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Who Is God?

That is the question that Wendy Alsup deals with in the second section of her book Practical Theology for Women.  This is definitely an introductory book, and as I read it, the wheels of my mind are turning, thinking of ways that this could be adapted to a group setting and ways in which each element could be expanded. Once a homeschooler, always a homeschooler,  I guess.

With regard to this question, Alsup discuses some of God's attributes,  specifically that He is our Father.  We are his children because we are adopted by Him.  Our Father is sovereign, compassionate, and wise.  She discusses that one of the ways He demonstrates His love to us is through discipline, as He uses all circumstances to make us more like Christ.  These particular areas of focus are excellent ones to introduce, because knowing that God is involved so intimately in our concerns makes meeting them much easier.  I think understanding the sovereignty of God is one of the most crucial lessons I still continue to learn.  Often, we pay lip service to the sovereignty of God, but our actions prove otherwise.  We do like to micro-manage, don't we?

Alsup then goes on to discuss how God is also our Saviour, Example and Bridgegroom, as she goes through the truth of who Christ is, and how we can only know the Father through Jesus Christ.  She focuses on the work of Christ on the cross, and how that work justified us before God.  Again, as I read this, I thought about how this topic could be taken deeper.  If I was to teach this to a group of women, I would use this discussion as a jumping off point to talk about God's covenantal nature.  Alsup also discusses the reality that we are in Christ, and she does this through the picture of the vine and the branches.  I liked this chapter about finding our identity in him because, as she does in all of the chapters, she moves quickly from the theology of the matter to how it meets our daily lives.  I liked this section in particular:

I have been both a high school and community college math teacher, jobs in which I found a great deal of personal fulfillment.  Now, I am the mother of two small boys, by far the most important and difficult job I have ever had.  Often, I have looked to each role to feel good about myself, which leads to emotional devastation when I fail.  god has used the role of wife and mom to finally get my attention on the issue of identity.  My husband and boys can't be my idols.  I can't pin all of my hopes for the future on their personal successes.  It's not fair to them, and it keeps me from placing my hope for the future in God's hands.  I must be a steward of my roles of wife and mom, not an idolater who looks to her husband and children for her sense of personal achievement.  The same is true for you in whatever calling God has given you.  Jesus must be the source of identity.

Alsup then finishes this section by discussion the third member of the trinity (although she doesn't actually use word, but that is the doctrine she is presenting), the Holy Spirit.  She says that the Holy Spirit is our deposit, guarantee, and seal; our comforter, helper, and counselor.  She reminds us that while all believers in Christ possess the Holy Spirit, we are not always filled with the Holy Spirit.  She encourages the reader to draw upon that precious resource in all circumstances.  She used the example of marriage, in particuar.  She discusses how when it comes to conflict in her marriage, she often has to be silent and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to her husband, and she must seek what the Spirit says to her.  She then finishes the section with discussing the role of the Spirit in our sanctification.

I like Alsup's approach.  I remember when I first was a Christian, I had many questions, most of which I muddled through on my own for about the first two years of my salvation.  It wasn't until a wonderful godly man became our pastor, a man well-schooled in the sovereignty of God, that I began to grow.  I don't know how we can grow without understanding who God is; how can we know who we are apart from our creator?

The last section in this brief book is about communicating with God, and I am sure I will finish that later today.  Here in Canada, we having a government-instituted "family day."  No Hallmark holiday here, folks; a government holiday.  We sure know how to utilize our elected officials here.


Heart Aflame - February 14, 2010

Psalm 17:2-4

Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.  These words may be suitably explained in this way:  You, Lord, who understands all the secret affections and thoughts of my heart, even as it is your peculiar prerogative to try men, knows very well that I am not a double man, and no not chrish any deceit within.  David subjects himself to an impartial examination, seeing God, whose prerogative it is to search the secret recesses of the heart, cannot be deceived by the external appearance.

The time when he declares God to have visited him is during the night, because, when a man is withdrawn from the presence of his fellow creatures, he sees more clearly his sins, which otherwise would be hidden from his view; just as, on the contrary, the sight of men affects us with shame, and this is, as it were, a veil before our eyes, which prevents us from delibarately examining our faults.  It is, therefore, as if David had said, O Lord, since the darkness of the night discovers the conscience more fully, all coverings being then taken away, and since, at that season, the affections, either good or bad, according to men's inclinations, manifest themselves more freely, when there is no person present to witness and pronounce judment upon them; if you then examine me, there will be found neither disguise nor deceit in my heart.

