Monday, September 26, 2011

Sunrise on the Hills ~ Henry W. Longfellow

I stood upon the hills, when heaven's wide arch
Was glorious with the sun's returning march.
And the woods were brightened, and soft gales
Went forth to kiss the sun-clad vales.
The clouds were far beneath me; bathed in light
They gathered mid-way round the wooded height,
And, in their fading glory, shone
Like hosts in battle overthrown.
As many a pinnacle, with shifting glance.
Through the gray mist thrust up its shattered lance.
And rocking on the cliff was left
The dark pine, blasted, bare, and cleft.
The veil of cloud was lifted, and below
Glowed the rich valley, and the river's flow
Was darkened by the forest's shade,
Or glistened in the white cascade;
Where upward, in the mellow blush of day,
The noisy bittern wheeled his spiral way.

I hear the distant waters dash.
I saw the current whirl and flash.
And richly, by the blue lake's silver beach,
The wood were bending with a silent reach.
Then o'er the vale, with gentle swell,
The music of the village bell
Came sweetly to the echo-giving hills;
And the wild horn, whose voice the woodland fills,
Was ringing to the merry shout,
That faint and far the glen sent out,
Where, answering to the sudden shot, thin smoke,
Through thick-leaved branches, from the dingle broke.

If thou art worn and hard beset
With sorrows, that thou wouldst forget.
If thou wouldst read a lesson, that will keep
Thy heart from fainting and thy soul from sleep,
Go to the woods and hills! No tears
Dim the sweet look that Nature wears.

The early hours

Ah, morning. The most significant hours of the day!
I dearly yearn to be one of those strange people that wake up at 5:00am and manage to be greatly productive in the early hours of the day. I don't imagine I'll ever become so disciplined, but I do wish that 7:00/7:30/8:0ooam wasn't such torture for myself. By nature, I'm a night owl. Thus, I shall always be. However, I'm sure I'll continue to complain about it for the rest of my life! ha! I'm constantly challenged by this spiritual discipline because of how difficult it is for me to adjust to the morning hours. Lately, I have had to recall a helpful passage by George Mueller concerning Scripture meditation and prayer. I remember the mark it left in my mind several years ago when I was first coming to learn of the Christian devotional life. Even still, I'm pressed by these words. Feasting upon God should not be a brief affair in the morning. Nor should it be dull or directionless! The challenge is to make this your ONE thing that you pour energy into and, yet, it also requires a patient dependence upon the Spirit to warm and humble your heart. Day by day by day by set to make this the one part of your life which will never alter or change in the importance or scheduling of it. Many have set first importance upon other things, but we, Christians, are different people. We are stranger and sojourners in this world. We set first importance to getting our souls satisfied in our Maker. We set first importance to the strength and richness of our souls! And this comes by way of careful meditation in the early hours of each day.

‎"Above all things see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord. Other things may press upon you, the Lord's work may even have urgent claims upon your attention, but I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance that you should seek above all things to have your souls truly happy in God Himself!..." ‎"...Day by day seek to make this the most important business of your life. This has been my firm and settled condition for the last five and thirty years. For the first four years after my conversion I knew not its vast importance, but now after much experience I specially commend this point to the notice of my younger brethren and sisters in Christ: the secret of all true effectual service is joy in God, having experimental acquaintance and fellowship with God Himself." "But in what way shall we attain to this settled happiness of soul? How shall we learn to enjoy God? How obtain such an all-sufficient soul-satisfying portion in him as shall enable us to let go the things of this world as vain and worthless in comparison? I answer, This happiness is to be obtained through the study of the Holy Scriptures. God has therein revealed Himself unto us in the face of Jesus Christ" "Now in brotherly love and affection I would give a few hints to my younger fellow-believers as to the way in which to keep up spiritual enjoyment. It is absolutely needful in order that happiness in the Lord may continue, that the Scriptures be regularly read. These are God's appointed means for the nourishment of the inner man. . . .Consider it, and ponder over it. . . . Especially we should read regularly through the Scriptures, consecutively, and not pick out here and there a chapter. If we do, we remain spiritual dwarfs. I tell you so affectionately. For the first four years after my conversion I made no progress, because I neglected the Bible. But when I regularly read on through the whole with reference to my own heart and soul, I directly made progress. Then my peace and joy continued more and more. Now I have been doing this for 47 years. I have read through the whole Bible about 100 times and I always find it fresh when I begin again. Thus my peace and joy have increased more and more." "I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the word of God, and to meditation on it. . . . What is the food of the inner man? Not prayer, but the word of God; and . . . not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts." "... that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, by means of the Word of God whilst meditating upon it, my heart might be brought into communion with the Lord... The first thing I did (early in the morning), after having asked in a few words the Lord's blessing upon his precious Word, was, to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching, as it were into every verse to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon; but for the sake of obtaining food for my soul. The result I have found to be almost invariably this; that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession or to thanksgiving or to intercession or to supplication; so that though I did not as it were previously, give myself to prayer but to meditation yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer. The difference then between my former practice and my present one is this: Formerly when I arose I began to pray as soon as possible and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer or almost all the time... But what was the result? I often spent a quarter of an hour or half an hour or even an hour on my knees before being conscious to myself of having derived comfort, encouragement, humbling of soul, etc; and often, after having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes or a quarter of an hour or even half an hour, I only then began really to pray. I scarcely ever suffer now in this way. For my heart being nourished by the Truth, being brought into true fellowship with God, I speak to my Father and to my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it!) about the things that He has brought before me in his precious Word. It often now astonishes me that I did not sooner see this point... (some years later he writes) I generally read after family prayer large portions of the Word of God when I still pursue my practice of reading onward in The Holy Scriptures, sometimes in the New Testament and sometimes in the Old and for more than thirty-nine years I have proved the Blessedness of it. I take also either then or at other parts of the day, time more especially for prayer." ~ George Mueller

