Sunday, October 30, 2011

Looking at the Gospels

This fall I had the opportunity to sit under the teaching of an older and wiser woman, Vida Farrar. She led us through a 7 week course on Growing in personal holiness. We did read through 3 of the 4 gospels for some of our homework. Here are my brief reflections on the first 14 chapters of Matthew's Gospel.

Matthew the Taxman called to be a disciple left his money collecting in exchange for the riches that can only be found in bowing the knee to the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus Christ.

“King of the Jews,” is found only at the beginning of the gospel of Matthew referring to the child Jesus who was born to save his people from their sins. The rest of the gospel writers use this title toward the end of their gospels during the Passion of the Christ . Looking to Jesus as my King through the eyes of His servant Matthew is welcomed meat to this growing Christian. In SO many ways, I still have a lot of growing up to do and again, I am finding myself in a season that I just can’t seem to get enough of God’s Word.

During the reading of these first 14 chapters of Matthew, I did more reading and pondering than actual writing. Although, I did write something down for each chapter. Unlike other weeks, I could probably fit it all here on one page. However, I want to just reflect on this office of the Lord. In the Westminster Catechism its says in the answer, “Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.”

In Matthew after the Incarnation, wise men come to worship the Baby born King. In the Jordan Jesus is baptized by John and with the Holy Spirit descending upon Him, the Father declares Him as His Beloved Son! In the desert Jesus wages War with the devil in a battle of biblical proportion with all that He is through His Very Words. In Capernaum, Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom (His Kingdom) of heaven was at hand. In the streets, on the sea, and upon the mountains Jesus heals diseases, casts out demons, astonishes the crowds, the Scribes and Pharisees and his disciples with His authoritative and totally outside the box teachings.

Through this part of the gospel I see the King who provides, heals, teaches, defends, rescues and calls out the disciples to Himself. This tax collector who was formerly employed under Herod the tetrarch, now found himself under the authority of a King whose kingdom, was the very Kingdom of God. Matthew helps me to be in awe, reading straight through helps me to be amazed at the One I call, Savior, Lord, Brother and Friend, is my ruling King. There is No One like Him. How can I help but bow!

Also, in the gospel of Matthew I see how far I have to go along the pilgrim highway, the LORD holds up a standard that in my own power, I cannot even begin to scratch the surface. My first step toward the Savior is to repent of my sin, my inability to do what the Word of God says, even though I have died and my life is now hid with Christ, I frequently suffer from identity crisis and find myself in the middle of my sin and with Paul I cry out what a wretch I am! But thanks and glory be to God who rescues me from myself. There is so much in this gospel that I love but I will just point out two things: what I grew up calling “The Our Father” for it is indeed our prayer to our Heavenly Father. Jesus the one who gives us access to the Father gives us words to say in prayer. Secondly, at the end of chapter 11, Jesus declares again His position with the Father and then those tender words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (v. 28-30 NIV)

A humble King who often carries me is walking beside me enabling me to learn to walk in His ways. May I continue to sit at His Feet as well as walk along the way with Jesus.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Preaching the Gospel to myself

There are many God dependent brothers and sisters in the faith that are calling us back to the Gospel and reminding us of the Gospel. These dear ones give testimony to the fact that they are preaching the Gospel to themselves; others call it rehearsing the Gospel. Recently I have had the opportunity of reminding some young people from Christian households about the Gospel both with my own words and in presenting a short presentation from a preacher who is sometimes affectionately called, "Smarty Pants." It has crossed my mind that one of the great ways to preach to myself is through writing and perhaps some of those dear people who take time to read my blog might enjoy a reminder as well.

The apostle Paul who wrote a good percentage of the New Testament said in essence, "Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel." (1st Corinthians 9;16) Earlier in this same letter Paul states that he decided to know nothing among the Corinthians except Christ and Him Crucified. (1st Corinthians 2;2) In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, he talks about the gospel in terms of reconciliation. Before I can even get to that, I have to ask myself a couple of questions:
What do I believe about man?
What do I believe about God?
What do I believe about God relating to man?
What do I believe about man relating to God?
These are some of the big questions about life. To assert anything about reconciliation, I first must state briefly what I believe about each of these things in regards to reconciliation. (To answer in there entirety would take several blog posts.)

What do I believe about man?
I believe that man is inherently sinful and in need of God's grace and forgiveness.

What do I believe about God?
God is all powerful, all knowing, perfectly just and altogether loving. He is the Redeemer and Restorer of all things.

What do I believe about God relating to man?
As our Creator, God is a Loving Father, the sun shines and the rain falls abundantly upon the just and the unjust. As our Father, He sent His Son through whom He reconciled us to himself, making us new creations, and adopting us as His Beloved Children.

