Georgetownrose

…from glory to glory

Why Church History is Important…


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…Notes from A Survey of Church History, Part 1

In this postmodern age where history has become nothing more than “social construct,” i.e., fiction, the history of the Church is important to rehearse. The Church in our age has seen its history as fragmented, interrupted between the Apostolic era and the Reformation period. I know Christians who think that the Word of God was completely unknown to Christians during the Medieval period–that there was no personal Christian piety in the lives of the people in those days–as if the Holy Spirit went to sleep and the Word of God ceased…

The Scriptures given in this session’s study guide show us the dialog between Jesus and His disciples, heralding the New Covenant work of God in Him:

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”  So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.

Matthew 16:13–20

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

John 10:1–18

If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.“A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” Judas(not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I. “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.”

John 14:15–31

In the passages (shown above) offered in this session’s study guide, here is Jesus introducing the disciples to the New Covenant work God promised in the Law, the Psalms and the prophets which is fulfilled in Him. It would be new to the Jewish disciples—radical change would come: Jesus the Holy One, the Chief Rabbi—the Good Shepherd, the Son of Man—one flock and one Shepherd. How unfathomable it must have been to the disciples as they tried to comprehend what Jesus was announcing to them; and the Lord Jesus has been faithful to build His Church. The gates of hell have failed to destroy it, precisely because of the work of the Holy Spirit who has been faithful to teach His flock and bring to remembrance the Word of a faithful God from age to age. A careful study will prove Church history more than “social construct” that Jesus is the One who has made out of the diversity in the Church one flock in Him who is the one Good Shepherd of it.

The New Covenant Church is not the first people to deal with the character and being of God, the theology of the only True and Living God. Israel was constantly beset by her own doubts and questions of relevance in the setting of the pagan cultures. Moses was the theologian of the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant book of Deuteronomy is the doctrinal statement—the “summa theologica” of the times, and for all the centuries prior to the incarnate appearing of the Christ; but it was for the Jew first and then for all who would seek after God. Everything upon which the New Covenant—Apostolic—teachers knew and based their doctrine and preaching was first established in Old Covenant Scriptures. In order for the New Covenant teaching not to be viewed as an innovation, it must be shown as fulfillment of Old Covenant Scriptures: i.e., historical truth and not “social construct.”

Therefore, let us rejoice! The Lord Jesus Christ is faithful!

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Made in the Image of God…

photo of man carrying baby

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…but not children of God by natural birth.

In my recent on-line studies with Ligonier Ministries I have been learning more on God’s attribute of love.  One of the requirements of the course entitled, “Loved by God,” is to dig deeply into what the Scriptures actually say about the eternal love of God.  One overlooked truth about God’s eternal love is that God’s love did not begin at creation. Just as God is eternal, so are all His other attributes–eternal…including that of His love.

Most people might have some difficulty understanding how our status as image-bearers of God by His creation of us has anything to do with His eternal love or the reason why we cannot claim we are children of God by natural birth. I confess that before I studied the second session in the series, my little grey cells had not digested the clear facts leading to a rational dialog on the subject.  Realizing this truth and the impact it bears on the entire plan of redemption has made me love God more for the magnitude of who He is, the immensity of His eternal love, and helped me to help others think about why there is now a difference between being an image-bearer of God and being a child of God.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

QUESTION #1:

In what ways do many contemporary churches today misrepresent God’s eternal love? What sorts of teaching/preaching have you heard that endorses a universal love of God for His creation without distinction?”

My Answer: Many preachers in churches today have lapsed into a Unitarian view of God’s eternal love; and so they tell their audiences that God loves everybody the same way, unconditionally, just as they are—“warts and all.” They go on to exercise their misrepresentation by advancing their propositions that because God created us in His own image and likeness, they say that we are all children of God; ergo, God loves us all without distinction…This grave error in preaching has profound implications for the Biblical facts of God’s plan of redemption and the work of Christ in His atoning death…

         I have to say that I have never heard a preacher delve into the eternality of God’s love as Dr. Sproul has emphasized in this lecture: a vital point underscoring the eternal attribute of love which has always existed in Him who is self-existing—eternally. If anyone would have pressed me on this issue, of course I would have stated confidently that God’s love is a pure and holy attribute of His as eternal because He is eternal; but I am grateful for Dr. Sproul’s clearly spoken emphasis of this truth.