Secondly, I have re-learned the significance of daily worship as a part of morning meditation and prayer. As A.W. Tozer puts it, "Without worship, we go about miserable." I feel as if this truth is addressed to me. With hearts bent to worry and doubting, worship is a NEED. I need eyes off of myself and life's problems. And worship is what enables me to focus upon my God on those days when my insides are racing and discontent.

It is delightful to worship God, but it is also a humbling thing; and the man who has not been humbled in the presence of God will never be a worshiper of God at all. ~ A.W. Tozer

The Psalms speak of these things as well. David continually raises his petitions, praises, and prayers by the morning light!

O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. ~ Psalm 5:3

But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. ~ Psalm 59:16

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. ~ Psalm 90:14

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. ~ Psalm 143:8

Lord, renew these precious truths in me, day by day!

If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer. ~ Martin Luther

He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day. ~ John Bunyan

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Embrace the flame

Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept our souls among the living and has not let our feet slip. For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. (Ps 66:8-10)

Awake, awake, O north wind!
Awake, awake, O south wind!
Blow over me
Come, O winds of testing!
Come, winds of refreshing!
Blow over me

Let the winds blow, let the winds blow!

Fling wide the door to my soul
Open up the door to my heart
Have Your way!
Have Your way!

I won't be afraid; I will face the wind
I won't be afraid; I will embrace the flame

Take me through the fire; take me through the rain
Take me through the testing; I will do anything
Test me, try me, prove me, refine me like the gold, like the gold

Monday, September 19, 2011

Spiritual riches from soul poverty

It is not so much the removing of the affliction that is upon us as the changing of the affliction, the metamorphosing of the affliction, so that it is quite turned and changed into something else. I mean in regard of the use of it, though for the thing itself the affliction remains. The way of contentment to a carnal heart is only the removing of the affliction. O that it may be gone! 'No', says a gracious heart, 'God has taught me a way to be content though the affliction itself still continues.' There is a power of grace to turn this affliction into good; it takes away the sting and poison of it. Take the case of poverty, a man's possessions are lost: Well, is there no way to be contented till your possessions are made up again? Till your poverty is removed? Yes, certainly, Christianity would teach contentment, though poverty continues. It will teach you how to turn your poverty into spiritual riches. You shall be poor still as to your outward possessions, but this shall be altered; whereas before it was a natural evil to you, it comes now to be turned to a spiritual benefit to you. And so you come to be content.

