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Posts Tagged ‘hymns’

“One may steal your thunder, but the lightning is always God’s.” – my family (a collaborative quote, in which we were stealing each other’s thunder)

Several weeks ago – this post is way behind, so sorry – my brother gathered a group of our friends who, along with others of our acquaintance, have independently sensed the call to do something with our knowledge and fellowship.  We are so good at parties, but we lose focus.  So many of us have been wondering where God wants us to act.  My brother gathered us to pray and share Scripture, seeking God for where He wants us to serve, why, how, who, etc.  It must be a God thing, or it is nothing. 

Last year for a few months I attended a young adult Bible study and worship time in which I sensed that most of us were passionately eager to serve God, to have a part in His work, but He hadn’t told us where to go.  He has been building faith in a young generation, like armies in waiting.  And we gathered to wait on Him, to encourage our readiness, and to seek God’s marching orders.  Some days I think there are so many causes, that I wonder why it’s difficult to find mine.  And then I remember that God has us waiting.  Until God speaks, I can wait. 

Karen Hancock’s allegory, Arena, is a vivid description of Christian living.  At one point all those “saved” are waiting, studying and training, in a well-provisioned safe haven.  They must wait for the exact moment at which God will give them a sign to move out and cross the enemy-infested lands to the portal to home.  If they leave too early or too late, they will run across lines and camps of enemies and be lost.  So they wait.  So we wait. 

But we believe God is at work.  Over Memorial Day Weekend I attended the New Attitude Conference in Louisville, KY.  Put on by Sovereign Grace and featuring Josh Harris, Eric Simmons, Mark Dever, Al Mohler, CJ Mahaney, and John Piper as speakers, the young adult conference attracted 3,000 soldiers in waiting.  I was surprised, though I shouldn’t have been, to find most of them as directionless as me.  Ok, most of them had college degree or career goals, but spiritually we weren’t sure where God wanted us.  Some of us, in the midst of waiting, felt like the fight to keep heads above water while treading was all we could do.  Maintaining a devotional and prayer life, passionately worshiping God and memorizing His Word were high orders. 

Then John Piper spoke on William Tyndale, who most certainly had a calling and was not about to waste his life.  He translated the whole New Testament and several Old Testament books into English for the first time.  And he wrote books and campaigned for the Bible to be printed in the common tongue and made available to the people – at the risk and cost of his own life.  The challenge went out and resonated with the three thousand in attendance. 

Why does it resonate?  Because God is at work, in the grassroots, you might say, reviving our faith in a big God.  Twenty-something Christians, though comparatively immature in our marriage and childbearing rates and economic productivity, are getting excited about the truth, about a God bigger than themselves.  Rejecting the shallow self-help and entertainment-driven church culture, they are reading up on Jonathan Edwards and getting excited about William Tyndale, singing theology-rich God-centered worship songs like Chris Tomlin’s How Great is Our God, or Isaac Watts’ hymns. 

This is the subject of Young, Restless, and Reformed.  Collin Hansen took a tour of the country to find out about this multi-rooted movement of ‘young Calvinists.’  He did a great job of filling pages with information about theology, denominations, organizations, authors, and what’s so exciting to us about God’s sovereignty.  Grace, a consistent description of the world, a God worth worshiping – we have lots of answers, lots of paths that are bringing us to become part of the revival of Calvinism in the West.  Why is God doing this?  We wait to see. 

Not only are our discoveries and conversions to Calvinism different; the lifestyles and trappings in which we couch our belief in the sovereignty of God also run a spectrum, which Collin Hansen (a writer for Christianity Today) describes with excellence: from liturgical and traditional presbyterians to charismatic and modern Mark Driscoll and CJ Mahaney.  Then there’s the unusual mix of Baptists and Calvinism (which for the moment describes me, though I find myself pretty much in pieces of everything).  On of the most interesting parts of Young, Restless, and Reformed to me was the chapter on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Al Mohler’s Calvinist makeover of the college.  So that’s why my friends at Elect Exiles are Election-affirming and Baptist.  I’m from a church that, in my observation, has been more typical of 20th century S. Baptists: in between Calvinism and Arminianism and reluctant to debate the issue.  The tides are turning.  I’ll confess belief in a big, sovereign God was a prerequisite for me to vote for our current pastor. 