QUESTION #2:

How would you describe the object of God’s love before He made His people? Why is the work of redemption considered a Trinitarian work? Why would it be a mistake to think that the exclusive object of the love of God is the world or people?”

My Answer: God’s love is Trinitarian and covenantal; i.e., the covenant love in the plan of redemption, established between the persons of the Godhead from eternity past—in the complete foreknowledge that the fall of man was going to occur.

In Dr. Sproul’s words:It would be a mistake to think that the exclusive object of the love of God is the world or the people whom He is pleased to redeem. The primary object of the Father’s affection is the Son, and that is something that is often overlooked in the study of the Scriptures. It is absolutely true that God loves us, but we need to remember that He loves us (the redeemed) in the Son, and it is because of His great love for His Son that we are included in redemption.”

          And when I meditate on this truth, I see encounters with Christ in clear perspective in the Scriptures on the Trinitarian work of redemption declared from His own lips: “All that the Father gives Me will come to me” (John 6.37); “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6.44); “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15.26); “I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3.3, 5); “…make disciples of all the nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28.19).

          The plan of redemption in this covenant love is for the glory of the beloved Son of God, Christ Jesus (Mark 9.7; 12.6; 2 Peter 1.16-18)—by whom and for whom all that was created is created (John 1.1-3; Revelation 4.11), and for whose glory the redeemed are bought for His possession (1 Corinthians 3.23; 7.22-23), and that in all things He might have the preeminence (Colossians 1.17-19). Glory be to God!

QUESTION #3:

Do you find it offensive or unfair that we are biologically born into this world void of the Spirit of God as children of wrath? How would you respond to someone who says that we are all children of God through creation simply because we are made in His image?”

My Answer: Saying that we are made in the image of God is only saying that we bear His image. In the material world, whose image an object bears is the one to whom that object belongs and is under sovereign subjection—even if that object denies it, it cannot be annulled. Saying that we are children of God is, in reality, claiming that God is our Father. The implications of such a claim mean that anyone who claims it acknowledges the sovereign authority of God as Supreme Patriarch over his life and conduct, and gives himself in loyalty, love and obedience to such a Father and Patriarch… 

          It might be offensive to our feelings, it might be painful to accept, but in fact we must face the real genetic implications of being in Adam and subject to the degenerative and lethal effects of his corruption upon the seed inside his loins. The effect of his rebellion—the denial of God’s sovereignty and the darkening of his understanding of the truth in his mind are real effects of his corruption which spread to every cell of his body—every seed in his loins. While his corruption did not nullify the fact of his being an image-bearer of God, he became a fallen image-bearer, corrupted and adversarial to the very God who created Him to be in His own image and likeness—and in his now-corrupted, natural, humanist state he and all his biological issue are worthy of God’s wrath. As a fallen image-bearer, Adam refused to acknowledge that he belongs to God and is subject to His sovereignty over his life—both the temporal and the eternal.  In his rebellion against God, he exalted his own humanist spirit above the Holy Spirit, and became an instrument in the hands of the Evil One. In his rebellion against God, Adam literally became the father of the children of wrath… “This Is Us,” in our natural, biological state. Adam changed his posture toward God, but God did not change His posture toward Adam and the progeny housed within his loins—as fallen image bearers, in our perverted condition, we still belong to God and are subject to His sovereignty over our lives—both the temporal and the eternal…

