Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rebecca's Journey - 110

Judy came into my room this morning and said, "The birds were singing early!" Last evening we remarked that the days are longer. There is an expectant air of spring. What could be more welcoming? I am so amazed at Father's beautiful plan for the seasons. Paul is in The Netherlands. Judy, Anna, Annie, and I are holding down the fort at home. I have been thinking and praying for all of you, and realize it has been a while since you heard from me.

Spring is a season which we always associate with love. We just celebrated Valentines Day - it was the 44th anniversary of Paul's and my engagement. Paul and I went out to lunch Sunday to celebrate. On the day I received two-dozen beautiful, long stemmed, pink roses (my favorite). As I read Psalm 40 today I saw it as a celebration of love. It begins, "I waited for the Lord, and He inclined to me." And it ends in verse 16 and 17 saying "Rejoice! I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinks upon me."

He develops these ideas throughout the Psalm. In verse five the Psalmist said, "Many Oh Lord are Your wonderful works and Your thoughts toward me. They are more then can be numbered." Can you imagine that the God of the universe, the One who flung out the stars and orders the nations, is thinking about me? Is thinking about you? That is a wonderful comfort to me. What a marvelous reality. The writer even goes on to say, "My ears You have opened." I cry with him, "Lord, open my ears."

I am thinking about a new book; I am not sure, but it might be, "When God Speaks." I want to recall those marvelous moments when I have heard clearly what Gods is saying to me. Hearing clearly brings us to verse eight, "I delight to do Your will."

Your thoughts are toward me, and that results in Your speaking. My ears are open, and that results in my hearing, which leads to my doing.

As spring begins, we are poised toward You and find that You are poised toward us. We wait with anticipation for all that will unfold

The month of May will be a very special month for this household. My book, "Falling into His Grace," should be out and available through Amazon. Our bigger news, however, is that on May 16, in Skopje, Macedonia, our daughter Susannah will be married to Vlatko Georgev. Vlatko is a Member of the Macedonian Parliament. He is a strong faithful man of God, who loves our Susannah dearly. I have never known her to be happier. We are all thrilled and planning my trip to Macedonia for the wedding. What an expedition! I thank you for your prayers.

Bless you in His grace,


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Rebecca's Journey - 109

3 February, 2009

Dear Friends,

This is Paul writing. I depart this morning for a 10 day trip, leaving Rebecca in the good care of Judy, Annie, and Anna.

Below is a commentary by Matthew Henry. Included in it are thoughts by our friend William Watts, an attorney from Mobile, which he sent out for New Year. I forwarded it to some friends who pray for us, and one of them edited and cleaned up the appearance for printing. I got this version last night and thought you all might be blessed and encouraged by it.

Rebecca will probably write again later this week.

Love from her and me,


From Bill Watts

The Pleasantness of a Religious Life: A Puritan's View of the Good Life, by Matthew Henry. He wrote one of the all-time classic commentaries on the Bible. This little book was one of the last he wrote, in 1714, and was designed as an appeal particularly to "Young People," who, in their pursuit of pleasure, failed to consider adequately the pleasures of life with God, what Henry calls a "religious" life, in a day and age when the word "religion" did not have all the negative connotations it has for Jesus' followers today. As I read it, I was reminded of John Piper's book, Desiring God, and his defense of "Christian hedonism," i.e., God is most glorified in my life when I am most satisfied with Him.

The book is a wonderful read and I found particularly appealing his seven "directions" in the last chapter for increasing the pleasures of our life with God. It seemed good that I put down these seven directions for greater pleasure, and add one of my own which the Lord has been showing me, as a way of encouraging all of us to pursue God with greater eagerness this coming year. As Henry says, "What yields delight cannot but attract desire...religion has pleasure on its side...Here is a bait that has no hook under it...a pleasure that God himself invites you to, and which will make you happy, truly and eternally happy..."

