Tuesday, December 16, 2008
My new years resolution is to be more ‘faithful’ to my commitment of posting to the book club. ☺
I’m praying by then my morning sickness will be over, and it won’t feel like so much of an effort.
I hope you all have a wonderful time with your families over the Christmas holidays, and look forward to reading along with you again next year!
lots of love
This week we discussed Chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8 about becoming a Stable Woman.
We noticed that our weekly sermons at church seem to be running parallel to what we’re reading in book club… maybe God is telling us something.
This fortnight, Some of us took up Elizabeth’s challenge on page 39 “For one week keep a journal of your trials. Then evaluate them from God’s perspective, choose to count them as all joy, and record the positive results that come from making this godly choice…”
Some of us realised that we didn’t even think about the little trials in our life as being lessons, or counting them as joy… we just got on with it. It was a worthwhile exercise to help us step back, refocus and recognise the reality that God is active in all our trials, no matter how small. That there is something to learn in every little (and big) trial we face. There is always a purpose in every hardship we encounter and that it is to make us stronger… perseverance.
It took us back to the beautiful picture in Jerry Bridges ‘Discipline of Grace’ of God as the loving father guiding, leading and training us with sometimes painful but necessary lessons, to help us become the woman that He wants us to be.
On page 79-82 Elizabeth discusses a harvest of virtues. We felt that Elizabeth often speaks in absolutes, but situational context and perspective helps. For example, she discusses pain, sickness and tiredness, as being no excuse and we should just press on. Whilst it is true that we should always seek to remain faithful to our commitments, we also recognise that there are times when it is very difficult and we may need to ask for help, or take that pain killer but that this is not ‘giving up’. Sometimes the lesson to learn is asking for help, or being honest about your circumstances.
The encouragement to remain faithful in our commitments is however a timely exhortation given what we are seeing of ‘Generation Y’ as they take their place in the workforce and society. Many of this generation seem not to have been taught faithfulness, selfcontrol or commitment.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
I know we've already started the book, and I'm very late with my posts. Sorry... morning sickness is keeping me from my computer!
In the first two meetings we discussed the first section 'Becoming a Joyful Woman'.
I've enjoyed it, but we decided to read 4 chapters at a time, as after reading 'The Discipline of Grace' we found this book a lot lighter reading.
following are a few quotes that I found helpful... would love to hear what you all thought.
"I have learned several things about this "counting". First, counting a trial as joy is done with the mind... not the emotions. It is a matter of faith, not of feelings. It is a mental discipline and it is a matter of sheer obedience." page 16
"How strong is you faith and trust in God? Your trials and difficulties are a golden opportunity for joy. You can face your problems with a positive outlook! You can be joyful even when your whole world seems to be falling apart! How? You know the answer by now: Count it all joy. This puts you on God's path through your trials." Page 29
Sounds like a good time to do a bible study on James!
Monday, October 13, 2008
a faithful woman Monthly Planner 2009
This year's planner has a new look!
And it still has all your favourite sections including:
• Monthly Menu Planner
• Monthly Calander
• Week to page opening
• Dates for next year
• Schedule Planner
• Quiet times calendar
• Month to page opening
THINGS TO REMEMBER
• Parents prayer program
• inspiring articles
• Reading record
• Book club notes
We’ve also added scripture to inspire you on every page!
If you would like to find out more, or how to order please email Amy at email@example.com for an info sheet.
Orders close November 14th. Delivery will be in the first two weeks of December.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Last week we did however discuss the kind of ‘one-another’ relationships that Jerry talks about in this chapter.
On page 202 Jerry spoke about having friends who can help us in out struggle against sin. “Because mortification is a difficult work, aimed at subduing strong desires and deeply ingrained habits, we need the help of one or two friends to engage in the struggle with us. These friends should be believers who share our commitment to the pursuit of holiness and who are also willing to be mutually open with us about their own struggles”
How did you feel reading this? It would certainly be a humbling experience. My emotions feel torn on this point. On one hand my heart longs for help in the battle against refined sins of thought and deed, but dreads, even fears the thought of revealing my sins. My heart wants to hold them close and deal with them on my own. In discussion we agreed that Jerry probably does not remain revealing all the horrible and specific details as this would in some cases go against other scriptures where the bible warns us not to speak about some things, especially immorality. But it would still involve tearing down of the nice crisp image of ourselves we like to portray to others, and it would mean we’d have to forsake our pride and let that person see who we really are.
Jerry went on to say… “In the battle of putting sin to death, we need the mutual encouragement, challenge, and prayer support of one another. That is why spiritual synergism is so often taught in the New Testament. For example, we are to admonish one another (Colossians 3:16), encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13), confess our sins to one another (James 5:16), bear one another’s burdens (Galations 6:2), and pray for one another (James 5:16).’ Page 202.