           If we are talking about what is “fair” or “unfair” on this subject, we must consider that if a holy God did what is “fair” toward us He would have annihilated Adam and Eve on the spot or pronounced an eternal and irrevocable curse upon them without possibility of remedy even by God Himself. But God is fair first to Himself—to His Trinitarian being—the Father cannot deny His Beloved Son His rightful inheritance from the creation. The Holy Spirit’s life giving breath cannot be quenched. It’s what the Godhead does. Therefore, if we examine the “fair” thing to do in the Father’s love for the Son, and the work of life through the Holy Spirit, it was to provide a way for some of Adam’s corrupted progeny to be made clean, reborn, regenerate. This could only be accomplished supernaturally by the regenerating work of God Himself in the lives of the Adamic seed born congenitally unregenerate—children of the corrupted Adam, no longer children of God. What is “unfair” to our constipated minds is the way this mechanism of regeneration would be accomplished—through the sacrificial death of The Father’s Beloved Son for the children of wrath—the Incorruptible for the corrupt—and the work of faith supernaturally given as a gift by the Holy Spirit to awaken the darkened minds of Adam’s children of wrath to life in God’s Beloved Son.

          All humans have been created in the image and likeness of God, and, as such, belong to God who is sovereign over their lives both temporal and eternal, to ordain what He chooses; but because of Adam’s rebellion against God, being an image-bearer of God in itself no longer qualifies all as children of God. All humans are born as fallen, rebellious image-bearers; no humans are born embracing the sovereignty and ownership of a holy God over their lives. We are not born children of God; we are born children of wrath. Until the regenerating breath of the Holy Spirit works in the heart of a fallen image-bearer of God—by grace through faith in The Father’s Beloved Son—he remains a child of wrath. Only those who believe in Christ Jesus are born anew, supernaturally, children of God…

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

–John 1.12-13

Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear; and may God the Father whose love for His Beloved Son is eternal be glorified by another fallen image-bearer being born “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” by His grace in the work of His Holy Spirit.

Why Atheism is a False God…

person sky silhouette night

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…and existence requires the self-existing God.

Here is a link to a message by Dr. Ravi Zacharias. In this careful and sensitive examination of the sincere arguments denying the existence of the God of the Bible, Dr. Zacharias explains the logical consequences of the rejection of the self-existing God.

The Existence of God

If you know dear ones who are still struggling with the futile musings of this world about their existence, perhaps you will find some light here to offer to them in their darkness. May the Spirit of the Ever-living God use the beauty of true wisdom to draw them to know who He is…

Your comments are welcome.

Why Words are Important…

crowd of people inside white building

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…and a healthy society depends upon the truth.

Here is a link to a message given by Dr. Albert Mohler examining the trend in our 21st Century culture’s individualistic posture toward words and truth. It has sobering implications for all our relationships and for the entire scope of society…

If you do not know what “postmodernism” is, Dr. Mohler will make this cultural development in our times abundantly clear. Consider the consequences of postmodernism in the doctor’s office, or under the surgeon’s knife, or living/working in a structure engineered by a postmodernistic engineer…

Postmodernism and Society

Star Trek fans may recall the Ferengi “civilization” characterized by their treaties with other races in space. The principle upon which they base their treaties and covenants is this: “Our word is our bond, until we change our minds.”

Your comments are welcome.

Why Justification by Faith in Christ Alone…

…teaches us the truth about God’s exquisite love and righteous justice.

Here is a link to a message by Dr. Michael Reeves which exposes the moment of reckoning in Church  history when the truth of Scripture exposed the cruel darkness of “modern scholarship” of the culture of the day…

Here I Stand

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Ephesians 3.14-21

Here is a question posed in my current studies in the series entitled “Loved by God,” offered by Ligonier Ministries. Something to think about for such a time as this…

Have you ever found yourself interpreting Scripture based upon your own culture or situation?

Your comments are welcome.

