Women Embracing Faith

Thinking Through the Bible

The Best Wedding Dress Of All May 2, 2011

Filed under: applications,Galatians,Isaiah — womenembracingfaith @ 11:38 pm
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The Bible is written, like all good literature, with lots of similes and metaphors. Visual images to help us remember spiritual principles. As you think about The Royal Wedding of Kate and William, think about this:

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations (Isaiah 61:10-11).

Galatians has taught us that the gospel dispels all our notions of being good enough to be accepted by God. Paul’s argument is that noone can keep the law perfectly enough. Princess Catherine and Prince William can never have a perfect enough life together to earn salvation in the end. Even royalty must relay on faith in Christ Jesus. No one’s deeds will ever cut it. The history recorded in the Old Testament vividly shows this. Salvation is by “hearing with faith–just as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Galatians 3:5-6).

It is important to your spiritual health to realize this righteousness is “counted” to you. You have been dressed up in pure deeds, thought, desires just as Kate and William were attired in such beautiful clothes for their wedding. Paul explains this as “imputed righteousness.” It is “alien” to us; foreign to our human nature. It is something we must put on. The clothes are all laid out before you. They are the perfect life, motive, desires of Jesus. In Romans 4, Paul even quotes a Psalm to explain this “covering:”

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blesssed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” (Psalm 32:1-2 quoted in Romans 4:5-8).

So remind yourself of this principle when your conscience condemns you, sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly. When you’ve lied about your mother-in-law; snapped your husband’s head off; blew up at the kids again; failed to train your children. Turn from your sin and rejoice in the righteousness of Christ Jesus. The rejoicing is important. What you rejoice about is crucial. It is not all about you. It is not your being perfect that saves you. Isaiah wrote that God takes delight in his people who are so dressed up (see chapter 62).

Of course, these clothes do not give you a license to sin, to do whatever you wish, to be self-absorpted. Instead, thinking about the righteousness and sacrifice of Jesus is to lead to praise and thankfulness–to a song in your heart. What are you singing today?

Or are you seeking to dress yourself in doing better than some do, not lying TOO much, staying sexually pure except for those little thoughts every now and then, etc etc. Paul tried all that, you know. Working himself into heaven by keeping laws. He was tripped up by his covetous thoughts, and then realized he really did need a Savior and these clothes.

As you remember this principle, the focus becomes more on God than on you. It is Jesus who has bought these beautiful clothes for you. God will even cause you to praise Him….to be thankful He delights in you. Your responsibility is to rejoice in Him. Here is where knowing the doctrine and thinking about it affects how we feel, as well as what we do. Jesus’ purity and perfect fulfilling of the law is the best wedding dress of all. Even more exquisite than Kate’s.

 

Comfort the Right Way March 5, 2011

Filed under: Isaiah — womenembracingfaith @ 3:43 pm
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I know this interrupts our reading of Galatians but I thought it might help us to remember to “ask the right questions” and to refocus our thinking during everyday stresses. This is from a lesson I taught to a ladies home Bible class several years ago. We’ll go back to Galatians in the next blog. Hope this helps us all.

Psalm 94:11 “The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are futile.”

Spiritual drought is like a fading flower in contrast to soaring like an eagle. Which state are you in at the moment?

How we think and understand doctrine is vital to our spiritual experiences.

“We need to realize that the New Testament does not provide a precise and exact answer to every problem we happen to be confronting. Christians seem to think that it should supply an immediate answer but the New Testament doesn’t claim to do that; it provides general principles that will cover any problem that can ever be settled…..How prone we are to confuse the ornate and outward things with the spiritual. You never find the writers of the Epistles merely administering comfort. The New Testament pays us a great compliment by giving us its comfort in terms of doctrine…It all seem very strange to our modern ears, to those who desire immediate and direct comfort. But this is the very glory of the New Testament; it gives us doctrine, it regards us as intelligent human beings. It says, ‘Stand on your feet for a moment. Here is doctrine. Work it out for yourself.’ …It is not a direct comfort, but an indirect comfort.” ML-J p. 36-37, The Miracle of Grace, Baker House, 1986.