Even given the fear we feel in revealing our sins to someone, the ability to share, encourage and pray for one another in our pursuit of holiness is a powerful encouragement and reminder, that we always need Gods help in the battle. We are all sinful, and none of us have it ‘right’. With such friendships we can no only confess our sins, but encourage and spur each other on to godliness. Do you have a friend like this? Will you pray as the Puritans did for a friend like this, a ‘bosom friend’? For a friendship where you are both committed to helping and receiving help?
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
The next book we will be reading in Book Club is Finding God's Path Through your Trials by Elizabeth George
'From bestselling author Elizabeth George (nearly 4 million books sold) comes a book born of her desire to help others through difficult times. "Finding God's Path Through Your Trials" acknowledges the hard times we all face and reveals how people can ?count it all joy, ? including: understanding trials are not punishment realizing God's grace is sufficient to get them through trials knowing the benefits brought by trials?patience, endurance, empathy experiencing deeper faith as they depend on God through trials trusting God to use everything for His glory Emphasizing God is always with them and will help them every step of the way, Elizabeth reminds readers they will not be given trials they cannot bear without including a way of escape. She encourages people to turn to Jesus, where they will find hope, joy, and meaning in the journey, no matter how bumpy it seems. ' Publishers Description
Absolute Truth: How familiar does this sound? “every man did which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25, KJV) As Jerry points out, this is they way our society is today. But not the church? Surely?... “What should disturb us, however, is that evangelicals are moving in the same direction. 'Four out of 10 people who call themselves evangelicals don’t believe there is such a thing as absolute truth, according to a Barna Research Group poll.' If this means that these 40 percent decide for themselves what is right and wrong instead of going to the Bible, then it is no wonder there is often little difference between the ethical views and behavior of professing Christians and those who have nothing to do with Christianity. Morality becomes merely a matter of ones’s personal opinion. In fact, I am aware of situations where Christians were confronted about sin in their lives and responded, “that’s just your opinion.” Page 165-166
But Jerry goes even further …, of those evangelicals who do believe in absolute truth (including ourselves), do we let our belief in the truth of the bible effect our behavior or change our character? Are we being transformed by the bible? Do we let the bible teach us change us and humble us? Are we living according to the biblical standard or do we just conform to the moral consensus in our own church or circle of friends. Let us live like we truly believe, that the bible is absolute truth. Let the Word’s standards be ours. 'One thing we can be sure of: If we do not actively seek to come under the influence of God’s Word, we will come under the influence of sinful society around us’. Page 171
Hidden Treasure: 'The question we must ask ourselves is this: What value do we place upon the Word of God? Do we search it as if we were seeking for hidden treasures, or do we read it and study it only because we know it is something we should do?' Page 176
When my husband and I first came across ‘reformed’ theology it was life changing. We realised that almost everything we had believed and been taught was full of errors. It was not biblical Christianity. We literally had to discard everything we had learned before and start again from the bible. At that time we really did search through the bible like it contained hidden treasure. We were excited about it and spent as much of our time as we could reading it, and searching through even familiar passages and learning things that we’d never seen there before. Reading the above quote drew my memory back to that stage of my Christian walk and I realised that whilst I still love the word of God, the intensity of my search through it has diminished. It was quite a challenge to me. Maybe, I have, as Jerry has talked about so often in this book, reached a point where I feel comfortable, and set cruise control, even with my time in the word of God. Is the word of God like treasure to you? Do you search it to find the truth? … 'We need to approach the Bible with the deep, settled conviction that it accurately expresses the mind of God and the will of God as to how we are to live.' Page 174. If we really believe this surely we should be desperate to seek out its treasure. 'Ask God to remove any doubts you might have and give you a settled convition that the Bible is indeed God’s Word, that it is complete and authoritative, and that it is absolute truth.' Page 174… as we study it let us follow Jerry’s advice… '... as you approach the reading or study of the Bible, don’t do so just to buttress your own previously held opinions or to affirm you favourite doctrines. Rather ask the Holy Spirit to teach you.' Page 175
Memorising Scripture: We all acknowledged that this is something we need to do more of. I certainly feel that I have not done enough, and am challenged by this chapter to increase my efforts in this area.
We also discussed different ways of memorising scripture. Some of us grew up memorising scripture as a family and learning whole books and passages together. This can be very helpful so that we not only remember the scriptures, but also their context and setting. Maybe this is something we could help our children with.
Music can also be very helpful. Some of us have found listening to scripture in music to be very helpful for memorizing. Some of the artists that have been recommended are:
- Sons of Korah.
- Jason Coghill
- Scripture in Song (Not sure if this link is to the same 'scripture in song' we all sung in Sunday school growing up. Looks like it may be an updated edition. Hopefully they are. Searching through blogs on the internet, people seem to be having trouble finding the audio but are able to get the books on Amazon and websites like that.)