What do I believe about man relating to God?
There are so many ways to describe this incredible relationship. Finite man in relationship with an Infinite God seems most unlikely, a Holy God relating to sinful people. God is incredibly merciful. Gaining an understanding that it is only through Jesus Christ who is God that we have a way to the Father. The one thought that keeps coming back to me when I think about man relating to God is He is the Potter and we are the clay. In a recent video by Francis Chan he says in light of this thought from chapter 9 of Romans, "it is like I am a piece of clay trying to explain to other pieces of clay what the Potter is like, none of us can claim to be experts about the Potter." It is a humbling place to be. Jesus says, unless you become like this little child you can not enter the kingdom of heaven. So, as a daughter of the Living God, I am to trust him. This trusting needs to be one of the outstanding characteristics to my relationship with God.

God has reconciled us to himself through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. I am a sinner who has been saved by grace through faith and I didn't do anything to add to grace because that would just cancel it out. Jesus Christ lived the perfect life that I could never live, died the perfect death that I should have died, He shed his blood for my sins and then HE conquered death by rising from the grave. As the old hymn writer wrote Jesus paid it ALL, all to Him I owe sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow.
Even though I am his daughter and have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, securing my inheritance, I am still walking around in the flesh, that is my sin nature, and I still sin. I am daily in need of His grace, His mercy and His forgiveness. If I wasn't in need of being forgiven regularly then I would not need to hear the Gospel but one time on that day that I was reconciled to my Father in Heaven. Jesus did indeed save me once, I have been justified. The beauty of the Gospel is that it is also for my ongoing sanctification. It is the Righteousness of Christ that has given me access to our Holy and Heavenly Father. Indeed, I want the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be a part of my daily "bread" to live in the Light of the Truth and to know how GREAT the Father has lavished His Love upon us.

"God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2Corinthians 5;21

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Purpose for My Blog

I am so tempted to just move on (which I do plan on doing in January 2012) to a new blog address and continue my writing there. A fresh start. Last night and this morning I was going through my published posts. This blog was started in January 2004, nearly 8 years ago. The purpose was to journal about our journey along the Pilgrim Highway both in the spiritual sense with our sights set on the Celestial City and our travels up and down the east coast while Dan was a travel nurse and we lived in different places with our growing children.

The journey continues. We did take the plunge and become members of Bethlehem Bible Church (BBC) in West Boylston but more amazingly they took a gamble on us by welcoming in a couple of Ragamuffin Christians. I think we will add to the diversity of this local body of believers. ;-) We have been at the same address for 23 months now, with hope of staying in this area. Traveling, living and journeying with our children was the norm for many years. They very much are still on the Pilgrim Highway with us as we are all on the road with Jesus Christ who not only leads us but is The Way to The Father but our times together as a family physically is limited. We now make plans for those times. Michael is still home but has made a number of trips without us recently. He is working toward and looking forward to the next leg of his trip through this world.

My desire for both myself and Dan and our children, is that we will make a difference in the lives we touch both in this world and in the next. A spiritual father of mine, Sam Shoemaker who I only know through his writings, wrote a poem as an apologia for his life called I Stand at the Door. He never forgot about those who hadn't heard the good news of Jesus Christ who is the Door and he sought to point them to the Way. For those who found there way into the House of God and were scared off by those who were deep inside, Sam wanted to be there for those too and let them know that they didn't need to be afraid that it was much better in the House. The road is not always easy, in fact it is hard but we are journeying on with the LORD and one another. The destination is eternal joy, never ending glory and our Heavenly Father will be singing over us!

There is much happening in our world, some we need to stay clear of and much more that we need to be a part of. It has been said that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. I don't think I agree. Our culture says we should avoid pain and suffering, that there ought to be a no tolerance policy. We (mankind) are entitled to all that is good upon the earth. In a perfect world that would be fine. Where is this thinking coming from? It has permeated much of American Christendom. I will contend that it is a misconception of the fall and particularly, the sin that has plagued men and women for all times. Out of one side of their mouth Americans will say "we deserve" and on the other side they excuse wrongs and say, "I am only human." There is truth in the latter. I am only human, inherently sinful. Our inclination is to be selfish and want our own way. There will be pain AND suffering in this world, we can run and hide from it or face it head on knowing that we are not alone. That there is One who understands, there is One that stands beside us, there is One who is walking through it with us.

The road is different when you watch your children, not just walking and running but flying. Now under the protection and care of their Heavenly Father but still at times coming back to us, walking with us desiring to be in the refuge of our family. There are others along the road too and we enjoy sweet fellowship there as well. There is that special bond between parents and children. A love for them like no other. We have always had our fellow pilgrims along the way but our perception changes when our children are no longer our constant companions. Our footing changes as well. Their young lives still occupy much of my mind and my prayers and at the same time, new avenues are opening up for me as a woman, a daughter of the King of Kings and my delight is in being His child. The changes continue to come fast and furious and just like the pace of the digital sphere that has become a part of our lives, I am doing my best to keep up and press on. Grateful for the road traveled thus far and looking with hope to the road ahead. Hopefully, that will include more writing.