This implies you need the skill of finding principles and working out their applications to your specific circumstances. It is a thinking matter.

Isaiah 55:8-9: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts.”
Tell God your worries about “what if” and “if only.”

Don’t let your weaknesses drag you down; they just show off God’s grace.

Catch yourself thinking wrongly. Identify that wrong thought such as “I’m in this fix with no one to help me.” “The Lord has forsaken me, And my Lord has forgotten me!” “Will He really deliver me from this wicked husband, or my besetting sin, or this addiction?” Acknowledge thoughts like this as sin.
Focus thinking on remembering doctrines like providence, sovereignty, election, compassion, redemption…

Remember promises like “I will never leave you or forsake you.” “I have called you mine. I have set my love upon you.” “I will strengthen you.” “I will redeem you.” Think about His character: He is all-powerful but everlastingly compassionate. He is faithful, never turning from His covenant. Focus on these instead of how you feel right now during troubled times.

Call to mind examples from Bible lives and history: Esther was strengthened to risk her life for God’s people. Abigail was rescued from a wicked husband. If God can forgive David and promise His sure mercies to him, he will forgive me and be merciful to me. God chastened Judah for their idolatry, but He never withdrew His love or His promise to be their friend. Jesus loved you enough to have his body torn apart for you.

Pray for the Holy Spirit to stir you to believe and to produce joy, peace, comfort, repentance, endurance…Wait patiently for your heart to be “strangely warmed.”

Some reminders from Isaiah:
Is. 52:6, 10, 15: God will triumph in the end.
Is. 53: He will provide a Redeemer in Jesus Christ.
Is. 54:8-10: He will be kind forever.
Is. 55:2-4: He has personal concern and interest in individuals, calling them to faith.
Is. 56:6-7: You won’t be left out; he is inclusive with his offer of salvation.
Is. 57:15: God is majestic in sovereignty, holiness, and compassion.

In the midst of my anxious thoughts…..
Psalm 94:19: “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.”

 

Help Reading Isaiah November 19, 2010

Filed under: Church History,Isaiah — womenembracingfaith @ 9:50 am
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Here are some history dates to keep handy to help you understand much of the Old Testament. (Why not slip a copy into your Bible?)  Don’t forget, Isaiah is a book of prophecy–not historical narrative like I and II Kings.  So you need to look for visual images, Biblical principles, predictions, and read with your “gospel spectacles” on.  You also should read it like you were taught to read poetry, instead of like you would a novel or Harry Potter or even a history book.  Most of these events after 740 BC are predicted by him—even the coming of the Savior.

Why bother with this history?…..You could say to someone (or ask yourself):  Why wouldn’t you believe the Bible is true since Isaiah’s predictions all came true?  Part of the comforting assurance that we experience from reading with the right attitude and asking the right questions is the knowledge that God’s word is true, his promises are reliable, and He is always faithful to those who believe in and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

1000 BC …David is King of a United Kingdom

740BC….Isaiah’s vision of God and call to comfort God’s people

722 BC…The Assyrian Empire (capital is Nineveh) overtake the Israel (the N. Kingdom of 10 tribes) and deport many to N. Iraq and N. Iran.  Daniel and his friends are part of this deportation. 

701 BC.…Assyrians take over all the nations except Judah (the Southern Kingdom).  Jerusalem was never captured by the Assyrians.

612-605…Rise of Babylonian Empire. Its capital is on Tigris River in S. Iraq.

586 BC…Babylonians capture Jerusalem and Judah.  Deportations to S. Iraq including Daniel and friends.

539 BC….Babylon defeated by Persians under King Cyrus. Rise of 200 year empire.  Daniel is moved from Babylon to Susa.

538-22…Exiles return to Judea and temple is rebuilt. (The family line of David is preserved and continued, waiting for Jesus’ birth)

486 BC….Nehemiah rebuilds Jerusalem’s wall and city revitalized.

331 BC.. Rise of  Greek Empire (take over Persians).  Greek becomes the international language of business.

27 BC to 395 AD ….Roman Empire

 

Inerrant, not Literal August 17, 2009

Filed under: Church History,Isaiah — womenembracingfaith @ 5:23 pm
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The doctrinal building block of looking at the Bible as inerrant is a big deal. Christian history shows us that. The Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s and the Puritan Revival in the 1600’s and then evangelical revivals since have turned on this view of scripture.

