The Smile of One Thinking About Jesus

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Hey TD!

Some of you have met and know our dear friend, Celestine.  We’ve known her for nearly 20 years.  When you see these pics, you are saying, “Yep, that’s how I remember her,” for that’s how she’s been all these years whenever we fellowshipped together with her, rejoicing together in the goodness of our God.  She was as steady and as faithful in the Lord as could be, always in His Word, listening to sermons, reading devotionals, and asking lots of questions wrought out of her study of Scripture; she brought inspiration and conviction, not with her mouth, but with her life and focus.

So, you can imagine our concern a couple of months ago when we discovered she was no longer reading the Word, was down in spirits, not as sharp or vibrant, and watching lots of TV (something she rarely did before).  It was due to the enormous changes that were taking place in her care facility, leaving her with hardly any social interaction or with much to do.  I told the nurse that she wasn’t as sharp mentally as she used to be.  She agreed and said all this change was having its effects on her.

Well, that shook us. We knew that more regular engagement with God’s Word was going to be necessary for her to begin really living again.  We would need to help dust off  the cob webs and retrain her to feed off of and drink once again from the Living Water.  So, during TD, I presented the need and opportunity to give Celestine a visit a few times a week, do Bible study, sing hymns, pray, and enjoy her company.  A few of you responded to take the baton and visit her during my family’s visit to China.  And those who went were very blessed and charged up.

Well, the pictures above were taken yesterday, during our Bible study in John.  These smiles came spontaneously when we were discussing what heaven was going to be like and what we’d be doing there.  As you can see, her face lit up with the thought of it.  I was only able to catch the end of her lighting up with my camera.  You should have seen her just before I took these pics!  She was smiling so big, it looked like her face was going to break!  That’s the power of God’s Word under the Spirit’s unction and lead.

May I ask you a question that I asked you last Friday?  When was the last time your heart burned within you (or your face lit up so much that it almost broke) when you read the Word of God?  How long has it been?  When was it?  Where was it?  Why isn’t that happening more often in your life?

Friends, hear these indicting words of our Lord,

But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the [d]deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lamp stand out of its place—unless you repent.” – Revelations 2

To repent means to turn around, change direction, and walk in that new direction, leaving the old behind.  Are you in need of that in your life today?  As you start the new school year, this would be a really great time to make that move of repentance, to turn away from your manufactured life, to turn towards the Lord through His Word, and to truly follow Him.  It’s not even really a choice He gives, as much as it is a command He demands.  Follow Him.

We counselors would love to be of help to you, if you are ready to make your move.  Just reach out to us and we will aim to help you! – Arthur

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These Verses Changed My Life

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Hey TD!

Don’t you love kids?  I do.  There is this raw, real, unpolished, unpretentious, unpackaged authenticity and realness to them, for better or for worse! 🙂  I also love young spiritual children as well (though they may be chronologically older, even adult-aged).  They too can have that wide-eyed hungry (even naive), teachable way about them that is refreshing and alive.  I love being around real life like that.  But with having children (biologically or spiritually) comes an enormous amount of spiritual responsibility.

It is when I had my first child, Nathaniel, that this hit me like a lightning bolt.  I read Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and it changed my life’s focus, calling, and passion.  Here it is:

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as [b]frontals [c]on your forehead.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

There they were, my marching orders from the Commander Himself.  My duty and calling as the father to my children was to first and foremost teach and train them to walk with the Lord, even before my responsibilities to train and take care of them physically, socially, academically, etc.  I have been charged to constantly bring them before the voice, heart, desires, and will of our God Almighty, through the priceless gift of His matchless Word; and I am to do it passionately, authentically, creatively, and in heavy doses.  Every chance that I get.  Waking.  Sleeping.  Walking.  Playing.  Eating.  Talking.  Traveling.  Every chance that I get.  That was really the underlying impetus behind us homeschooling them.