In looking for a link for each of the above I found this website which might be helpful in finding good Christian music and scripture in song.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Avoiding Cruise Control:
‘As believers we need to be careful that we do not make a similar mistake. We can be committed to a set of Christian values or to a lifestyle of discipleship without being committed to God Himself. But Paul said, offer yourselves to God, and in doing that commit yourselves to the pursuit of holiness in order to please Him.’ Page 149
We thought this was quite a challenge. It is easy to slip into ‘Cruise control’, as mentioned in chapter 7. Its easy to hold to a set of Christian values, or uphold a certain level of ‘Christian lifestyle’, or conform to the Christian culture around us or in our church, without truly being committed to God himself and pleasing Him. What level of holiness does God require? What is our motive for seeking holiness? Are we offering ourselves as living sacrifices as Romans 12:1 calls for ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.’ We should not let the peer pressure of our particular Christian culture hold us back from pursuing holiness and committing ourselves to God, Even if it means challenging the status quo.
Put on Christian Virtues:
‘If we want to be like Christ in his character we must commit ourselves to putting on His virtues’. Page 154 We often work and pray for Gods help in putting off our sins, but do we pray for him to help us put on the fruits of the spirit? Maybe we are unbalanced in concentrating on the ‘do not’s’ whilst neglecting the ‘dos’. ‘And just as we need to make a commitment to deal with all sin in our lives without exception, so we need to make a commitment to be just as diligent in putting on the fruit of the spirit.’ Page 154
This attitude should effect our whole lives. ‘The truth is, though, God knows I am a Christian and He knows I work for a Christian organization. If I would be ashamed to have a tourist identify my impatient driving with a Christian, how much more should I be ashamed before God. After all, He is the one I have committed myself to, to seek to please in all my thoughts and words and actions. So our commitment to pursue holiness must embrace every area of life and must include both the significant and the seemingly insignificant things we do.’ Page 155 As Jerry said ‘This principle applies to the way a student approaches his or her studies, to the way we do our shopping and buying, to the way we compete in games and athletics to the way we decorate our houses and keep our lawns, and even to the way we drive.’ Page 155 We should intend to live every area of our lives in such a way that it glorifies God.
What Model do we present?:
This also leads us to think about our lives at home, and how we live before our children. What model do we present to our children in the way we live our lives? Are we living before our children with integrity in a way that pleases God? Do we walk humbly before our children, so that whilst they see that we sin, they see that it is not our intention to sin. We should try to help our children see that the standard we are reaching for and teaching them is not ‘our’ standard but it is Gods perfect standard.
The importance of the Gospel of grace:
‘So we see once again the relationship of grace and discipline. A loving response to God’s grace and mercy is the only motive acceptable to God for the commitment Paul called for. And it is the continual reminding ourselves of His grace and mercy that provides the only enduring motivation to sustain such a commitment and keep it from becoming oppressive. That is why we must preach the gospel to ourselves every day.’ Page 162 A right understanding of the gospel is so important in our Christian lives. Believing that you chose Christ; that it was your work in choosing to accept the offer of salvation that saved you, does not produce the gratitude in our heart that we feel when we understand that salvation was all the work of God’s grace and mercy alone. If we believe we chose Him we feel that we had some part in our own salvation, and we are partly grateful to ourselves for accepting it, not just to God for offering it. Understanding Grace changes our motives, we are grateful because we understand that without Gods grace and mercy we could not be saved, we could not save ourselves. We try to please God because we love Him and are grateful that he showed us such amazing mercy and grace. We pursue holiness, not because we think it will make us closer to Him or keep us from ‘back sliding’ or even because it is the ‘right’ way for a ‘Christian’ to behave, but because we want to.
“So an all-out, unreserved, nothing-held-back commitment to the pursuit of holiness may be exhausting, but it will not be oppressive it is grounded in grace. But to be grounded in grace it must be continually referred back to the gospel.” Page 162
“God not only asks us to commit ourselves to the pursuit of holiness, but provides the grace to enable us to do it.” Page 162
‘Run, John, run. The law commands
But gives neither feet nor hands
Better news the gospel brings;
It bids me fly and gives me wings.’ Page 94
Thursday, July 03, 2008
In our disussions this week, this book was recommended.
RARE JEWEL OF CHRISTIAN CONTENTMENT
by Jeremiah Burroughs
Jeremiah Burroughs was a preacher to the great congregations of England in the 17th century. This classic book of his is concerned with promoting the often elusive jewel of peace and contentment in the heart of the believer. 228 pages, from Banner of Truth.
'We live our lives in a discontented world and it is all too easy for the Christian to share its spirit. This book remedies this spiritual disease in practical biblical ways. '
So here are a couple of points we discussed on Chapter 8: Dependant Discipline.
To Pray and Do
As I read through this chapter, again I felt some familiarity with my time in ‘Charismatic Christianity’. On reflection, maybe I was the ‘spiritual’ person Jerry spoke about on page 132. “Today, we would tend to divide into two camps. The more ‘spiritual’ people would call an all-night prayer meeting. To them, posting a guard would be depending on human effort instead of God.” I often prayed the prayer on page 134 “We often use the expression “Let the Lord live His life through me.” I am personally uncomfortable with this expression because it suggests a passivity on our part. He does not live His life through me. Rather as I depend on Him, He enables Me to live a life pleasing to Him.”