Inerrancy says that all scripture is “breathed” by God, thru the pens and voices of real men who wrote or spoke in their own languages of the time.

Literalists usually believe thaat too, but are very concerned about when to take it each word as it is written.  In poetry, like a Psalm, or prophecy, like Isaiah or Jeremiah, taking something literally can really affect the meaning and application of the passage.

Moses wrote while camping in the Sinai desert.  Finally, John the apostle, who knew Jesus intimately enough to lean on his chest as they talked quietly, wrote letters and about his visions while on a Greek island, exiled because of his claim that Jesus was the one Moses’ had said was coming.

Who cares whether we use the word “inerrant” or “literal?”

Look at Isaiah, for instance. In chapters 43 and 44, the preacher is calling on the nation of Judah to turn back to God and His plan for saving them. He predicts the greatest world empire of the day, Babylon, will be destroyed (v. 14). He then draws a refreshing picture of streams in the desert and wilderness beasts praising Him because He refreshes and redeems this community of people who have nothing to fear. They are God’s loved ones.

But, to quibble over whether there are literally streams in the deserts and ostriches praising God is to miss the whole point. The gospel is here. Jesus is here. There is no other rock or foundation upon which we can stand for survival into eternity. The Holy Spirit brings about praise and refreshes us as much as water in a desert.

Taking it all as without error would include remembering that in 516 or so BC, Persia invaded Babylon and sacked the greatest city and empire the world had ever seen. Isaiah got it right.  He, of course, got it right in his first book about Judah being the only nation saved from the Assyrians too. And he had predicted the Babylonian takeover of the Assyrians. His prophecies were never wrong.

 Inerrancy was a banner of the Reformation.  It led to an exaltation and study of God’s word.  That led to repeated revivals.  The literal approach came in later, in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s as people struggled against those who had rejected inerrancy.  But, it has led to the rejection of a lot of the Reformation doctrines.

Read your Bible like this–for yourself, in your own language.  As God’s word, without error if the translation is right.   But, always with a view of how it affects your heart.  For instance,  why do you care about the Babylonian Empire?  If Isaiah got it right about that, then you can trust his predictions that God would provide a Savior, provide righteousness for you, and sustain and strengthen you in whatever you are facing today.

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”  (Isaish 41:10)

That is why inerrant, not literal, matters.  Inerrancy with application leads to personal experience in worship.

 

Think Like A Christian:Isaiah 41 April 14, 2009

Filed under: applications,Isaiah,Romans — womenembracingfaith @ 8:08 pm

Isaiah wrote the following in his “Book of Comfort”  that God used to comfort the people of  Jerusalem during their 70 years in Iraq. God is speaking:

“But you, Israel, are My servant,

Jacob whom I have chosen,

The descendants of Abraham My friend.

You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth,

And called from its farthest regions,

And said to you,

‘You are My servant,

I have chosen you and have not cast you away:

Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you,

Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:8-10)

This promise that God would always be their friend to strengthen and help them was applicable to the Jews in exile 500 years B.C. and to His servants from all over the world now.  What a thought to be considered the friend of God.  It is how we are to think;  asking ourselves the right questions such as,

Am I God’s friend?

Jesus put it like this:

“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”  (John 14:15-17).

Jesus was talking to His apostles right before His arrest.  They already knew they were God’s friend, they had these words from Isaiah.  Now the promise was enlarged to include an indwelling of the Holy Spirit to help and strengthen them. They needed to ask themselves “Who Am I?” and remember these Old and New Testament promises.

Paul described the eternal state and condition of  the redeemed when he wrote:

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1).

