willingly lowly without excuse and allow others to be better than myself.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Romans 6:7-8, NASB
for he who has died is freed from sin;
Now if we have died with Christ,
we believe that we also shall live with Him.

"The knowledge that Christ and we with him in the likeness of His death, are dead to sin, is indispensable to our sanctification."
Andrew Murray (Like Christ, p. 76)

That indispensable knowledge is what keeps us from being hopeless. We are like Christ in His death: dead to sin.

"This passage is the foundation as well as the key to the possibility of a ‘walk in the Spirit.’"
Lewis Sperry Chafer (He That Is Spiritual, p. 154)

Knowing and understanding our sin dead in our identification with Christ frees us to walk in the Spirit. We no longer have to worry or be apprehensive to wondering and worrying about sinning. Count yourself dead to sin; believe it—because you are! Step out in faith. When Christ sees you He doesn’t see a child bound in sin, but alive and looking to the cross for confidence and assurance of faith. Sin is no longer master, but Christ!

"By faith, the believer reckons (counts) himself ‘dead unto sin’ (Rom. 6:3-14)."
Alexander R. Hay (New Testament Order for Church & Missionary, p. 310)

Our position of identification in being dead to sin is not something to strive for or learn, but only to accept it. Christ already did the work. Our sin, our old self is already dead. We don’t have to crucify ourselves.

"If the difference between ‘Christ dying for us,’ and ‘our dying with Him,’ has not been recognized, acknowledged, and applied, it may safely be affirmed that the self is still the dominating factor in the life."
J. Penn-Lewis (Memoir, p. 26)

When we don’t believe and don’t accept ‘our dying with Him’ we are saying no to the totality of the cross of Christ. We are in essence, and in fact, telling Jesus that His death may have saved us from our past sins and from eternal damnation, but that His death was not full enough to save us from the day to day struggle with sin. Self still rules that life, because pride stands in the way to fully accept Christ’s work for us. It may seem a humble attitude of "No, Lord, that’s too much for me. You’ve already given me so much," or "I can’t do it. The yoke of sin is too tight. Lord, I can’t take it off." Those excuses (which are also lies) spit in the face of our glorious Redeemer, Christ!

He didn’t simply die to save us from punishment for our sins, but He died to save us from death and sin! It is because of His death that sin has no mastery over us! The work on the cross and ‘our dying with Him’ are one in the same. They didn’t happen separately, they coexist. And, we can only truly live free when we accept by faith that Christ’s death paid the penalty for our sins and freed us from the power of sin, since sin is death and death no longer has power over Christ, sin also has no real power in us as believers. Our identification is not something we must strive for, but something we already possess as believers the second Christ is acknowledged as our Lord.

Just had a thought on spiritual warfare:

If you know that someone is going to try to steal from you today, you’re going to be on the offense, right? So should it be with your spiritual warfare.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I’m ready to take ground. I’m tired of merely fighting the strongholds of fear, self-reliance, hopelessness, victimization, and control. I want to live in newness of life, not a constant battle to stay afloat. I want to take back more and more ground that the enemy has stolen. I want to live, operate, walk, and minister in my original design without any doubt or apprehension.

I want to be free from sin! And I want to live in that freedom daily. I want to live in that freedom daily. I want to walk in continued joyful obedience–never tiring of the fight, continually encouraged by the progress. I want to live with hope in the midst, to see everything through the eyes of hope.

I want to see God’s purposes for me to come to fulfillment. Not simply holding out with a despairing hope, but waiting with excitement and seeing the fulfillment coming over the horizon.
I am desperate and I need You, Lord, set Your hope before my eyes and Your continued loving kindness in my heart. I want to be like You.

Romans 6:7, NLT
For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.

August 31, 2006