I had even heard people suggest in certain circumstances (especially healing) that it would be a lack of faith, or not trusting God if you did anything other than pray and wait. We sang songs and prayed prayers that pleaded with God to ‘Use me’, ‘Fill me’, ‘Send me’, ‘Make me’. We had ‘faith’ that God would do it. But though we never said it, I think we often thought (or hoped), that he would do it miraculously. That something amazing would happen and we could say ‘It was all God’. “It is the idea that we can do nothing but trust that is particularly troubling to me. I believe that the psalmist – and Nehemiah and Paul – would say, “Man’s part is to trust and work. God’s part is to enable the man or woman to do the work.” … God’s work does not make our effort unnecessary, but rather makes it effective. Paul did not say, “Christ show contentment through me.” Rather he said, “I have learned to be content through Him who give me strength.” Page 135
In the beauty of hindsight I see that God did answer our prayers but the answers usually came through people who were living out their faith, not just praying about it and waiting for God to act.
The results are the Lords
This chapter was a lovely reminder that we must trust and work. It also reminded us through the analogy of the Farmer List of 'must do’s' and 'can’t do’s' that even with all our hard work and obedience, all the results are the Lords. Like the farmers crop, only God can make us grow.
“There are six things farmers must do and only two things they cannot do. They can even to a degree circumvent the weather by irrigating in case of drought. But the one thing they absolutely cannot do is the most critical of all. Without the life that makes things grow, all their disciplines of farming are useless... They will put all their confidence in the performance of their duties, not in God, who makes things grow. As far as they are concerned, their success depends on themselves.
As in the cases of farming, God has ordained certain disciplines or practices that are necessary in order to grow in holiness. We must observe these or we will not grow, just as farmers will not produce a crop if they do not perform their duties. There is only one thing, however we cannot do. We cannot make ourselves grow.” Page 138
Do you take for granted the spiritual life that makes you grow? Is your confidence in God or your own observance of the necessary disciplines and practices or the christian life? We need to be disiplined and dependant.
"Being sensible that I am unable to do any thing without God's help, I do humbly entreat him, by his grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christs sake" Jonathan Edwards
Thursday, June 12, 2008
I really enjoyed this chapter and found some of it quite challenging. I particularly related to the analogy of the driver on page 119
" To continue the driving analogy, we press the accelerator pedal of obedience until we have brought our behavior up to a certain level or "speed." The level of obedience is most often determined by the behavior standard of other Christians around us. We don't want to lag behind them because we want to be as spiritual as they are. At the same time, we're not eager to forge ahead of them because we wouldn't want to be different. We want to just comfortably blend in with the level of obedience of those around us.
Once we have arrived at this comfortable level of obedience, we push the "cruise-control" button in our hearts, ease back, and relax. Our particular Christian culture then takes over and keeps us going at the accepted level of conduct. We don't have to watch the speed-limit signs in God's Word, and we certainly don't have to experience the fatigue that comes with seeking to obey Him with all our heart, soul, and mind. This then is what I call "cruise-control' obedience, and I fear it is descriptive of any of us much if not all, of the time."
I'm sure I've been guilty of pressing the cruise control button at times, and I found this a challenge to be reminded to be more like the racing car driver
"Race-car drivers are totally focused on their driving. Their foot is always on the accelerator as they try to push their car to the outer limits of its mechanical ability and endurance. Their eye is always on the track as they press to its limit their own skill in negotiating the turns on the track and the hazards of other cars around them. They are driving with all their heart soul, and mind.
This is what it means to love God with all our heart and soul and mind. It means to obey Him with all our heart and soul and mind. It means, in the words of Hebrews 12:14 to ' make every effort... to be holy'. Page 119
It was also a great reminder to remember that are whole lives are worship, not just Sunday morning, and as Jerry said on page 120 "God is not impressed with our worship on Sunday morning at church if we are practicing 'cruise-control' obedience the rest of the week. You may sing with reverent zest or great emotional fervor, but your worship is only as pleasing to God as the obedience that accompanies it."
As Christian friends let us encourage each other to switch cruise control off. Let us stir each other up to run the race as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Let us run with all our hear mind and soul. For as it says in 1 John 5:3 'This is love for God: to obey his commands'.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The Christian struggle and pursuit of holiness: The picture of sin as waging a guerrilla war on page 106 was particularly helpful to us in helping to understand how sin has been defeated be yet still troubles us. ‘Sin is like a defeated army in a civil war that, instead of surrendering and laying down its arms, simply fades into the countryside, from which it continues to wage guerrilla war of harassment and sabotage against the government forces. Sin as a reigning power is defeated in the life of the believer, but it will never surrender. It will continue to harass us and seek to sabotage our Christian lives as long as we live…. If we are going to pursue holiness, we must accept the fact that there will be continual tension with us between our desires and our performance. As British theologian J.I. Packer so often says, our reach will always exceed our grasp.' We all felt that we could relate to the passage in Romans 7:14-25 when Paul laments that ‘When I want to do good, evil is right there with me'.