This is a book I will recommend to pretty much everyone.  The only disappointment I had was that the chapter on New Attitude, titled “Forget Reinvention,” didn’t say much about the conference.  If you want to know about that, the New Attitude website has plenty of info to get you hyped about next year.  I read the book in a few days, and told everyone I know about the book for the next several weeks.  Read it, talk about it, and be encouraged by all the others God is calling.  Keep waiting. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Last Friday I had some of my dear friends over to spend the night.  As the girls fell asleep to a movie in my living room, I prayed for them because I had to.  There was no urgent need, but urgent feeling.  The next day as we spoke I felt convicted to get back to praying specifically on a regular basis.  I have been praying, but it has been need-based, and not diligent. 
 
Sunday morning my pastor preached on prayer.  I know this fact, even though I wasn’t there, and that’s enough.  Sunday afternoon there was a youth leaders meeting where the veterans reiterated the essential role prayer plays in making a meeting or ministry successful.  Filled with a sense of the needs, and the knowledge that God wanted me to refocus, I had a marvelous Sunday and Monday filled with intentional prayer.  And then I stayed up late, and slept in and stayed up and slept in.  I’ve been praying, but it hasn’t been the intentional, set aside time I resolved to do. 
 
Wednesday my mom taught the Awana Sparks about the Lord’s Prayer, and in our weekly debriefing of funny things kids said, she shared part of her lesson.  Afterward I read a new article on one of my favorite websites – it was on the Lord’s Prayer, too. 
 
This week I also received in the mail the newest Michael Card album, Hymns.  The first or second song (most listened to if you push play right before you fall asleep each night) is Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.  There is a part of that song I remember a pastor talking about a long time ago.  The author of the hymn wrote “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it… Here’s my heart, o, take and seal it…”  He did wander.  That’s the testimony of his life.  He knew himself.  His heart needed sealed. 
 
So does my heart, because it wanders.  In some ways this week has been beautiful, but it’s only because I’ve spotted God’s grace and messages, not because I’ve had victory in yielding to them.  I know everything about the need to be content, but I just am not content.  My heart isn’t focused.  I’m not diligent with my time or energy, or responsible with my money.  I’m tired. 
 
On Sunday something said at the leader’s meeting reminded me of Galatians 6:9: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”  Like a breath of keenest fresh air to one suffocating, I needed every ounce of the hope in that verse.  There is conviction in Paul’s words also.  That is what I want to focus on today.  
 
Proverbs 4:20-27, “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.
Let them not depart from thine eyes;
keep them in the midst of thine heart.
For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
Keep thy heart with all diligence;
for out of it are the issues of life.
Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.
Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.
 
The word “keep” in verse 21 is shamar, “keep, give heed” like a shepherd or watchman. The word “keep” in verse 23 is natsar, “guard, watch over.”  So Solomon’s words, inspired of the Holy Spirit, are to be kept.  And my heart is to be kept.  How is this done? 
 
The first thing Solomon mentions after this command is speech.  There is a lot about speech in Ephesians, but this reminds me also of James, whose vivid description of the tongue as the spark that sets a forest on fire opens with “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” 
 
We’ve probably all heard the question, “Who’s being walked?  The dog or the human?”  A man holds a leash with the cord wrapped around his hand several times in the manner of a bull-rider.  The dog strains ahead, eager, easily distracted.  Sometimes the man seems to be pulled along against his will.  Other times the firm hold on the leash restrains and directs the pet.  The image of a bridle in James is that of me being both dog and master, horse and driver.  The bridle doesn’t just restrain; it guides.  It controls and regulates.  This is self-control, one of the fruit of the Spirit, also known as temperance.  Many of the fruit of the Spirit involve a self-command or restraint. 
 
Solomon goes on to talk about our eyes.  Ok, I can’t resist.  One of the best songs kids ever learn is “Oh be careful little eyes,” and actually I think we should make teenagers and adults sing it, too.  Do you remember it?  Oh be careful little tongue what you say, oh be careful little tongue what you say.  For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little tongue what you say.  Oh be careful little eyes what you see.  Oh be careful little feet where you go.  Tongue, Eyes, Feet.  Ponder your path.  Don’t get distracted.  Keep control of your tongue.  Guard your heart.  Commit to focusing on wisdom and truth and goodness.  “Set your mind on things above.”  
 
Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruit of the Spirit.  All the virtues are connected.  Love is a choice.  Joy is something we are commanded to have.  Peace, Philippians tells us, is a result of giving our anxieties to God in prayer.  Patience, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.  Meekness has been described as power under control.  This may be what Mr. Darcy had in mind when he defended his character and his quiet nature by saying, “Where there is real superiority of mind, pride will always be under good regulation.”  While at first impression this seems like another evidence of Mr. Darcy’s arrogance, it has been suggested by those sympathetic to his character that what he was saying was a strong enough mind knew how to keep his pride – his selfish impulses – under control.  His reluctance to speak when he might be tempted to go too far is a sign of his meekness rather than of his pride. 
 
Dennis Prager is a strangely blended Jewish moralist who speaks, writes, and hosts a radio show.  Though his is by no means an absolute authority, he makes a good point by saying that happiness comes from the mind making choices over the instinct for fun or pleasure.  The mind knows better than feelings.  It can make choices based on the long-term.  Essentially he is saying that self-control brings happiness. 
 
Self-control, or temperance, is from the Greek egkrates, “strong, robust; having power over, possessed of (a thing); mastering, controlling, curbing, restraining; controlling one’s self, temperate, continent.”  Strength is active, working both on itself and on progress.  Tolkien describes a curb not only as a limit to where one can go, but as a tool for navigation: a ditch, bank, or curb would enable one to stay on a road in the dark or in a fog.  So limits restrain us, but they also get us to our destination.  Solomon warns against off-roading. 
 
Peter says to add temperance to knowledge, and patience to temperance (2 Peter 1:6).  A pastor is told to be temperate in Titus 1:8.  He is also required to be sober: “curbing one’s desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate”  Titus 2:5 uses the same word to describe that which a young woman ought to be taught.  It is translated “discreet” in KJV.  Modesty is a consequence of discretion.  Sobriety is the opposite of drunkenness or dissipation, in which control of yourself is loosed.  Dissolution is a word meaning exactly that “cut loose”, and it leads to all sorts of sinful indulgence and decadence.  I need to be moderate. 
 
Paul depicted this virtue in 1 Corinthians 9, in the metaphor of an athlete. 
 
1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all,
but one receiveth the prize?
So run, that ye may obtain. 
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.
Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 
But I keep under my body,
and bring it into subjection:
lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
 
Every man who strives for the mastery (enters the contest, contends for the prize) is temperate in all things.  Verse 27 says “I keep under my own body,” the word used here is a practice of athletes, to use their bodies roughly to make themselves tough or conditioned.  It comes from a word for the part of the face that turns into a black eye if punched.  Some Christians known as ascetics took this too far; they were so focused on abusing themselves that they forgot to do anything fruitful.  Rather, this is the same word Jesus employs in Luke 18, where He is teaching me to be diligent in prayer. 
 
Luke 18:1-8, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end,
that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; 
Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: 
And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying,
Avenge me of mine adversary. 
And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself,
Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 
Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her,
lest by her continual coming she weary me. 
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. 
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him,
though he bear long with them? 
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.
Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh,
shall he find faith on the earth?”
 
The judge was made weary (kept under, conditioned) by the widow’s persistent appeal. 
 
Back in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul also says that he brings his body under subjection, he makes a slave of it using stern discipline.  One stern discipline, an exercise in self-control and dependence on God, is fasting.  Fasting should never be about indulging my own cravings, whether sensual, for food, for the praise of men, or to soothe my conscience.  Isaiah 58, beginning in verse 3, contains God’s design for fasting. 
 
Isaiah 58:3-11, “Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not?
wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?
Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure,
and exact all your labours.
Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness:
ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul?
is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
Is not this the fast that I have chosen?
to loose the bands of wickedness,
                            to undo the heavy burdens,
                                                   and to let the oppressed go free,
                                                               and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry,
and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?
when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him;
and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning,
and thine health shall spring forth speedily:
and thy righteousness shall go before thee;
the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. T
hen shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer;
thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.
If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger,
and speaking vanity;
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul;
then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought,
and make fat thy bones:
and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water,
whose waters fail not.”
 
In a paradoxical way, while fasting is about denying one’s self, it is for the purpose of releasing bonds and weights.  Fasting is reliance on God, not only for what I don’t have, but also with what I do.  Fasting is always accompanied with prayer.  1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.  In the Sermon on the Mount, right after Jesus speaks on prayer, He goes into teaching on fasting.  Though food is good, or other things from which you might fast, the exercise of self-denial and sacrifice and dependence and focus on God is good.  All things are lawful, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, but not everything is beneficial.  When I practice what is beneficial, I am stronger for the unexpected temptations when I must deny myself. 
 