There is a saying of Ambrose, "Even poverty itself is riches to holy men." Godly men make their poverty into riches; they get more riches out of their poverty than ever they get out of their revenues. Out of all their trading in this world they never had such incomes as they have had out of their poverty. This a carnal heart will think strange, that a man shall make poverty the most gainful trade that ever he had in the world. I am persuaded that many Christians have found it so, they they have got more good by their poverty, than ever they got by all their riches. You find it in Scripture. Therefore, think not this strange that I am speaking of. You do not find one godly man who came out of an affliction worse than when he went into it; though for awhile he was shaken, yet at last he was better for an affliction. But a great many godly men, you find, have been worse for their prosperity.
Luther has a similar expression in his comment on the 5th chapter of the Galatians, the 17th verse: he says, 'A Christian becomes a might worker and a wonderful creator, that is' he says, 'to create out of heaviness joy, out of terror comfort, out of sin righteousness, and out of death life.' He brings light our of darkness. It was God's prerogative and great power, his creating power to command the light to shine out of darkness. Now a Christian is a partaker of the divine nature, so the Scripture says; grace is a part of the divine nature, and, being part of the divine nature, it has an impression of God's omnipotent power, that is, to create light out of darkness, to bring good out of evil - by this way a Christian comes to be content. God has given a Christian such power that he can turn affliction into mercies, can turn darkness into light. when we say of grace, that it can turn water into wine, and turn poverty into riches, and make poverty a gainful trade, a carnal heart says, 'Let them have that trade if they will, and let them have water to drink, and see if they turn it into wine.' Oh, take heed you do not speak in a scornful way of the ways of God; grace has the power to turn afflictions into mercies. Two men may have the same affliction; to one it shall be as gall and wormwood, yet it shall be wine and honey and delightfulness and joy and advantage and riches to the other. This is the mystery of contentment, not so much by removing the evil, as by metamorphosing the evil, by changing the evil into good.

~ Jeremiah Burroughs, Christian Contentment

Friday, September 16, 2011

Spiritual Apparel

"Study your profession, and thoroughly understand what it implies and enjoins. Consider well what sanctity of conduct; what spirituality of mind; what separation from the world in spirit and taste; what devotional feeling; what faith, hope, love, and humility; what amiableness of disposition and amenity of temper, are included in the declaration (And that declaration you have actually made), "I am a Christian." You should not have made such a profession if you did not understand it, or mean to sustain it. I remind you, it is a solemn thing to profess to be a disciple of Christ." ~ J.A. James

There is a brilliance in seeking a heavenly adornment. I want to understand what it means to wear and adorn the Gospel at all times, through all seasons. "When a woman professes godliness, that profession must be matched by her appearance and behavior." (The Beauty of Modesty, pg 97)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Joyfully at Home

It has been several months since I finished this much-anticipated read, but I intended to write a small review on it before this year's end. For anyone who is well-acquainted with the Baucham family, it was a known fact that this book would rock many a world! I have always admired and respected the Baucham's passion for cultural and family reformation in a time where truth, virtue, and restoring a Biblical vision to the church is difficult to find. Vision is a key word, I think, for the Baucham's. Whenever I read anything they write, I am deeply encouraged by their faithful upholding of the Gospel, the supreme authority of Scripture, and the legacy of multi-generational faithfulness in families. Their sincerity and humility is always apparent and so very striking!

Sometimes, I do become a little tired of reading Biblical womanhood books because...well...I've read so many! I feel like I've heard all that there is to hear. But I know that is certainly not true! I think the real test is engaging women on deeper levels and pin-pointing specifics.

In the beginning, Jasmine makes it clear that..."This book is not about constructing a superficial list of do's and don'ts for daughters. It is about giving you the one-two-threes of living a perfect life. It isn't about falling into a cookie-cutter mold as a Christian daughter...Stay-at-home daughterhood is a biblical option that I believe all Christian young women should consider, given the principles of biblical womanhood, and given the responsibility of fathers for the protections of their daughters..."
And yet, Jasmine is perfectly honest and accepting of the fact that many will decide not to pursue this path. And, for others, this is simply not even an option due to decline of the family unit and the brokenness found in so many homes. After sharing her own story, she turns readers straight to the Gospel and its transforming power, as well as giving readers a sketch of Biblical womanhood in Scripture. She continues on this vein by sharing the effects of feminism on daughters, yet ends by giving her readers caution about swinging to the other extreme or painting ideals about what women should look like in contrast to our harsh, modern egalitarian leanings. She devotes half a chapter to showing the order of God's creation in Eden, where the Lord placed a specific headship upon man (within a marriage-family context) over women. Jasmine simply states, "that has less to do with placing women in a position of inferiority than it does with the fact that we serve a God of order." Understanding the complementary relationships between man and wife is only understood within the Christ-Church relationship. However, Jasmine's book is not about debating egalitarianism vs complementarianism. Her goal is to show the effects of God's purpose and the Gospel's life-transforming effects upon daughterhood. I believe, regardless of any young woman's background, the principles that Jasmine lays out through each chapter are perfectly applicable to everyone. Naturally, there are so many differing circumstances and situations, which will make the practical application of these principles somewhat difficult at times. Nevertheless, at the core of her book, lies strong Biblical truths of Calvary love, sacrifice, the building of character and endurance through afflictions and various struggles. In almost every chapter, she is devoted to maintaining a selfless, Christ-like approach to each of the areas and relationships that young women struggle with today. I realize that I say this about almost every book I read, but Joyfully at Home is a true GEM! :-)