The doctrine of election: We discussed how as reformed believers we often find ourselves thinking that we need to apologise for the doctrine of election (click here for a brief explanation) . We can understand why its been said that the doctrine of election is a doctrine for believers. People often think that it paints a picture of God, as uncaring and choosing to send multitudes of people to hell, It doesn’t fit into their understanding of a God of love. But when we truly understand sin to be ‘… a rebellion against Gods authority, a despising of his person and a defiance of his commands’ page101… and deserving of judgement, then it changes the whole picture. It reveals Him to be more loving than we suspect. We no longer look on Him as tyrant sending men to their death, but as an incredible loving and merciful God who, though his people are completely deserving of hell and judgement, has chosen to deliver them, reached out to them personally and drawn them out of the fire. It highlights how important it is to start with sin and its offence to God. Why do we hate sin? As Jerry says on page 101 ‘We often hate the consequences of sin (even if it seems to be no more than the guilt feelings that follow sin, but I suspect we seldom hate sin as sin.’ Do you really hate sin? Even the sins that others don’t see in you?
Some of us recalled that in our previous understanding of Christianity, we believed that Christ died potentially for the whole world. We didn’t realise at the time how impersonal this really is. However when we understand biblically the doctrine of election, and that God chose those whom he would save, we realise that Christ’s relationship to us is far more intimate. When Christ was dying on the cross he knew my name, he knew when he was dying that he was dieing for me. His sacrifice didn’t merely make salvation possible, but it actually saved everyone whom the father had given Him. (John 17:9-20, Rom 8:28-39, Eph 1:3-14, John 10:15-18) None whom he died for that day will be lost! Every one of those whom he died for will be saved. He died personally for every person whom the father had given him before time, and His sacrifice is complete. Talk about a real personal relationship with Jesus…
Justification and sanctification in reverse: It is interesting to compare the Charismatic or Pentecostal experience of justification in sanctification to that we read about on page 99 ‘In justification we rely on what Christ did for us on the cross. In sanctification, we rely on Christ to work in us by His Holy Spirit. In justification, as well as regeneration, God acts alone. In sanctification He works in us but elicits our response to cooperate with Him.’
Some of our discussion group have had Charismatic and Pentecostal upbringings, and remember that whilst we were not necessarily taught it, our experience was the reverse of what Jerry stated. We considered Justification and salvation, as something in which we co-operated with God. God was willing to save us and had made salvation possible through Christs sacrifice but He was helpless to actually save us unless we chose Christ (rather than him first choosing us. 1 John 4:19). Belief was a work on our part. God could not save us with out our co-operation. Grace then becomes the reward for our faith or our work of believing in the gospel (salvation by works). But when it came to sanctification and holiness we trusted that God would do all the work in changing our hearts.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Reassuring and sobering – 'God never saves people and leaves them alone to continue in their immaturity and sinful lifestyles. Those whom he saves he disciplines.’ Page 82 The circumstances and trial in our lives are not ‘random’ events, but that they are part of Gods ‘firm but loving care for our souls.’ Isn’t this reassuring. I loved the picture that was painted in this chapter of God as the loving father training, admonishing, correcting and disciplining his children in order to cultivate spiritual growth and godly Character.
Left to ourselves, we would either be overwhelmed with our utter sinfulness, and not know where to begin the changes needed to make our lives and character godly, or we would not even see the hidden sinfulness of our heart and continue along in our sinful and self righteous ways.
Once again Grace takes the focus off our ability (or rather inability) to achieve godliness, and brings us back to the truth. That we can’t fulfill the call to godliness with our own will-power and that we need to trust God even to guide us in our spiritual Growth.
The slide of the church – ‘One has only to look around at Christendom, particularly the United States, to see that there is a vast multitude of people who claim to have trusted Christ at some time but do not seem to have experienced any of the discipline of grace. They may have walked an aisle, signed a card, or even prayed a prayer, but grace is not teaching them to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions, let alone to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives. Essentially, their lives are no different today than they were before they professed to have trusted Christ.’ Page 83. This lead us to discuss the ‘church’. Some of us could relate that we have encountered ‘Christians’ who don’t appear to be any different to the world. Allowing their beliefs on issues such as morality, sobriety, honesty, marriage, the role of women etc, to slide away from the biblical standard. It has been said that the average life of a true church is only 30 years or one generation. Why does this happen? Why has the ‘church’ slid so far? We felt that at the root of this must be a lack of biblical teaching, an undermining of the authority of scripture and complacency. Could it be true that the next generation has never had to fight for what they believe, stand up for it and work it out for themselves. Sometimes truth is taken for Granted.