I must be ready, then, by exercising self-control, to do good works.  Pray with perseverance and persistence.  Be steadfast.  Stand therefore.  Gird up the loins of your mind, and be sober, that you may be ready in and out of season to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.  Hope is even described in the Bible as an anchor – the image of stability and strength.  Do not be slothful, but fervent in whatever you do.  Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Simon says?  Exercises?  Arrests?  Hide and go seek?  Illegal hands to the face? 

 

My hands have spent a lot of time on my head lately.  Life is too big for me sometimes.  Like this week.  At my church I’ve been teaching a women’s Sunday morning Bible study on Ephesians.  Have you ever looked at a hill from a distance and thought you could get to the top in an hour or two, only to discover when you get closer that the hill is a mountain with no scalable paths?  And for a breathless, unmeasurable time, you think you’ll never make it; you wonder why you tried.  At the last possible moment, wings come in, sweeping you up like the eagles to hobbits on Mount Doom.  God’s grace comes beneath your weakness, and through no fault of your own, you’re at the top, taking down your hands from your face to enjoy the view. 

I watched a movie the other night.  It wasn’t a really good movie.  The cinematography was unique, and the acting was superb.  Anthony Hopkins, playing a familiarly dramatic role, was suppressing his emotions, and trying to hide them.  He kept holding his face in front of his eyes as if shielding them from a light, when really he was shielding tears from sight.  Even when there aren’t people to see me, I keep putting my hand over my eyes.  Actually, at twenty-three, it’s hard to cry anymore, so the gesture is an act of the will to indicate emotion I can’t express any other way.  But the emotions, even at my age, must be expressed. 

A friend and I are starting a small group for high school girls, and quite frankly, I don’t know where to start in connecting with them.  Emma describes Robert Martin to her friend Harriet (in the Gwyneth Paltrow adaptation) as a man as much above her notice as below it.  Is evangelism and discipleship like that?  Either people know they need discipleship and God’s grace because they’re that mature or because they’re that empty? And I’m looking at some of these girls seeing so much need, but they’re not quite broken enough yet to value it, and I don’t know how to start a conversation or to whet an appetite for a close relationship with God.  I guess it’s all up to Him. 

Psalm 32 contains God’s promise to guide me with His eyes.  So maybe putting my palms over my eyes is a way of getting me to follow Him, recognizing my own lack of wisdom.  Too bad God has to force me into faith. 

Then recently every time I try to get on the internet (check my library due dates, blog, check messages, look up movie times) I have to refresh a hundred times, and it still doesn’t work.  I’m so inefficient, and end up doing a fraction of the things I’d intended with a day.  That’s a cause of frustrated grasping of my head. 

Maybe excitement could explain the frequent movement, too.  This week quite unexpectedly I made my first sale on my business website: www.LadyofLongbourn.com  Another exciting find was a website about Hebrew alphabets and words that argues for a Hebrew – or Edenic (long story) – etymology for most words worldwide. True or not my mind has been spinning with possibilities, and I’m finding it incredibly easy to learn new Hebrew words.  But then I always have. 

On Monday I got a bargain at the thrift store, and spent less than $3 on a brand new CD of classic hymns sung by the amazing St. Olaf’s Choir.  St. Olaf is a Lutheran Bible College whose incredible music department was featured on TV this Christmas season.  My brother and I stayed up irrationally (but not atypically) late watching it one night.  The beauty – the gift of it so touched me that I put my hands to my head. 

Dad and I went to the Colorado Republican caucus on Tuesday, which was an experience in disorganization and disbelief you wouldn’t, uh, believe!  Do you know the actual rules stated that ties in our precinct should be decided by a coin toss?  No one had any idea what they were doing, and since I couldn’t help us out, I put my hands on my head. 

Sunday I sat on the floor in my sanctuary, which was an exciting change.  You’ve no idea how many times I wanted to sit on the floor instead of formal, uncomfortable, modern chairs.  Mary of Bethany sat at Jesus’ feet, and that is quite my preference.  I probably won’t do it all the time; I fought against feeling self-conscious.  But it was neat to experience freedom in that way. 

The Superbowl…  Ok, to stop all scorn in its tracks, I babysat for a neighborhood outreach party put on by a church plant in Denver, and then hung out with everyone for the last quarter, so it isn’t like I was idolizing football or anything.  The Superbowl was a nail-biter, quite exciting.  I couldn’t believe some of the plays I witnessed.  Nice escape, interesting throw, and impossible catch for essential first down.  Yep.  I even know what I’m talking about.  Hands over my eyes. 