Jasmine doesn't mind hitting at the stereotypical definitions of "homemaking" and "stay-at-home daughterhood." She tears down all preconceived notions and distorted examples of these very admirable (and Biblical) positions for women that so many have rejected. Did she always "think" this way? No. In fact, she shares that she once believed homemaking to be the position of a woman who has not a talent to do anything else. She had dreams of grandeur and renown, completely set upon her own ambitions, set to do whatever she willed in life, until she was shot down. Of course, I had to chuckle at this part because I had a very similar experience. She writes,
"And I did read that book. So Much More by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin. You could say that it ruined my life - at least the dreams that I had built for myself."
Sounds like she's not the only young woman that the Botkin's book left in ruins. While there have been so many differing (and often times too harsh) critiques of So Much More, I know the Lord used it greatly to shatter all my leanings toward feminism and to begin thinking more Biblically in regards to woman's role.

In each chapter, Jasmine beautifully weaves together the Gospel and the position of daughters. She devotes a separate chapter to cultivating relationships with mother, father, and siblings and exhorts young woman to seriously cherish each member of the family. She does gives practical advice on how to pour out into their lives, but also targets false and selfish views that many of us hold towards our family members. I love her emphasis here: "Every family is a tool of sanctification and sharpening." A passage that hit me in her "Becoming a Good Daughter to Your Mother" chapter was this particular one:
"Our mamas are all less than perfect, because we're all fallible humans. There is an old saying, "Familiarity breed contempt." Although few of us would say that we feel contempt for either of our parents, many of us are so used to concentrating on our mothers' faults (on the things we dislike about her, on the pet-peeves we have cultivated, on the daily annoyances we can so easily become hung up on, on the character flaws we have ground up noticing, etc.). We tend to be far less patient with our mothers than we ought to be; however, as we show forbearance and as we learn to focus, not on the flaws we see in our mothers, but instead, on their virtues, many of us will realize that we are living with Proverbs 31 women that we have not even learned to appreciate."
Reading this passage hurt. Not only in relation to my mother, but all members of my family. As I have spent my whole life wrestling with my perfectionism-ideals in a fallen world, this was a great struggle that dominated my childhood, thus causing dis-unity and discontentment. And, one does reap the consequences of this type of thinking. It is very common in the world today to hear daughters speak disrespectfully of their parents and make know their faults. And, in a world where discretion and modesty in disposition is not cultivated, I find this is perhaps one of our greatest weaknesses. Because young women do not learn that same respect and selfless love in their family relationships (and, no, we don't get to use the reason that we were never taught by our parents to exhibit that love! Christ is our example and lead! Once we are in Him, we are not slaves to the fleshly or worldly; His Word renews our mind and hearts), they go on to vex and tear down their own husbands/children in time. Our family, whether we live with them 24/7 or not, will always be our training ground. No matter how "dysfunctional" one's family may be, there is always a place there in which a young woman can restore a sense of unity and love, smoothing over past hurts and grievances through selfless devotion, or she can leave it in ruins. We are Christ's hands and feet to all. Even if our family members are unbelievers, there is a way that the love of Christ can break through barriers of hurt and dysfunction. I think I'm beginning to ramble at this point....but Jasmine's words are true and demand much reflection!

She continues to gently prod young woman to share their heart with their parents, as well as getting to know their hearts, and then bless them through acts of service and obedience. In regards to siblings, after giving a list of questions to begin exploring about your sibling's interests and passions, her exhortation is simple: "Just spend time with your siblings! Spend less time bickering with them and more time laughing with them and loving them and encouraging them! Less time tattling and more time redirecting them yourselves, lovingly and respectfully."
I found this challenging and amusing due to the fact that I, whether for good or ill, had such a great influence in raising my younger brother (one whom I regarded as a great disturbance to my life for about 6 or 7 years right after he started walking and talking, haha!). Older siblings, I'm sorry, but we just don't get a choice in this matter. We are held responsible to care for those born after us, whether we wanted them or not. haha! I learned this the hard way, as in most areas of my life, and yet, I again see the Lord's faithfulness in my mistakes. Where we once used to mostly argue and purposefully irritate each other before, has become an ongoing relationship of laughter for my brother and I. We love fake-bantering and bickering for the sake of laughing! While he and I struggle with mostly opposite personalities, we can't help that we do have so much in common being brother and sister! So, teasing is our love-language. And, I do believe we have grown to deeply appreciate each other in new ways over the years because of this! However, Jasmine's wisdom of older siblings inspiring character and virtues in younger siblings is something I do value and realize the necessity of practicing in their lives.