A friend who was an elder in a reformed congregation once related to us, that in Sunday school he asked the older students what the acronym T. U. L. I. P. stood for (This being a simple acronym to help them remember the ‘doctrines of grace’). None of the children knew so he sent them home to ask their parents and come back with the answer the following week. None of the parents knew either. This was a wake up call, as they realised that as a congregation they had become complacent and had taken for granted that everyone knew why they where reformed and what it stood for. It was a reminder to re-focus their teaching.
How can we prevent this from happening to us? We thought that it may be helpful to learn biblical truth systematically. We had came up with a few suggestions:
- we could teach our children the Catechism (a small printed version is available called 'Childrens "Prove it" Catechism' published by Truth for Eternity Ministries
- Remember to preach the gospel to ourselves (chapter 3)
- Teach our children as much as we can whilst they are still open
- Memorise scripture. It is our responsibility to know the word of God and be ready to give an answer 2 Tim 4:12
- Read through the confession of faith, or maybe use it as a bible study guide.
- We need to help our children think about the truth so that they can own it themselves.
But in doing the above we need to be careful not to fall into the way of thinking that Jerry describes on page 81. ‘No one actually told me that God’s approval of me was based on my performance. Still I developed a vague but real impression that God’s smile or frown depended on whether or not I did my spiritual exercises. … If we fail to teach that discipline is by grace, people will assume, as I did, that it is by performance.
Legalism: What is legalism? In my previous life, as a charismatic, I thought a church was legalistic if it was ‘traditional’ or ‘conservative’, played hymns instead of modern worship songs, and had ordered services. I vaguely thought that this was some kind of adherence to a set of outward rules, and not ‘allowing the Spirit to move’. I realise now that this view came about because of ignorance of what the bible teaches about worship and the life of the church. What do you think legalism is? On page 81 we read the story of a young man who was very diligent in the practice of his daily quiet time. ‘My friend asked the student why he was so rigid in his practice, and the young man responded, “so nothing bad will happen to me.” He was not being disciplined by grace but by legalism’. Page 81 Why do you do your devotions? Are you being disciplines by grace or legalism?
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
To those of you who are following along with the book club, I'm sorry for not posting comments on chapter 4 - 'We died to sin'.
Unfortunately our move happened much quicker than anticipated, and my broadband connection was delayed, so was unable to post.
We did however have a lovely meeting, and we all enjoyed the chapter.
I look forward to our discussions on the next chapter.
I personally found great encouragement in learning that through Christ we have been furnished... 'with all the resources we need to become in fact what we have become in status.' That God has not only ordained our salvation but he has also ordained our good works, our living out of our faith. So let us "'Live out in [our] lives the reality of the gospel. Take advantage of and put to use all the provisions of grace God has given you in Christ'" pg 75
Friday, February 29, 2008
These are few points we discussed this week:
What is the Gospel?
As reformed Christians, we have tended to shy away from ‘methods’ of sharing the gospel, such as the wordless book, or the coloured beads, for fear of it leading someone just saying praying the ‘sinners prayer’ and believing that that is enough to guarantee their salvation. But we recognised that given the number of Christians that have difficulty articulating what the ‘gospel’ means that some of these tools could be useful. And we could use them to help explain the gospel.
The Gospel is for believers too.
‘I [Jerry] believe part of the problem is our tendency to give an unbeliever just enough of the gospel to get him or her to pray a prayer to receive Christ. Then we immediately put the gospel on the shelf, so to speak, and go on to the duties of discipleship. As a result, Christians are not instructed in the gospel. And because they do not fully understand the riches and glory of the gospel, they cannot preach it to themselves, not live by it in their daily lives.’ pg 46.
I think this describes the climate of most of the Christian world today. It was certainly the experience of church that I grew up in. We discussed how a poor understanding of the Gospel and of Grace, effects the way we live our Christian lives. As Jerry says ‘The gospel is not only the most important message in all history; it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experiencing the joy of living by it.’ Page 46
Why do we act as though we can live lives acceptable to God?
Sadly I think this is true of most of us, even ‘reformed’ Christians. ‘We readily acknowledge that we can never through our own obedience attain a righteousness that is sufficient for salvation. But then as believers we act as if we can live lives acceptable to God. pg 48 This is one reason why we need to preach the gospel to ourselves daily to remind ourselves that our obedience to God is not what keeps us saved, but it is Christs righteousness, imputed to us. As Jerry puts it when expounding Romans 3: 19-26. ‘Because we cannot attain a sufficient righteousness on our own, God has provided it for us. This righteousness from God is non other than the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, who through His sinless life and His death in obedience to the Father’s will, perfectly fulfilled the law of God.’ Pg 49
Faith is not a verb.
We were surprised to learn that … ‘The word faith is a noun and has no verbal form in English. Instead the word believe is used.’ Pg 51. In many Christian circles today faith has become a verb. In some cases where people are ill it has been said that they are ill because they don’t have enough faith, or that they don’t have the answer to their prayers because they don’t have enough faith. It has also become a ‘magical’ formula; if you can produce enough faith, or believe in something enough, then God will answer your prayers. But this way of thinking is offensive to God. It makes the action of faith the conduit of blessing. It makes God powerless to overcome our lack of faith. Faith becomes a work.
