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Entries in Drawing Near (4)

Monday
Jan282013

Mama's sympathy

On the weekend, my husband and I babysat for a young couple who went to see Les Miserables.  Their two children, one not quite three and the other just over a year, were lots of fun, and we had a great time.  Of course, when bedtime came, it wasn't as fun.  Most kids don't like to go to bed when their parents aren't home.  It's unsettling.  I used to hate doing it when I was a teenager and my parents were out.  After some tearful moments, they did fall asleep.  I was glad that their mother didn't know they were crying.  Mothers find it hard to watch their kids hurt.

I know the feeling.  My big kids often get hurt.  A hug is not often enough; it's usually a lot more complicated. There are times when we have to discern when to speak and when not to.  It's especially challenging with boys, because as their mother, I have to remember that they are not little boys, but young men, and I can't just insert myself in their sorrows because it can threaten their sense of independence.  The other difficulty is that when they have these big people struggles, it's part and parcel of their sanctification, and even if I wanted to step in and fix things, I can't.  The days of micromanaging their boo boo's are over.  Words often feel very empty when one is counselling a young lady in tears or a young man who is trying to keep it all inside.  I often see myself in their sorrows, and I understand the anguish they may be feeling at the time.

"This is in God's sovereignty."

"The testing of your faith produces endurance."

"Count it all joy when you meet with trials."

These are the kinds of things I can offer, but I know it still hurts, and in their most forlorn moments, I wonder if they are thinking, "That doesn't help me right now; I just want it to stop."

It doesn't change the fact that it's the best kind of advice.  It doesn't change the fact that ultimately, we raise children to be adults, to work through things on their own, to learn to cling to Him they way they clung to us as little children.  The good news is, of course, that God is infinitely better able to help them than we are, anyway.

I read this exceprt from John MacArthur's Drawing Near this morning, and I think the words will help not only them as they struggle, but also me as I often feel so inadequate to guide them in these big moments:

No matter how ill-equipped you may feel at times, realize that God "is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that [you] ask or think, according to the power that works within [you]" (Eph. 3:20).  So keep striving according to that power (Col. 1:29), but do so with the confidence that ultimately God will accomplish His good in your life.

Sunday
Jan272013

Drawing Near - January 27

Trusting in God's Power

I pray that ... you may know ... the surpassing greatness of [God's] power toward us who believe (Eph. 1:18-19)

The same divine power that created, sustains, and controls the universe secures your salvation.

God's power is awesome!  David wrote, "Thine O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Thine is the dominion, O Lord, and Thou dost exalt Thyself as head over all.  Both riches and honor come from Thee, and Thou dost rule over all, and in Thy hand is power and might; and it lies in Thy hand to make great, and to strengthen everyone.  Now therefore, Our God, we thank Thee, and praise Thy glorious name" (1 Chron. 29:11-13).

In Ephesians 1:19 Paul focuses on one key feature of God's power:  His ability to secure the salvation of His people.  And he prays for you to understand the surpassing greatness of that truth.

The Greek word translated "power" is dunamis, from which we get dynamite and dynamo.  This power is active, dynamic, and compelling - and it is mightily at work on your behalf.  You might not always sense it, but it's there nonetheless.

Peter expresses the same thought in I Peter 1:5, where he says you are "protected by the ower of God through faith" in Christ.  In that verse "protected" means "to keep or guard" and reflects Peter's confidence that salvation is invoilable.

The same limitless power that created, sustains, and controls the universe saved you and keeps you saved. That's why Jesus said no one can snatch you out of the Father's hand (John 10:29).  Not even Satan has the power to do that. Paul confidently added that nothing therefore can separate you from God's love (Rom. 8:38-39). That's the confidence you should have as you live each day.

Sunday
Jan132013

Drawing Near - January 13

In Christ we have.. the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of [God's] grace, which He lavished upon us" (Eph. 1:7-8).

In Christ we have infinite forgiveness for every sin - past, present, and future.

On Israel's Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the high priest selected two goats.  One was sacrificed, the other set free.  Before releasing the second goat, the high priest symbolically placed the sins of the people on it by laying his hands on its head.  This "scapegoat" was then taken a great distance from camp and released - never to return again (Lev. 16:7-10).

The Greek word translated "forgiveness" in Ephesians 1:7 means "to send away."  It speaks of canceling a debt or granting a pardon.  Like the scapegoat, Christ carried away our sins n the cross. 

In Christ, God canceled your debt and pardoned your transgressions, and He did so "according to the riches of His grace, which he lavished upon [you]" (v.8).  That means you have infinite forgiveness, because God's grace is infinite.  You cannot sin beyond God's grace, beause where sin abounds, grace super-abounds (Rom 5:20).

God delights in lavishing His grace upon you.  Such grace is overflowing and cannot be contained.  You are forgiven for every sin - past, present, and future.  You will never be condemned by God or separated from Him (Rom 8:1-2, 31-39).  Even when you fail, God doesn't hold your sins against you.  Christ bore them all so that you might know the joy and peace that freedom from sin and guilt bring.

Let the reality of God's grace fill your heart with joy and assurance.  Let the responsibility of glorifying Him fill you with awe and reverence.  Let this day be a sacrifice of praise and service to Him.

Sunday
Jan062013

Drawing Near

Last year, on Sundays, I shared an excerpt from the devotional Faith Alone, which contained writings from Martin Luther.  This year, I decided to use something from a contemporary theologian, John MacArthur. 

This past fall, as I taught Titus, I listened to some sermons by MacArthur, and I was reminded how much I love his preaching.  I was blessed to hear him preach in person a few years ago when I visited California.  I remember sitting on the edge of my seat, taking it all in.   It was wonderful.  This devotional, Drawing Near, is going to be really good.

There are 365 entries, but he covers an entire passage of Scripture each month, so there is more continuity than one might find in a daily devotional.  At the end of each passage, there are suggestions about how to pray in light of the passage, and then suggestions for further reading.  The devotional began with Ephesians.  I have really been enjoying it so far.

Here is today's, reflecting on the Ephesians 1:3, especially the phrase in Christ, is called "Identifying With Christ:"

Christianity isn't simply a belief system - it's a whole new identity.

Many people mistakenly believe that one's religious preference is irrelevant because all religions eventually lead to the same spiritual destination.

Such thinking is sheer folly, however, because Scripture declares that no one comes to God apart from Jesus (John 14:6).  He is the only source of salvation (Acts 4:12) and the only One powerful enough to redeem us and hold us secure forever (John 10:28).

Every Christian shares a common supernatural union with Christ.  Paul said, "The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him" (I Cor. 6:17).  We are in Him, and He is in us.  His life flows through us by His Spirit, who indwells us (Rom. 8:9).

As a non-Christian, you were brought in bondage to evil (Rom. 3:10-12), enslaved to the will of Satan (I John 5:19), under divine wrath (Rom. 1:18), spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1, 4:17-18), and without hope (Eph 2:12). But at the moment of your salvation a dramatic change took place.  You became a new creation and a recipient of divine grace (Eph. 2:8). When you came to Christ, you were "delivered ... from the domain of darkness, and transferred ... to the kingdom of [God's] beloved Son" (Col. 1:13).  You now possess His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21) and share in His eternal inheritance (Rom. 8:16-17).

All those blessings - and many more - are yours because you are in Christ.  What a staggering reality!  In a sense, what He is, you are.  What He has, you have.  Where He is, you are.

When the Father sees you, He sees you in Christ and blesses you accordingly.  When others see you, do they see Christ in you?  "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).