Too Good To Be True…

He has made everything beautiful.png

At a recent church membership class we were asked to introduce ourselves to each other, to tell where we were born and a notable thing about that city. Our city is always in the news about the seedy things; but no one reports about the work of the Kingdom of God in this town. Since I have been at McLean Presbyterian Church I have discovered some beautiful secrets scattered all over this area. Some are directly “daughter” ministries of McLean Presbyterian; many are close relatives within the Body of Christ, ministering sacrificially and faithfully to individuals at every season of life in their needs both physical and spiritual. So, Hello, from Washington, DC area, the city that is known for Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center, Reformed Theological Seminary, C. S. Lewis Institute, The Lamb Center of Fairfax, Assist Pregnancy Center, Central Union Mission, Project Belong, Casa Chiralagua, Cornerstone School, Bethany House of Northern VA, etc… In the first three chapters of the Book of Revelation, Christ Jesus tells John to write letters to seven different Church centers in Asia Minor during the First Century, A.D. I wonder what He would tell John to write to the Church in the Metro DC area. Take heart, there are great things of God that are going on in the Metro DC area, under the noses of those whose world view and preoccupation with a worldly kingdom is tragically fallen–where its dark web lures and traps men who seek to be rulers of the world.

My journey into membership at our new church was completed in March; and both my husband and I have been enjoying being immersed in the substantial teaching on Sunday mornings.  FYI, there’s a link on my page which will give readers access to the sermons at McLean Presbyterian Church.

Solomon prayed for wisdom

As a follow-up to the Sunday teaching in the Scriptures, our pastors usually direct our attention to thoughtful questions to discuss in our local community group gatherings. One question during the series on “The Gospel in Solomon” was this: “If God answered, in this instant, all the prayers you prayed this week what would happen?” Another one was convicting: “Do you pray simply for your life and circumstances to be more comfortable or are you confident that God will take care of that with your heart compelled for His Kingdom?”

Solomon's moment with God

We have been studying the Bible together in the late mornings. I call these times our “second breakfasts.” Technology has been the instrument which has enabled us to engage with the Word and with each other in this department. We have an elaborate, but effective, array which feeds the intercouple surfing webnet into our large screen video display. From that internet feed, we can stream and view and read  the online Bible, daily commentaries from Ligonier Ministries’ “TableTalk” publication. The series has been following the historical books of the Bible. We began in January with Joshua and are now deep into the monarchy under David in 2 Samuel. Our time together includes reading daily portions from the Bible in a plan to read through the Bible in a year. We sometimes choose to select an audio reading while we read the print on the screen; but we also take turns reading the passages aloud—this helps my husband rehab his speech and cognition with the aphasia he battles.

Wisdom-Quotes-3Our time in prayer follows our exploration of the Scriptures and usually responds to the convictions impressed upon us by the work of the Holy Spirit in the Word of God. Prayer is the chief weapon in our arsenal for warfare in times like these. Our unshakeable certainty of the sovereignty of God provokes us to prayer in all things… I wrote in December that many in our country are struggling with loss of home, belongings, livelihoods and loved ones from fire, monster storms and floods. The same is true again as I write this in Springtime. We are learning to pray Kingdom-of-God kinds of prayers as we observe the times, trusting God for the answers–things so great that the skeptics of this age would say they are too good to be true.

One somewhat unexpected development in my prayers has been that as I began the process of application for children’s Sunday school teaching, I realized that I would be premature in making a commitment to that ministry at this time. As I have waited and sought God’s leading and my husband’s thoughts on the subject, I believe God would have me be more available to my husband; in one key area since he is no longer able to drive, that I would be available to bring him to church without conflict of service.  Thanking God for His wisdom and the joy that has come to my soul in this pruning work. Nevertheless, if you would have told me 38 years ago that when my husband and I became old and weaker in body that we would enjoy the manifold blessings God has given us, with peace in our hearts, purpose and re-productivity  in our last season of life together, and joy which no circumstances can rob, I would have said it too good to be true. Thanks be to God who blesses us with every blessing in heavenly places. By His grace we will finish well.