Who am I? How am I to live are the questions. God’s friend, His servant, strengthen by His Spirit, under no condemnation, and able to live under His guidance instead of under the power and pull of  your sinful nature is the “best” answer.  Paul says it is your eternal state, your condition forever if you have faith in Jesus as your Savior and Lord.  You are God’s friend forever.

How, then, do I face these worries I have for myself and others?

I am God’s friend.  I don’t understand it.  But it makes all the difference.

That is thinking like a Christian.

TEACHING TIP

Even young children can be taught to think like a Christian.  It  takes your asking the right questions as  you go through the normal day.

 

True Comfort and Hope March 31, 2009

Filed under: applications,introductions,Isaiah,Romans — womenembracingfaith @ 3:35 am
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The following is March 31, 2009 “Daily Reading” from http://www.mlj-usa.org.
It is Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones speaking in 1942 about the power of the gospel in contrast to any other idea about life and its problems. He was living in London, preaching at Westminster Chapel. His wife and daughters had left the city for refuge and safety. The war with the Germans did not end until 1945.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith'” (Romans 1:16-17).

“The Gospel – still our only hope

We say [that the only hope for men is to believe the gospel of Christ] knowing full well all the talk about science and learning and culture. We say so knowing that, at the end of this war* the world, in exactly the same way as at the end of the last war, will announce with confidence its plans and schemes for a new world, without taking any account of what the gospel has to say. Why do we say so? For precisely the same reasons adduced by St Paul [Romans 1:16] … he is proud of the gospel because it is God’s way of salvation … At once we see that it possesses an authority which is quite unique. For all other ideas with respect to life and its problems are man-made. At their best and highest, they never get beyond the realm of speculation and supposition … The great minds and the profoundest thinkers … end by admitting that the ultimate problems of life are shrouded in mystery … The very fact that there are so many different and differing schools of thought bears eloquent testimony to this uncertainty and inability … But there was another fact … which proved how inadequate all the schools were finally. And that was the endless number of religions that were to be found … We see a perfect picture of this in Acts 17 as regards Athens. The same was true of Rome and all other great cities … Paul had something essentially different to offer and to preach. He knew of the other systems. But he also knew their limits and their inability to solve the problems. He could not make his boast in men and their systems. Before he could boast of a system it must have authority; it must have certainty. The gospel Paul preached was not speculation; it was a revelation from God Himself [Gal. 1: 11, 12]. There was no need to be ashamed of such a message. And it is precisely the same today.”

*Written in 1942.

“But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians : 11-12).

“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him:
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles..
.” (Isaiah 42:1).

How is true comfort and hope experienced spiritually?

We look at our circumstances anxiously,and want some kind of relief immediately. That’s why chocolate, coffee, wine are so popular.

Of course, that’s not spiritual experience at all. Instead, we need to think about ourselves in relation to the good news of Christ Jesus. Do I see Him as Isaiah did 730 years before He lived? The Promised One. The Savior. Am I in the realm of Christ or living under the control of Satan, sin, and the law? (See Romans 6). Which is it? You are either under Jesus’s governing power or you are not. That is the first step. Where am I? Who am I? Think of yourself as having died to Adam and his consequences and having risen to a new life loving and serving God. Comfort and hope start with right thinking.

Instead of seeking immediate relief from your raw circumstances, remember who you are. “God has set his love upon me. The Lord is my shepherd. He creates and orders and controls the cosmos for my good and His glory. He has forgiven me. “(Psalm 23, Romans 8, Isaiah 44:21-22)

Ask for the Spirit to give you understanding. To see things from God’s perspective. And to give you comfort and hope. (See John 16 )

You cannot produce comfort or hope on your own. But, you can think like a Christian and wait on the Lord to mysteriously come along beside you, giving you comfort, hope, and even joy. All in the midst of your pain.

 

READING THRU ISAIAH March 17, 2009

Filed under: introductions,Isaiah — womenembracingfaith @ 5:31 pm
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I hope you are still trying to read Isaiah. Don’t get bogged down and give up. Even reading one verse is better than just giving up. Think as you read. Look for biblical principles. Look for Jesus..