In her chapter on contributing to a joyful atmosphere at home, she directs our focus at home to four goals: Home as a hub for ministry and discipleship, Home as a training ground for life ahead, Home as a place where we can bless those nearest and dearest to us, and Home a mean to bless those in our church and community. In this chapter, she also advises in continuing to develop trust with your parents, keeping lines of communication open, learning to submit, setting measurable goals by making your time spent at home full of activity and growth. I find that she covers each aspect with depth while remaining very concise. In addition, she goes on to explore, in the proceeding chapter, much more than I have time to devote to in this post. From thought-provoking, convicting chapters of overcoming false views of husbands, self, singleness, God and His sovereignty to the highly practical and helpful chapters devoted to time-management, hospitality, friendships, and more. Jasmine equips and enables young women in the fight against discontentment that stems from a selfish spirit. She is always leading her readers back to Scripture and supporting everything through the Word. I would wish every young women to read this book....if they were willing to embrace the challenge that comes along with it! Jasmine seeks to inspire young women to reevaluate their at-home years as a "fruitful opportunity for growth and ministry," as well their post-high school and college plans. Near the end of her book, she does well to turn us to search the Scripture and come to our own conviction about each detail of our lives. She reminds us not to lose ourselves in a stereotype, nor to fall into an Effort/Rewards notion of Biblical womanhood, but to maintain our identity and joy in Christ in our calling of Femininity.

Before I conclude, I have to emphasize one aspect of Jasmine's writings: Her wit, humor, and personality shine through in each chapter and it's not hard to love her! She has so much charm and grace, and yet she has this contagious humor that I absolutely adore! She makes light of many "woes" that young women struggle through. Not in a cruel way, as if she hasn't thought and experienced many of the emotional ups-and-downs that come with being female, but in a way that really opens your eyes to the utter absurdity of some of the things that race through our heads. As a literature fanatic and a dreamer, she plays on the ridiculous girlishness throughout her book, inserting short, sarcastic, cutting comments for the topic that she is discussing, revealing some rather humiliating thoughts, emotions, and reactions that we all carry. Of course, they're almost always melodramatic. I was laughing all the way through! She engages you with the humor and it invites you to continue reading and be challenged!
Jasmine is a darling, through and through. I'm so thankful for this book because of its emphasis on the cultivation of character and spiritual strength that flows from Christ, our River of Life. Joyfully at Home is a worthy-read. Every single page of it!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Finally! The long awaited book review on...

the Cross of Christ by John Stott!

The sad part is that I did not complete the last 1/4 of the book. I may shake my fists at the public library for not allowing renews on inter-library loans, but the fault only lies with me. I didn't keep up with the strict reading schedule that I had come up for myself. I must submit to the consequences. No, I did not finish this incredible book. *insert-tear-stricken-face-here* Nevertheless, one doesn't need to read many chapters of this book to realize what a gem it truly is!

I have read and heard many great reviews on this particular work by Stott over the years and it has taken me awhile to actual pursue reading it. After all, it is a thick book. And it's definite classified as a theological work. Theology and I don't always mix, but Gospel theology is quite a different area. This book was engaging on so many levels; I hardly think I will cover but a few of the many sections that stood out to me. If you're not passionate about the Gospel, get some of this good news in your system! I think it has been said that this book was Stott's magnum opus and it is very clear why. Stott was known for his brilliance and keen intellect as a preacher, entrepreneur, and writer, but I have read so many moving articles (since his death this past July) on his character, faith, and devotion to Christ and the Lord's people. It was clear that he lived the Gospel of which he had deeply studied for so long.
His great esteem for the centrality of the Cross and the authority of Scripture is striking as you begin to read the beginning chapters. In fact, his very first chapter is titled, The Centrality of the Cross, and begins by giving his readers a historical and Biblical account of the cross as a the symbol for Christianity. I have a love for Biblical/Church history, so Stott immediately drew me in!