In the meantime, I am continuing weekly with our local Community Bible Study group. We started in September with the book of Daniel, and in January, we began the book of Revelation. We are nearing the the end of the book of Revelation and it has been one spectacular lesson after another. Some studies of these books can get sidetracked into speculations on imagery and symbolism and miss the whole point and substance of the narrative. CBS has handled the study wisely; what a difference it is making in my here-and-now life.

thorns and gold2The early spring razzle-dazzle is quickly turning to the deeper greens on the trees as the leafing matures; and pollen abounds!   The razzle-dazzle of spring and the spectacular  beauty and stunning drama of Christ Jesus in His glorious atoning death and resurrection coming together has been exquisite; it continues to touch and resonate through all my senses and makes me cry, “Holy! Holy! Holy!”

Look around you! Spring’s Rising! (a link to one of my recent reflections).

“Fear not, I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

–Revelation 1.17-18

Glory be to God and may the Peace of Christ be with you.

 

A Perfect Church…

…and other expectations…

I could put many thoughts on this subject in writing to share with everyone who reads my posts; but I doubt any of them would serve anything but to elicit a nod of agreement on shared insights. What compels me to post anything at all on the subject is my studies this morning in Revelation 21 from the Community Bible Study materials.  If you read the chapter in this book of the Bible, you will see a description of the New Jerusalem.

In our group’s CBS Bible study questions we are asked to compare some of the previous manifestations of the glory of God from the passages of Scripture: Exodus 40.34-38; 2 Chronicles 7.1-3 and Matthew 17.1-8.

Here is what I observed: These are all appearances of God’s glory—even for their stunning effect upon fallen, corruptible men—while yet cloaked in a mitigating cover. The very face of God is not revealed, while fallen, corruptible men recognize that it is the Presence of the Glory of God before them and they are undone by its nearness to them. And the moment of glory fades…

In the new city, the holy city of Jerusalem, only the incorruptible redeemed shall dwell and they shall behold His Face in unmasked glory and not die;  but they shall surely worship God face to face, still falling humbly before Him, while enjoying perfect fellowship with Him and one another in His forever Presence.

Another thought question was included in our group’s CBS lesson on Revelation 21; we are asked how looking forward to such a city changes our perspective on today… 

Are you looking for a perfect church this side of Heaven? You might find a very good one, and on some days you might feel like you have stepped across the threshold into the New Jerusalem for the glory of God which falls on your heart at the substance of the unvarnished teaching of the Word of God there… and the beauty of reverent and excellent praise… and the kindness of people who acknowledge your existence in a culture which is wrapped up in itself and its I-phone activity…

But the glory this side of Heaven still fades, just as it did on Mt. Sinai, in the Temple dedication during Solomon’s reign, and on that mountain peak where Jesus was transfigured before the eyes of his disciples…

There are good churches on this planet where the substance of the unvarnished, un-compromised Word of God is taught and lived out from the heart, even if haltingly and “in process;” where forgiveness and accountability to the Word of God has not become an obsolete virtue… And yet, there are Sundays when you might feel dashed expectations because the pastor, for all his gift as a communicator and his humility as a student of the Word in his own life, his sermon did not address your struggle and search for understanding that day… or for all its excellence, the worship team’s rhythm did not match the particular rhythm of your heartbeat that day, because, by God’s sovereign providence, it spoke to others with different needs… I concede that if Scriptural deprivation from the pulpit leadership is a regular, long-term, repetitive experience, perhaps you should be looking for another church. If you are not in a solidly Scriptural teaching church, I exhort you to find one and attend it and take notes on the sermons and study the Scriptures presented…

Even so, if you find yourself pining at times because you hunger for God’s glory to fall upon you and change the stuff in your heart which does not please God–if this stunning “glory work” does not happen in every worship service in your church–the glory fades because we are not in the New Jerusalem.

A “perfect church” which is truly a good church will keep you looking forward to “the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11.10).

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

Revelation 21.3

From My Heart to Yours…

The Heart of St. Valentine

A link to a post on my site. Feel free to share…

Some thoughts are timeless and unchanging, relevant for every passing year…

During this month of transition between winter and spring, I hope you know the warmth of Christ’s love in your life…

Spring’s Rising!

Blessed are your eyes, for they see.