The Pleasantness of a Religious Life: A Puritan's View of the Good Life

  1. Keep up good and true thoughts of God and guard against hard or false thoughts of Him. The mind, and where we place our thoughts, is the fundamental place of freedom in our lives. And unless we get our beliefs right, the rest will not come along. How easily we can slip into thinking uncharitably about the God who is Charity (Agape) Himself. ("I knew you were a hard Master and so I hid my talent"). What happiness and pleasures we loose in thinking harshly of the One who for our sakes gave up everything, that we might be reconciled to Him. Or perhaps, in our lethargy, we begin to take the opposite tack and think of Him as a friend not only of sinners but of sin, as One who is indifferent to whether His will is done. To think about our Father aright will increase our security and joy in Him.
  2. Dwell upon the promises of God, embracing them by faith as given to you personally. Peter tells us that we have these "exceedingly great and precious promises" as the means of partaking of the divine nature. (II Peter 1:4). The divine nature is received and planted and blooms in us by our living on the basis of promise. We relate to God, we encounter God, we are transformed into His likeness, by embracing His promises, trusting Him through His promises. How great is the comfort and happiness of the one who truly knows and rests in those promises. Don't let them go.
  3. Do not make the easy yoke of Christ a burden; be not "overdoing in well-doing." The pleasant way is the way of wisdom. Wisdom dwells with Prudence. Prudence recognizes that to everything there is a season, a time to labor and a time to rest, a time to feast and a time to fast. Doing things out of time, or undertaking things beyond our strength is like over-driving the flocks in one day. Learning to be with Christ in the yoke is a whole lot easier and more pleasant than trying to do for Christ outside that yoke.
  4. Walk in love; maintain spiritual communion with the saints, being of one mind and heart . "How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity" (Psalm 133:1). Be of one mind with others. Find the place of agreement. Avoid quarrels and disputes. Paul exhorts us, "Aim at restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace"; and the result is "the God of love and peace will be with you" (II Cor 13:11) It is psychologically impossible to have one attitude towards God and another towards others. Our life with God cannot be pleasant if our life with others is filled with strife and contention. If we love and enjoy our friends, this will add to the pleasure of enjoying God in this world. "Love itself sweetens the soul, and revives it, drawing love to itself like a magnet, it fetcheth in the further pleasure and satisfaction of being beloved, and so it is a heaven on earth; for what is the happiness and pleasure of heaven but that there love reigns in perfection. Then we have most peace in our bosoms, when we are most peaceably disposed towards our brethren." (Henry)
  5. Be much in the exercise of holy joy; employ yourself much in praises to God. "Joy is in the heart of praise, as praise is the language of joy." (Henry) It is God's command that we "rejoice", and so important that "again" He says "rejoice" (Phil 4:4). By doing so, all other duties become pleasant to us. "Let us live a life of delight in God, and love to think of Him as we do of one whom we love and value" (Henry) Let every stream of earthly delight lead us back in gratitude to the Fountain and Spring of those delights. Do our hearts rise in delight at a sunset? Let us praise the Artist of that great canvass in the sky. And if the stream runs dry, let us hike back up the stream bed, do some climbing, until we find the Spring itself. For even the barren times are meant to bring us into a season of deeper and richer delights, finding our satisfaction more and more in God Himself. "We should have more pleasure in our religion, if we had but learned 'in everything to give thanks' (I Thes. 5:18) for that takes out more than half the bitterness of our afflictions, that we can see cause even to be thankful for them." (Henry) He who knows that "all things work together for the good of those who love God" (Rom 8:28) can find the place to sing praises even in the midst of trouble. So, let us make it our intention this year to "rejoice in the Lord always"
  6. Let us act in constant dependence upon Jesus. We are faced with the choice every day to live on the prideful basis of our own flesh, our own strength, or on the basis of the grace that God would give to us, as His humble ones, through Jesus Christ. Jesus was to be the "consolation" of Israel." And He will be so to us, when we have learned not to look for that in ourselves, which is to be had only in Him." (Henry) The secret of contentment, in good times or bad times, is to do all things "through Him who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13)
  7. Let us converse much with the glory that is to be revealed. When I go hiking, I like to have a destination, like a waterfall, something glorious at the end of the trail. The anticipation of beholding it makes the journey itself pleasant. A joy anticipated is a joy experienced. "Let us look much to the end of our way, how glorious it will be, and that will help to make our way pleasant.... By frequent meditations on the rest that remains for the people of God (Heb 4:3) we now enter that rest, and partake of the comfort of it.... That is the sweetest joy within us, which is borrowed from the joy set before us" (Henry). The lie the Enemy will give to our senses is that our best years are over. The truth is "the best is yet to come." We have been given a future beyond our wildest imagination. Can we more deeply engage our imaginations with this future that lies before us?

Let us step into Jesus' mission for us to go into the world to make disciples. As one last "direction" for increasing our pleasure and delight in God this coming year, I wanted to add one of my own to Henry's list. I save it for the end because I think our devotion to God, as practiced in the above steps, must always precede toward and prepare us for service for God. We must have a vision to become more like Jesus. Then we will do more readily and joyfully what He did and does, and what He would have us do. But now, in this posture and vision as His disciple being with Him, learning to be like Him, I am ready to hear and enter into Psalm 16:11 which says "At Thy right hand are pleasures forevermore." Where is pleasure found? At God's right hand. This is the place of God's authority and power. This is the place of God's activity. David says a little earlier in this Psalm, "I have set the Lord always before me" and "He is at my right hand." So the Lord is at David's right hand and David is at the Lord's right hand. The place of increasing joy and delight in our walk with God will be the place where our activity on earth is God's activity on earth, where what God wants done gets done by what we do. I have often thought and prayed, "Lord, just show me what you are doing and I will join in." But lately I am beginning to think that I will only see what God is doing as I do the good that is set before me to do. I can't answer the question of what God is doing from my armchair, or listening to someone else's opinion, but only on the field of my activity, at the place where I act and see God act with me.

So, can we agree to take some more risks this year in seeking to transform the world around us? We can all surely begin to pray for laborers to be sent into the harvest. And I would bet the Lord might answer those prayers by showing us a field of our own, a place of labor, where we will experience the joy of our Master, extending His kingdom.

We can't do any of this on our own. New Year's resolutions are worthless unless you tell someone what they are and invite them to hold you accountable to your resolution. So find one or two others you can meet regularly with this year, before God and before each other, in sincerity and truth. And greater delight in our lives with God will be our portion.

This is Paul again! Many thanks to Bill Watts! And a blessed and Happy New Year to you too.

Love to all, from Rebecca and me,