Despite the great important of his teaching, his example, and his works of compassion and power, none of these was central to his mission. What dominated his mind was not the living by the giving of his life. This final self-sacrifice was his ‘hour’, for which he had come into the world. (pg 32, Stott)

One of things I really enjoyed about Stott's writing is the way that he takes you point by point through the Cross and all the details that entail such a divine work of God. I think we become too accustomed to the simplicity of the Gospel, that we forget the depth and the meaning behind it. We forget the seriousness of sin, the majesty of God in the light of who we are apart from Christ, why Christ had to die, by whose hands did he really die, the problem of forgiveness, why God needed satisfaction before he was prepared to forgive, why there needed to be a substitute before there could be propitiation, redemption, justification, or reconciliation, and what exactly the Cross achieved for us in its fullness.
Beginning his chapter on the self-substitution of God, he writes, "We have located the problem of forgiveness in the gravity of sin and the majesty of God, that is, in the realities of who we are and who he is. How can the holy love of God come to terms with the unholy lovelessness of man? What would happen if they were to come into collision with each other? The problem is not outside God; it is within his own being. Because God never contradicts himself, he must be himself and ‘satisfy’ himself, acting in absolute consistency with the perfection of his character. ‘It is the recognition of this divine necessity, or the failure to recognize it,’ wrote James Denny, ‘which ultimately divides interpreters of Christian into evangelical and non-evangelical, those who are true to the New Testament and those who cannot digest it.’
Moreover, as we have seen, this inward necessity does not mean that God must be true to only a part of himself (whether his law or honour or justice), nor that he must express one of his attributes (whether love or holiness) at the expense of another, but rather that he must be completely and invariably himself in the fullness of his moral being. T.J. Crawford stressed this point: ‘it is altogether an error…to suppose that God acts at one time according to one of his attributes, and at another time according to another. He acts in conformity with all of them at all times…As for the divine justice and the divine mercy in particular, the end of his work was not to bring them into harmony, as if they had been at variance with one another, but jointly to manifest and glorify them in the redemption of sinners. It is a case of combined action, and not of counteraction, on the part of these attributes, that is exhibited at the cross.’

In a generation that picks and chooses what aspects of God are best to focus on and tends toward separating the 'God of the Old Testament' and the 'God of the New Testament' (as if they're NOT the same, unchangeable LORD?!), I'm always on the lookout for men of authority in the Body to speak of the attributes of God as one whole. The Body needs to hear about the true God who is both the Lion and the Lamb. God's characteristics must be woven together and that is what makes Him truly glorious! By this, we know that "He was unwilling to act in love at the expense of his holiness or in holiness at the expense of his love. So we may say that he satisfied his holy love by himself dying the death and so bearing the judgment which sinners deserved. He both exacted and accepted the penalty of human sin. And he did it ‘so as to be just and the one who justified the man who has faith in Jesus’ (Rom 3:26)." (Stott)

Stott continues to knit together this beautiful, humbling reality throughout his book.

"It cannot be emphasized too strongly that God’s love is the source, not the consequence, of the atonement. As P.T. Forsyth expressed it, ‘the atonement did not procure grace, it flowed from grace.’ God does not love us because Christ died for us; Christ died for us because God loved us. If it is God’s wrath which needed to be propitiated, it is God’s love which did the propitiating. If it may be said that the propitiation ‘changed’ God, or that by it he changed himself, let us be clear he did not change from wrath to love, or from enmity to grace, since his character is unchanging. What the propitiation changed was his dealings with us. ‘The distinction I asked you to observe,’ wrote P.T. Forsyth, ‘is between a change of feeling and a change of treatment…God’s feeling toward us never needed to be changed. But God’s treatment of us, God’s practical relation to us – that had to change.’ He forgave us and welcomed us home."

There's so many facets to the Gospel that we truly need to know, protect, and cherish in accordance with Scripture. This brings me to yet another aspect of Stott's writing that I very much appreciated. In each chapter, as he is dissecting through each part of the work of the Cross, Stott presents various arguments and viewpoints that have developed over the centuries, from the early Greek and Latin church fathers to modern theologians and contemporaries. This was very intriguing to me because it reveals how easily man is led astray to create warped viewpoints that, though based partially in truths, have not stayed in line with Scripture. In one of the chapters, he walks you through various concepts and arguments that theologians and early church fathers have understood the obstacles to forgiveness which need first to be removed. He concludes the chapter with an argument against those viewpoints using Scripture to speak for itself. I found this helpful and informative because I did not realize how many ways one could warp the message of the Cross!

We strongly reject, therefore, every explanation of the death of Christ which does not have at its centre the principle of ‘satisfaction through substitution’, indeed divine self-satisfaction through divine self-substitution. The cross was not a commercial bargain with the devil, let alone one which tricked and trapped him; nor an exact equivalent, a quid pro quo to satisfy a code of honour or technical point of law; nor a compulsory submission of God to some moral authority above him from which he could not otherwise escape; nor a punishment of a meek Christ by a harsh and punitive Father; nor a procurement of salvation by a loving Christ from a mean and reluctant Father; for an action of the Father which bypassed Christ as Mediator. Instead, the righteous, loving Father humbled himself to become in and through his only Son flesh, sin and a curse for us, in order to redeem us without compromising his own character. The theological words ‘satisfaction’ and ‘substitution’ need to be carefully defined and safeguarded, but they cannot in any circumstances be given up. The biblical Gospel of atonement is of God satisfying himself by substituting himself for us.
The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts penalties which belong to man alone. (Stott)

Sometimes, his statements pack a bullet to the heart. He writes the truth with such clarity and yet he is always pointing readers to the abundant goodness of God.