That’s why I get so excited when I see a young couple like Robert and Kathy take that charge to heart as well, as they begin exposing their daughter to God’s Word at her young age (these pics are the first pics of Hannah “doing” Bible study 🙂 wink, wink).  They know that even though she’s the cutest little thing (did you see her last night??? Sooooo cute!), God’s Word tells us the truth: little Hannah is a born-sinner, depraved at her core.  Little Hannah needs a Savior and needs to come to Jesus and to grow in His grace.  And that cannot happen without the power of His Word.

And you cannot grow in grace without the power of His Word either.  Deuteronomy 6:4-9 applies to YOU.  YOU need to talk of His Word when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.  YOU need to bind them as a sign on your hand and as frontals on your forehead.  YOU need to write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

As a spiritual father to some of you, and a spiritual uncle to most of you, I charge you and plead with you to examine the life you’re living, who you’re living it with, the way you spend your time, the activities you engage in, the conversations you have, etc. Then, I ask you to do some re-organizing of your life to make more time to study, sit under, meditate on, pray through … God’s Word.

Do it this summer, so that by the time you return to school, more time in His Word will be ingrained into your schedule! – Arthur

 

When “Honoring” God’s Word Doesn’t

Hey TD,

Have you ever been so desirous to honor God and keep His Word that you actually break His Word in doing so?  I have.  And I’ve had it done to me.  And neither have been right, nor felt right (though the latter feels much worse initially, the former arrives in due time).

Here’s a reading from Tabletalk magazine that speaks to this propensity of ours.  Learn and apply.  You’ll be thankful you did (and so will your family and friends!):

Making Void the Word of God

He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to [a]be put to death’; 11 but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, [b]given to God),’ 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.” Mark 7:9-13

Zeal without knowledge puts one in great spiritual danger, and we see this demonstrated in Jesus’ clashes with the Pharisees and scribes regarding their extrabiblical traditions.  No one could question the zeal of these sects to keep God’s law. So concerned were they to make sure they did not violate the Lord’s commandments that they developed what they called a “fence around the law” consisting of various regulations designed to help ensure that the Mosaic law was obeyed.  They reasoned that people would certainly be innocent of transgression by observing those extra regulations.  Judaism’s system of kosher laws is a classic example. (Modern Judaism is based more on the traditions of the rabbis than on the Old Testament) Exodus 23:19; 34:26; and Deuteronomy 14:21 all say, “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”  Over time, the kosher law that milk and meat products should not be eaten together developed out of a desire to keep the commandments of these passages.  After all, if one never puts meat and milk together, one will certainly never boil a young animal in its mother’s milk, even accidentally.

That extra rule is legalistic enough, but even worse are rules that end up causing direct transgression of the commandments. Legalism is a problem because misplaced zeal for the law can lead one to violate the law without even realizing it. One tradition of the Pharisees, the Corban rule to which Jesus refers in today’s passage, took a good thing—giving gifts to the temple—and turned it into a means by which God’s law was broken. One commentator likens the Corban rule to the modern practice of deferred giving, which allows individuals to deed property and other gifts to another at death while retaining control over the gift in the meantime. Under the Corban rule, Jews could pledge something to the temple and have it pass into the temple’s possession at their death, but while the givers lived, they stewarded the property and lived off its proceeds.

In itself, such a rule was not evil and in fact could be a good thing. The problem was that the Pharisees and scribes were allowing people to use the Corban rule to escape their obligations to other parts of the law. According to the Corban rule, men and women who made gifts to the temple in such a way were free from having to support their elderly parents. This broke God’s command to honor our fathers and mothers (Mark 7:9–13).

Coram Deo

Matthew Henry comments that “it is the mischief of impositions, that too often they who are zealous for them, have little zeal for the essential duties of religion, but can contentedly see them laid aside.” Like the Pharisees, we can be obsessed with good but optional things (giving extra gifts to the temple) in a way that makes us break God’s law. Let us have zeal for God’s law, but let us not let it develop into legalism that makes us break it.

Passages for Further Study

Exodus 20:12
Proverbs 23:22
Matthew 15:1–9
Ephesians 6:1–3

– Reproduced from Tabletalk magazine, May, 2016 Issue, “John 3:16,” May 16, 2016 devotion, “Making Void The Word of God.”