–Matthew 13.16

Early Spring2

“Bring forth,” He said,

     to all the waiting branches of the trees,

Their lacey crown’ed silhouettes under bluing skies

     of th’ earliest winds of spring;

To every slumb’ring tendril of the shrub along

     the path, ev’ry bush a resting place for feathered

     prophets bearing promise on their wing.

“’Tis the hour,” He said, “to wake and bear your

     young!

Fear not the last remaining lash of winter’s breath!

Heed not the darkness

     which now sees its timely hast’ning death!

Look up to see the ever lightening, brightening,

     dazzling blues of days,

Waking early from the passing nights of starlit

     indigo, adorned in myriad twinkling blaze!

There’s a message to be spoken to mankind

Whose eyes have dimmed with all their futile

     notions, fabrications of their busy, frantic

     musings in all their fantasies, striving in their

     vanities,

Conceiving an illusion, pretending life immortal

     from their factories of the dead.”

 

“We will,” they answered. “Thy will,” they said.

And all the wood from tallest, robust trees

     whose trunk so stout could feel in every woody

     bone the memory of pain and grace in mankind’s

     greatest story,

To smallest bushy bush of delicate twig and branch:

They all began their laboring to please the King

Who made them for His glory.

 

And every man whose eyes would see could now

     behold,

In ev’ry lacey crown’ed top of tree

     ‘neath cathedral blue of skies,

And ev’ry fring’ed, tasseled shrub and bush

     of earthy ground on which it lies:

On every inch of outstretched arm and limb of every

     one, came forth those orbs of blood-red bud.

These bloody little bodies speaking of

     Redemption’s glory

When once blood poured upon a tree which bore

     the pain and grace in mankind’s greatest story;

And not only His bloodied body did that tree once bear,

but all the weight of rebellious man

who mutinied against their King among the trees

‘Neath cathedral blue of skies in a Garden

     from of old.

And cast away their sight of all the goodness

     they had known,

Their minds now captive, pris’ners trapped in

     darkened musings,

Endless, futile fabrications of their own;

     and by their quest to wield the sovereign sceptre

     of the One in whom their life and breath reside

They brought upon the whole of all creation,

In all its living beauty, the judgment of the dead.

 

Here, then, now in tide of spring, is the message

     to be spoken

To mankind whose eyes have dimmed with all their

     futile notions, fabrications of their busy frantic

     musings,

As on each branch and bushy twig those bloody orbs

     break open, beneath the vaulted ceiling

     of the lightening, brightening, dazzling blue

     of skies of spring, new and verdant life bursts

     forth from blood-red bodies broken–

Life not fashioned from the daydreams of man’s vanity–

But created and designed

     by the True and Living One, after winter’s frozen

     sleep of death is now left far behind.

And every man whose eyes would see

     can now behold,

In ev’ry lacey crown’ed top of tree

     ‘neath cathedral blue of skies,

     and ev’ry fring’ed, tasseled shrub

     and bush of earthy ground on which it lies,

On every inch of outstretched arm

     and limb of every one:

A splendorous array of neo-natal green,

     brilliant pink and yellow dazzeling,

     stunning beauty spoken into life at His command

     for all whose eyes are blest to see in spring

The message of Redemption’s glory

When once blood poured upon a tree which bore

     the pain and grace in mankind’s greatest story.

 

Truth it is! No legend, no vain and futile fable

     of some hope pretending life immortal;

Nay! Creation which man’s vain rebellion

     brought to suffer death,

Now in spring declares the truth:

     the sovereign sceptre of the God

In whom reside all life and breath;

And His Son the Holy One, the Righteous One,

     named Jesus

Whose beaten, bloodied body once upon

     a fallen tree was nailed,

And having suffered all the judgment due

     rebellious, wicked man,

With arms outstretched in God’s great plan,

     yielded up His soul to death.