For there is nothing capricious or arbitrary about the holy God. Nor is he ever irascible, malicious, spiteful or vindictive. His anger is neither mysterious nor irrational. It is never unpredictable, but always predictable, because it is provoked by evil and by evil alone. The wrath of God…is his steady, unrelenting, unremitting, uncompromising antagonism to evil in all its forms and manifestations. In short, God’s anger is poles apart for ours. What provokes our anger (injured vanity) never provokes his; what provokes his anger (evil) seldom provokes ours.
There is no possibility of persuading, cajoling or bribing God to forgive us, for we deserve nothing at his hands but judgment. Nor, as we have seen, has Christ by his sacrifice prevailed upon God to pardon us. No, the initiative has been taken by God himself in his sheer mercy and grace. (Stott)

He allows the work of the cross to speak for itself and to do what it is meant to do....strip and humble us before the greatness of the Father's love.

The cross enforces three truths – about ourselves, about God and about Jesus Christ.
First, our sin must be extremely horrible. Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross. For ultimately what sent Christ there was neither the greed of Judas, not the envy of the priests, nor the vacillating cowardice of Pilate, but our own greed, envy, cowardice and other sins, and Christ’s resolve in love and mercy to bear their judgment and so put them away. It is impossible for us to face Christ’s cross with integrity and not to feel ashamed of ourselves. Apathy, selfishness and complacency blossom everywhere in the world except at the cross. There these noxious weed shrivel and die. They are seen for the tatty, poisonous things they are. For if there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our unrighteousness, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, it must be serious indeed. It is only when we see this that, stripped of our self-righteousness and self-satisfaction, we are ready to put our trust in Jesus Christ as the Saviour we urgently need.
Secondly, God’s love must be wonderful beyond comprehension. God could quite justly have abandoned us to our fate. He could have left us alone to reap the fruit of our wrongdoing and to perish in our sins. It is what we deserved. But he did not. Because he loved us, he came after us in Christ. He pursued us even to the desolate anguish of the cross, where he bore our sin, guilt, judgment and death. It takes a hard and stony heart to remain unmoved by love like that. It is more than love. Its proper name is ‘grace,’ which is love to the undeserving.
Thirdly, Christ’s salvation must be a free gift. He ‘purchased’ it for us at the high price of his own life-blood. So what is there left for us to pay? Nothing! Since he claimed that all was now ‘finished’, there is nothing for us to contribute. Not of course that we now have a license to sin and can always count on God’s forgiveness. On the contrary, the same cross of Christ, which is the ground of free salvation, is also the most powerful incentive to a holy life. But this new life follows. First, we have to humble ourselves at the foot of the cross, confess that we have sinned and deserve nothing at his hand but judgment, thank him that he loved us and died for us, and receive from him a full and free forgiveness. Against this self-humbling our ingrained pride rebels. We resent the idea that we cannot ear – or even contribute to – our own salvation. So, we stumble, as Paul put it, over the stumbling-block of the cross.

Instead of inflicting upon us the judgment we deserved, God in Christ endured it in our place. Hell is the only alternative. This is the ‘scandal’, the stumbling block, of the cross. For our proud hearts rebel against it. We cannot bear to acknowledge either the seriousness of our sin and guilt or out utter indebtedness to the cross.
The proud human heart is there revealed. We insist on paying for what we have done. We cannot stand the humiliation of acknowledging our bankruptcy and allowing somebody else to pay for us. That notion that this somebody else should be God himself is just too much to take. We would rather perish than repent, rather lose ourselves than humble ourselves.
But we cannot escape the embarrassment of standing stark naked before God. It is no use our trying to cover up like Adam and Eve in the garden. Our attempts at self-justification are as ineffectual as their fig-leaves. We have to acknowledge our nakedness, see the divine substitute wearing our filthy rags instead of us, and allow him to clothe us with his own righteousness. (Stott)

Everything in me seeks to rise up with one big YES and say "There's the glory of the Gospel!" This is the message that is worth preserving with our lives!