This is also true of how many view salvation, as though salvation is due to our own ability to produce enough faith to believe in God. This is not the Gospel. Jerry puts it very well on page 51 ‘Jesus Himself is always to be the object of our faith. We sometimes say we are saved by faith alone, meaning apart from works. That expression, however can be somewhat misleading, as though faith itself has some virtue that God respects. It is more accurate to say we are saved by God’s grace through faith. Faith, again, is merely the hand that receives the gift of God, and God through His Spirit even opens our hand to receive the gift.’ There is no action on our behalf, we do not have enough faith to receive grace. Grace is not a reward for faith. But we are saved by Grace, through the free gift of faith. We should be careful, not to make ‘Faith’ a work. But remember that it is a gift. Ephesians 2:8-9 ‘For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.’
Christ was thinking of me on the cross.
We discussed one of the biblical doctrines of grace, Particular Redemption. How knowing that Christ died particularly for his chosen people, the elect, is much more personal than the idea of a universal potential atonement. Whilst on the cross, Christ was thinking of ‘me’ (and you), not just some vague idea of those who might accept him. It also shows how powerful God is in that he has already accomplished the salvation of all his people, even those who have not been born yet. And he has also accomplished for them righteousness, and he is powerful enough to uphold them till the end. Amazing Grace! Christ death was absolutely perfect and none whom he died for will be lost. If we believe that he only died potentially for all men, then we devalue the sacrifice he made. We imply that his sacrifice was not enough, because it was not able to cover the sin of unbelief, and he was not powerful enough to overcome our lack of faith.
Monday, February 18, 2008
This book was recommended by Deb in our book discussions on 'The Displine of Grace', as an excellent book for all those tough questions.
From the Publisher: 'R. C. Sproul, a distinguished theologian and educator, addresses doctrinal points and contemporary issues such as euthanasia, evolution, and abortion.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
We all found this chapter very challenging. It made us look into our own hearts and see what secret sins reside there…
Here are a few things we discussed:
If we are honest with ourselves we can all see refined sins in our hearts that have gone unchecked and untamed for years. Maybe we have subconsciously justified them because as Jerry suggests ‘These are sins of nice people, sins that we can regularly commit and still retain our positions as elders, deacons, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, and yes, even full-time Christian workers’ pg 33 We can go about our Christian lives with all the right, and Godly actions, and still commit these sins in our hearts; nobody sees… but God sees.
The chapter on refined sins beginning on page 33 was very challenging. I personally identified with Jerry Bridges when he said 'As I looked at my own life, one of the first [refined sins] that came to mind was the tendency to judge others and to speak critically of them to other people. That this sin came to mind so quickly surprised me, because I don’t think of myself as a critical or judgemental person. Perhaps that is part of the problem. This seems to be such and acceptable vice among believers that we don’t even recognize it unless it is flagrant – and always in someone else.’ page 33. I started to think of occasions when I have thought this way. When I have looked at another’s beliefs, philosophy or even parenting, and spoken of them to others. Even when I havn’t spoken about them, I have judged them in my heart. We felt convicted when we read that... ‘We are simply not to say anything about someone else that we wouldn’t want to eventually reach that person’s ear. Even criticism addressed to someone should be given only with the goal of benefiting that person.’ Page 35. Is our critisism really benefiting that person? We are to defend the truth, and speak to people about the truth, but it needs to be motivated by love and tempered with kindness. Is our motive to help them, rather than make ourselves feel superior? Are we motivated by love? Do we walk in the fruits of the spirit?
The Seriousness of Sin
We know sin is very serious. Of course we believe that all sin offends Gods. We acknowledged that we certainly give verbal assent to this. But when we tolerate these refined sins in our own hearts are we not saying ‘this little sin isn’t so bad’. ‘We forget or perhaps have never learned, how seriously God regards all sin.’ Pg 36. ‘Again, the seriousness of sin is not simply measured by its consequences, but by the authority of the One who gives the command.’ Page 37
In light of the fact that often these ‘refined sins’ are hidden from others, and we are not challenged to change by those around us, how do we recognise our sin. Meditating and studying Gods Word, shows us our sin in James 1:23-25 we see Gods Word as a mirror revealing to us our true character and showing us our need of Grace. Psalm 119:11 says ‘Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.’ Psalm 119:105 ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’. I’m sure there are many other scriptures you could find to show us how important it is to spend time in and meditate on Gods word, so that we recognise sin, and hate it for what it is.
Realising that these sins are so ingrain in us as humans only magnifies the glory of Gods Grace and shows us that without the gift of faith it is impossible to please God. We loved the quote he gave from a Puritan preacher ‘Even our tears of repentance need to be washed in the blood of the Lamb’ pg 44. Even our most holy acts are sinful.