Monday was a rambling day, much like this post.  How beautiful to spend unhurried time at the library, wandering around, thinking, scurrying back and forth from the movie shelves to the computers (which work!) there, as an idea of another movie to watch came to mind…  And then on Wednesday I got to go to tea with a new friend.  Tea, yes.  I had mint chai, which is just as good as the other varieties I’ve had.  With enough sugar almost any tea tastes good, I think.  I just needed to get tea done the British way, with milk, too. 

I’ve been doing much praying for a special person, name to be announced sometime after I learn it myself.  My expectations for him are so high that it’s only right I support him now, already, in prayer.  But then I miss him.  And I cover my face shutting out the vastness of the world that separates him from me – but, of course, all in God’s capable and good hands.  Um.  That was code.  It all means that I wonder where my husband is, and when he’ll come, and want him to be here sooner than later, but I have no idea who or where He is.  But God knows, and I trust God. 

This week I spoke with a few friends about honesty, and how we wish the world would let us say the truth, say what’s on our hearts without code or offense.  At least with them I’ll practice it.  I hope they will with me.  No mask here.  Which reminds me – I’ve watched several movies with masks or masquerades in them recently.  Lots of movies. 

But movies always make me think.  A movie I want to see as of today is Penelope, due to limited release on February 29.  The fantasy, fairy-tale-ish story has a message of honesty, of taking the hands from the face and being yourself for all the world to see and know – even risking the hurt. 

YLCF was a special blessing this evening, since the most recent post specifically addressed the topic of waiting for one’s handsome prince, and what to do while you wait.  I know those things.  I certainly rebel on occasion.  The reminder was important to get me refocused, to seek the most excellent and most fulfilling. 

I’m craving tea: my mom’s blackberry, which I never like.  The clock, at almost midnight after a long day, declines my craving.  In fact I even have to stop my ramble through writing.  This post is the way I used to write emails to my friends: late at night, a summary of a dozen thoughts and events that come together to form a sort of three-strand theme.  If my brother were writing, this would be a strongly metaphorical poem (trying to make sense of which would bring my hands once again to my head).  My other brother would tell a wonderful allegory.  I’m trying to get the latter to guest blog here sometime.  He has a great story about orange juice… 

Ramble away in the comments.  Feel free to put the unconcise, irrelevant, unfinished thoughts you can’t submit as an English paper, or publish on your blog, or tell your friends when they ask how you are doing.  Good night. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Friday night I wrote a post titled Doxology.  It is filled with verses about the greatness and glory and grace of God.  “How great is our God” is the theme of my life right now.  Almost all of my favorite praise songs and hymns have to do with this topic:

How Great is Our God 

Great Is the Lord

Lord We Want to Lift Your Name on High

are only the few that have been running through my head the past couple hours. 

I had an opportunity to earn $50 for taking a survey about Christian radio.  My conscience wouldn’t let me return the call because I hardly ever listen to Christian radio anymore.  Ravi Zacharias is good.  Occasionally I’ll hit a song with good lyrics, or that is old enough that I remember it from the 90’s when contemporary Christian music was bearable.  Mostly the music is noise, screams, violence-inspiring beats, or bad theology.  Then we adopt them into our churches for worship songs, but that’s another post

A dream radio station would play thoughtful, accurately biblical songs whose lyrics I can hear, and with which after a few hearings I can sing along.  There would be a focus on worship songs: not “I love you, Jesus,” but “He was wounded for our transgressions.” 

  1. This category praises the character of God,
  2. Praises His intervention in the world, and
  3. Thanks Him for His personal provision for me.   

The other types of songs I would allow is the testimony kind (just like #3 above, but addressed to people, not to God) and prayer-songs (of confession, need, desires, excitement – like the Psalms).  All should be in accordance with sound doctrine. 

To tell the truth I can hardly find albums like this to buy.  Even the collections of hymns by today’s artists tend to be impossible to join.  The artists want to present their version on the hymn, making it special.  But I do own a series of CD’s that have choirs or artists just singing the hymns.  My favorite is What Wondrous Love is This, featuring Joni Eareckson Tada (she’s the singer I recognize). 

If you, like me, are looking for simple hymns to remind you through your day of the greatness of the God we serve, get this collection. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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