I could continue quoting his work, but that would quickly become a disaster zone. I love quoting! However, in conclusion, I must say that this book is a perfect study companion with Scripture. Although Stott can get a little tedious at times with Greek translations while making his arguments, I didn't find this book hard to sift through at all. While it can be a lot to digest in one sitting (the chapters are quite long), it is never dull or dry for one moment. During each pause from reading, I found it a great source of truths to reflect on and very encouraging in relation to my prayers and time spent with Jesus everyday. Having Scripture and bold truths strongly and daily reaffirmed to you can do wonders for your soul! I'm so thankful to God for men like John Stott in our history that have fought the good fight of faith to preserve the Word and extend grace to all who hear. Now, I really need to buy this book so that I can finish the last few chapters...haha!

If the book of life is said in Rev 13:8 to belong to “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world’, then John is telling us nothing less than that from an eternity of the past to an eternity of the future the center stage is occupied by the Lamb of God who was slain. ~ John Stott

If the Cross of Christ is anything to the mind, it is surely everything - the most profound reality and the sublimest mystery. One comes to realize that literally all the wealth and glory of the gospel centers here. The Cross is the pivot as well as the center of New Testament thought. It is the exclusive mark of the Christian faith, the symbol of Christianity and its cynosure.

The more unbelievers deny its crucial character, the more do believers find in it the key to the mysteries of sin and suffering. We rediscover the apostolic emphasis on the Cross when we read the gospel with Muslims. We find that, although the offence of the Cross remains, its magnetic power is irresistible. ~ Samuel Zwemer, American missionary who labored in Arabia.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Eyes for Only You

Do you know that feeling when you find a song that resonates a 110% with every fiber of your being? Oh how I want this to be ever upon my heart! I desire this to be spoken through my life!

Your steadfast love has captured my heart
Breaking through the years of my shame
You've quickly become the Lover of my soul
And I tell You it will always be the same

For I have set my heart toward You, Oh Lord
As I dwell in Your courts forevermore
Others call my name and beckon me to come
Oh but I, I have eyes for only You
I will always have eyes for only You

I sing this song that all others may know
My heart is steadfast, never to be moved
Distractions worthy, Oh they fight for my desire
but my devotion will only be proved

"I am my Beloved's, Oh and He is mine"
These are the words that echo through my soul
"Oh how She loves Him" the Angels do say
Through the ages the story will be told

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hunger is an escort into the deeper things of You

I approach and He seems silent. I call! I cry...until all such soul-shouting becomes exhausting!

Does He not know that His nearness is our gird? Why does He withhold Himself? Why does He hold back His healing hand? Why does He not pour Himself out in greater measures according to the great and immediate needs of His people?
I am not as a young lion that suffers want and hunger, for as I seek You, I know that I lack none of Your goodness. Yet, all around, there remains still a great ache, a deep emptiness. Satisfaction is promised to those hungering and thirsting, left famished and wasted by this world and its burdens. If You let your children ache and pant for a time, do not disappoint in bringing about a downpour of all that You are in this place! Your Kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17). I want to waste my life in searching You out, to be so lovesick for this furthering of Your Kingdom and Your life here.

I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. ~ Psalm 143:6

Soul Cry
~ Misty Edwards

As the deer pants for the water, my soul longs for You
As the body dies without water, my soul dies without You

They may say, “Come on, get over it
Drink, be merry, for tomorrow we die”
That’s why I’d rather sit in the house of mourning
Than at the table with fools
Blessed are the hungry—You said it, I believe it
Hunger is an escort into the deeper things of You
You satisfy, you satisfy

My soul cries, my soul cries, my soul cries for You

Take me to the place where You satisfy, take me to the river
I’ll do anything, God; there is no price, take me to the river

They may say, “Come on, get over it, everything is okay”
They may say, “Why the hunger?
Why the thirsting? Why the mourning?”
But my soul cries, my soul cries

All my tears You hold in a bottle; You will pour them out like rain
Weeping endures for the night, for the night
But joy comes in the morning, joy comes in the morning

Blessed are the hungry, blessed are the thirsty
You said it, I believe it; I believe it, I believe it
Hunger is the escort into the deeper things of You

Deep is calling out to deep is calling out to deep

Yesterday’s depth is feeling really shallow
I’ve gotta go deeper, deeper, deeper still
And all Your waves and all Your billows crash over me
Pulling me deep, deep, deeper
From glory to glory, from strength to strength
From depth to depth, I want to fellowship with You

You’re not so far away, it’s not too mysterious
You’re living on the inside of me, Your Spirit on the inside of me

Spring up, O well; spring up, O well; spring up, O well, within me!