Since we have been saved by Grace; that is a free unmerited gift of God, to sinners. Shouldn't we be excited and willing to share it with others!? Lets not be afraid to share the Gospel. Let us not be ashamed or fearful.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
This book was recommended at our last Book Club to help give us a true biblical understanding of the voice of God and how He speaks to us today through his Word.
Publishers Description : "Guidance and the Voice of God has recently been added to Matthias Media's new series: Guidebooks for Life. As the series unfolds, it will deal with the important nuts-and-bolts topics that Christians need to know about as we walk each day with our Master.
- How do I know what God wants me to do?
- How can I make decisions which are in line with his will?
- If God still speaks, will I recognize his voice?
Guidance and the Voice of God charts a way through these often confusing issues, and shows how for those who have ears to hear, God is still speaking loud and clear through his Son."
Monday, February 04, 2008
Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Frieson
I'm adding this book to our recommended reading list. It was recommended in our last book club meeting by Deb to aid us in our understanding of the Will of God.
A few years back our church held a camp at which we focused on the Will of God. It was very helpful in clarifying my understanding of Gods will and how he guides us. Understanding that God has given us the tools and the guidelines through his Word to help us follow God Will in every decision of our lives was like being set free. The lectures where given by John Paterson, who also recommended this book.
Publishers Description: 'Does God have a perfect will for each Christian? Can you be absolutely sure you’ve found God’s individual will for your life? Garry Friesen examines the traditional view of God’s will, then sets forth a different view that more accurately reflects biblical teaching. This new edition of Decision Making takes up the practical issues of choosing a mate, picking a career, giving of one’s resources, and areas of disagreement between Christians to give readers a new approach to knowing the will of God. Mr. Friesen also addresses many of the arguments that have surfaced since the original printing of this book over twenty-four years ago. Does God Have a Perfect Will for Your Life? Does God have a perfect will for each Christian? Can you be absolutely certain of God’s specific will for your life? In this expanded twenty-fifth anniversary edition of his highly acclaimed work, Garry Friesen examines the prevalent view on God’s will today and provides a sound biblical alternative to the traditional teaching of how God guides us. This new edition includes these helpful resources: Study guide for small groups Responses to Frequently Asked Questions Guide to painless Scripture memorization Friesen tackles the very practical issues of choosing a mate, picking a career, and giving in this fresh and liberating approach to decision making and the will of God.'
Story Behind the Book: Most Christians have been taught how to find God’s will, yet many are still unsure whether they’ve found it. God does guide His people, but the question is, How does He guide? After putting out a fleece to decide which college to attend, Garry Friesen began pondering why it was so hard to find God’s will when he had so sincerely sought it. Was he the only one who did not have 100 percent clarity for every decision? Then a new possibility struck-perhaps his understanding of the nature of Gods will was biblically deficient. Maybe there was a better way to understand HOW God guides.
Friday, February 01, 2008
We had a first book club meeting last night, and we’ve begun reading Jerry Bridges Book, The Discipline of Grace. Some of us had read the first chapter, but others hadn’t so our discussion revolved mainly around grace, and some of the points in the first chapter.
In our discussions, we recognised again, how important Grace is and how an understanding of the ‘Doctrines of Grace’ is both liberating and motivating in our walk with God. Liberating because we realise that our salvation is not linked to our ‘performance’ as Christians. We know that God will preserve us, and that he didn’t choose us because of our ‘performance’. Grace is also motivating because we understand the magnitude and glory of what Christ has done for us, and that he did it while we were still sinners, it spurs us on to live a life that glorifies and pleases Him. Preaching the gospel to ourselves daily keeps grace in our sights and leads us to an even greater love for our Saviour.
For those of our readers who have not heard or understood the biblical doctrines of grace click here. This link sumarises the doctrines, as well as their corresponding errors. The link also provides biblical supports for the Doctrines of Grace.
When grace is not properly understood, our motivation for pursuing holiness and doing good becomes distorted. Rather than being obedient and living holy lives to glorify God and please Him, we do it to keep our salvation (though we barely recognise that this is what we are doing). We try keep ourselves in a good relationship with God and prevent ourselves from ‘backsliding’ through doing good. The problem is of course, that our good can never be good enough.
‘We need to continue to hear the gospel ever day of our Christian lives. Only a continuous reminder of the gospel of God’s grace through Christ will keep us from falling into good-day – bad-day thinking, wherein we think our daily relationship with God is based on how good we’ve been.’
It is only the joy of hearing the gospel and being reminded that our sins are forgiven in Christ that will keep the demands of discipleship from becoming drudgery. It is only gratitude and love to God that comes from knowing that He no longer counts our sins against us (Romans 4:8) that provides the proper motive for responding to the claims of discipleship.’ Pg 21
At the next meeting on the 14th of February we will be discussing Chapter 1: How Good is Good Enough? and Chapter 2: The Pharisee and the Tax Collector