In Passover’s third cool morn of spring,

     beneath the vaulted ceiling

     of the lightening, brightening, dazzling blue

     of skies

Creation’s Lord came forth in glory as He said,

Triumphant from the grave wherein He laid

     among the dead,

Under lacey crown’ed tops of trees, embraced by

     ev’ry fring’ed, tasseled shrub and bush

     of earthy ground on which it lies:

For all whose eyes are blest to see The One

     in whom all life and breath reside,

Jesus, the risen, reigning, ever-living King!

Now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 

–1 Corinthians 15.20-22

 

Graphics courtesy The Printshop 4.0 Professional, by permission, user license; copyright Patricia Stachew, 2019, all rights reserved.  

Always Christmas; Never Winter…

Jesus Christ has come in the flesh! (John 1.14, 1 John 4.1-3) Glory Be to God!

Mine Eyes Have Seen2

Praying you are all staying well amid the frantic flurry of seasonal activity.

For some of you there might have been an empty chair at your table this year. For those who read this for whom that is the case, I am praying that God is showing you how able and ready He is to fill the empty place in your heart with His magnificent love. Many in our country are struggling with loss of home, belongings, livelihoods and loved ones from fire, storms, floods and mass shootings. As I consider the devastation in the wake of these sorrows, I pray that those among the suffering who know the Lord Jesus Christ will demonstrate their hope and faithfulness to trust in the God who provides for our needs in all circumstances and by their quiet and thankful trust, will strengthen and encourage others. I pray that everyone who benefits from all avenues of humanitarian assistance will realize that it is by the mercies and Providence of God that they receive it—and be thankful to Him: for “The LORD giveth and the LORD taketh away; blessed be the Name of the LORD.” (Job 1.21b).

Speaking of Job 1.21b, I took some time off from teaching children’s Sunday School in November, thinking I would have time to just chill out a bit. I felt plenty guilty about asking for some Sundays not to be teaching the children; and I had a sinking feeling in my kishkes (yiddish: inner parts) that the separation would be painful–a new twist on “separation anxiety.” I had no expectation of how busy my heart and soul and mind would be in the stillness. God does some pretty extensive work in a person’s life when she sits down and stops the busy preoccupations with trying to keep up her momentum in ministry. It’s not that I neglect daily time in the Word of God and prayer. Everyone who has known me since I came to faith 30+ years ago knows that the Word of God and prayer are like breathing for me. However, when a time of transition comes to call, it takes some extra time to be prepared for it and to learn courage and discipline to face it and follow through.

One of the aspects of the time of transition was a reluctant and somewhat surprising change in congregations. After 14 years at my church, this change has been painful–increasing my “separation anxiety;” but God is using it to bring about growth in my life.

Be careful what you pray for; I had been praying for growth, and God is answering it “in spades.”

I am learning more and more in this time of transition into a new, larger church body that Christ’s grace is sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12.9). Those who know me and correspond with me regularly via e-mail know that my signature line most often includes the quote from Scripture: 

I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Messiah Jesus my Lord, that I may gain Messiah and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Messiah, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings…”

–Philippians 3.8-10

This time of stillness and transition has been a test as to whether I truly do count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3.8-10). And it has all come at the advent of the Christmas season…

The Christmas season has always been a challenge for me for a variety of reasons, none of which I can describe to fit the post-modern reader’s tolerance for words. I will summarize by saying I owe it all to the Word of God. My studies in the Word of God this year have changed my Christmases forever; this year I have been mining deeply into the truth of Jesus’ coming in the flesh. As a result, the impact on my mind and heart has made my celebration of the incarnation of Christ impossible to contain in one season of the year. The Scriptures say,

“But will God indeed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!”

–2 Chronicles 6.18.

Well, that’s how I feel about trying to hold the enormity of Messiah’s coming in the flesh to one binge season. The declarations of John 1.14 and 1 John 4.2-3 are greetings that can be shared every day of the entire year. Of course, if you want to say, “Merry Christmas!” along with the words of one or both of those passages, that works, too: because, in Christ it is always Christmas and never winter…

I am praying that the “smorgasbord” of seasonal sensations will not have eclipsed the length, height, depth and breadth of the love of God through His good and perfect Gift of Christ in the flesh.

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