Isaiah 40 starts a whole new book. This was written by 701 BC. No one knows exactly when. But, the date is important because of all that was predicted and all that came true. My friend, Roger Ellsworth, calls chapters 40-67, “God’s Book of Comfort.” It certainly comforted the believing Judean exiles to Babylon after 586 BC and all the generations of believers since.

ISAIAH 40-43

Do you find yourself needing a little comfort now and then? How can we experience true spiritual comfort?

BACKGROUND
After promising to uphold and strengthen His people, making them strong like an eagle, God asks His people to think together with Him about who He is, who they are, and the circumstances they find themselves in. (Those circumstances were dire. Israel had been destroyed as a nation because of their becoming just like the nations around them–idolatrous and immoral. They were hauled off to North Eastern Turkey, and probably dispersed all over E. Europe and Russia, Judah had been ravaged and tormented for over a hundred years by repeated raids and taxes from Assyrian and Babylonian invaders. All this was joined with warnings to turn back to God from their idolatry and sinful lifestyle. Now they were in Iraq, exiled to live without being a nation or having their own religion, their temple destroyed, etc. This sounds very harsh to our 21st century ears, but it is nothing to the judgment of God described in chapter 34! This was corrective discipline, not judgment in the way unbelievers will be judged for their sins. After 70 years, Babylon was destroyed, invaded by Persia. The Persian king, Cyrus, not only allowed, but funded, a group of the exiles to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their nation and reestablish their religion. This took place around 500 BC).

These chapters are all about giving comfort to God’s people while they are in exile. Promises would be made specifically about Cyrus and Christ.
KEYS TO UNDERSTANDING MEANING:
Judah and Israel are tangible examples of God’s people. God does not change. His relationship with His people today is the same. The context is important. Servant can mean God’s corporate people or Christ, depending on the context. These chapters are focusing on God’s people as His servant.
THINK, REMEMBER, REASON
Idols would be challenged to put up or shut up! God asks them to think and remember some very important things:

God is all powerful, The most powerful being in existence (40)
He would strengthen them and undergird them and never leave them. (40:28-31)

He was the one who brought in invaders,(41:1-4) but they were responsible for becoming idolaters (41:5-7)

He has chosen, elected them, set His love upon them to be His friend and servant (41:8-10)

Their enemies would be destroyed (41:11-13); They would be made strong and nourished and watered (41-14-20)

WHAT HIS SERVANTS ARE TO DO; WHAT GOD WILL DO
Part of this reasoning process would be to remember and sing about the long-promised Redeemer, His justice and gentleness and righteousness. They are to give glory to God and tell the nations about Him (42:1-12.) And hear and see. God will act like a mighty man of war to straighten things out. He will be satisfied by Christ’s righteousness and will make his law very visible and honored (42:13-21). But, will His people hear? Will they realize their troubles result from their idolatry?(42:22-25) Will they tell of God’s character, power, and friendship? Will they praise Him and give Him all the glory? (43:10-12; 21)
WHERE IS THE COMFORT?
By remembering the promise of our Redeemer and God’s being satisfied by His righteousness as a cover for our sins. (Look to the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved!)

By remembering that God helped His people then, and will now.

By remembering the power God has to do that–can turn king’s minds, lay waste the most powerful and advanced nations.

By remembering the power of the Holy Spirit to bring revival and stir hearts to honor God and His law.

By remembering the love God has shown by choosing you to know and praise Him. This kind of thinking comforts and warms our hearts. Help each other to think like this! (44:21-23)

I hope this helps you keep on reading and thinking about Isaiah’s message to us, and to actually know what it is to experience comfort from our LORD. As Martyn Lloyd Jones reminds us in his “Daily Readings,” it all starts with right thinking. Thinking BEFORE experiencing. And R. C. Sproule of Ligonier Ministries would remind us of that same thing.

Grace and comfort to us all!