As for the deeds of men - by the word of your lips I hae kept myself from the ways of the violent.  If we would have a good rule for governing ourselves, when our enemies, by their mischievous actions, provoke us to treat them in a similar manner, let us learn, after the example of David, to meditate upon the word of God, and to keep our eyes fixed upon it.  By this means our minds will be preserved from ever being blinded, and we shall always avoid the paths of wickedness, seeing God will not only keep our affections under restraint by his commandments, but will also train them to patience by his promises.  He withholds us from doing evil to our neighbours, not only by forbidding us, but by declaring, at the same time, that he will take into his own hand the execution of vengeance on those who injure us, he admonishes us to "give place unto wrath" (Rom. 12:19)


Soundtrack for a Saturday

Earlier this week, as I listened to an installment of A Celtic Sojourn, the artist Hanneke Cassel was brought to my attention.  Every week, at the beginning of A Celtic Sojourn, a waltz is played, and Cassel, a violinist, was the artist playing the waltz I was listening to.  I have heard her name mentioned on a number of other occasions when listening to the program.  I did a search for some of her music and came across her MySpace.  There are some selections you can listen to.  If you scroll down the audio clips, you will find a version of "It Is Well With My Soul," which is just beautiful.  I found the recording from which that song comes, and was pleased to see that it is a collection of worship songs, including a beautiful combination of "Abide with Me" and "Fairest Lord Jesus."  The name of the recording is called Calm the Raging Sea.

I wanted to find a clip of her playing one of the songs from Calm the Raging Sea, but couldn't. I did find a clip of her with the group of which she's a part, Childsplay.


Not exactly Church History

The past couple of days have been rather harried ones.  I have been nursing a very sore neck, and trying to stay off the computer if I could, or if I'm on, I only stay on for brief periods.  I have finished reading The Irish Puritans, and I wanted to make some observations, but with a sore neck and busy days, things just didn't happen.  I did feel better today, though, and made my boys their favourite treat, Toffee Bars.

1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts

Cream the margarine with brown sugar.  Add the egg yolk and vanilla, mixing well.  Add flour.  Spread the dough out on a 9x13 baking pan (I use a Pampered Chef bar pan, which works nicely).  Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned.

As soon as the pan comes out of the oven, spread the chocolate chips evenly across the top.  As the chips melt on the surface, spread evenly over the top.  When spread completely, spread the chopped nuts across the top.  Cut into bars while warm. 


Heart Aflame - Psalm 16:1-2

Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.  This is a prayer in which David commits himself to the protection of God.  God is ready to succour all of us, provided we rely upon him with a sure and steadfast faith; and that he takes under his protection none but those who commit themselves to him with their whole heart.

You are my Lord, my well-doing cannot extend to you.  David begins by stating that he can bestow nothing upon God, not only because God stands in no need of anything but also because mortal man cannot merit the favour of God by any service which he can perform to him.  At the same time, however, he takes courage, and, as God accepts our devotion, and the service which we yield to him, David protests that he will be one of his servants.

Two things are distinctly laid down in this verse.  The first is, that God has a right to require of us whatever he pleases, seeing we are fully bound to him as our rightful proprietor and Lord.  David, by ascribing to him the power and the dominion of Lord, declares that both himself and all he possessed are the property of God.

Let men strive ever so much to lay themselves out for God, yet they can bring no advantage to him.  Our goodness extends not to him, not only because having in himself alone an all-sufficiency, he stands in need of nothing, but also because we are empty and destitute of all good things, and have nothing which to show ourselves liberal towards him.

It is impossible for men, by any merits of their own, to bring God under obligation to them, so as to make him their debtor.  The sum of the discourse is, that when we come before God, we must lay aside all presumption.  When we imagine that there is any good thing in us, we need not wonder if he reject us, as we thus take away from him a principal part of the honour which is his due.  On the contrary, if we acknoeldge that all the servies which we can yield to him are in temselves things of nought, and undeserving of any recompense, this humility is as perfume of a sweet odour, which will procure for them acceptance with God.