Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Holiness of God

God's sovereignty is undoubtedly intertwined with His holiness. What better time to focus on these subjects than at the 2009 Ligonier National Conference held last week in Orlando, FL. This year, the topic of the conference was "The Holiness of God." I attended most of the sessions, and I thought everything that was said was appropriately framed by R.C. Sproul's opening and closing messages. Here are some of the highlights from those two messages - notice how the line between God's holiness and His sovereignty are nearly indistinguishable:

Opening Message on The Holiness of God (Session 6)

God is Holy. The word "holy" has two meanings. In one sense, "holiness" refers to God's "otherness." He is different than anything created. In another sense, it refers to God's purity, as in, "Be holy as I am Holy." This can only be accomplished in the second sense. We cannot in this life or the next achieve holiness in the first sense of the word.

We are finite. There are limits/boundaries by which we are contained. God is boundless. "God is not bound by the borders of creaturely-ness . . . No matter how far we go, we can't reach the end of God, because there is no end."

God is immutable. Creatures change, God does not. He is not subject to change. God has the power of being in and of Himself, but nothing else can exist apart from Him. God didn't die on the cross -- Jesus did. If God had died at any point in time, creation would instantly vanish.

Conclusion: The God who is holy is the God who is sovereign.

Closing Message on the Holiness of God (Session 17)
Scripture Reference: 1 Chronicles 13

"The sin of Uzza was the sin of arrogance." - Jonathan Edwards

We tend to think that God was "unreasonable" in striking Uzza dead for touching the ark of the covenant. All Uzza was trying to do was save the ark from falling into the mud. Are we to believe that it would have been better to allow the ark to fall into the mud, when the mud is so dirty? Uzza assumed that contact with the mud was a greater desecration than contact with human hands. There is no sin in the dirt. There is sin in the human hand. This is why Uzza was killed. (C.R. Numbers 4, Leviticus 10).

We have become unimpressed with grace because we expect it. And when we expect it, we lose that sense of fear, awe, and reverence for God. (R.C. Sproul told a story about his days as a professor. When his students turned in an assignment late for the first time, they feared him and were thankful for his grace in the form of an extension. But they soon assumed grace was the norm and more students began turning in their term papers late. Eventually, the students demanded grace and believed they were entitled to it. They not only did not have their papers to turn in, but they no longer feared anything would happen to them if they didn't.) We cannot forget as people under God's grace that He is still holy.

Additional Quotes on the Holiness of God During the Conference

Robert Godfrey: "This is the essence of American religion: I like sinning. God likes forgiving. The world is well put together." (Isaiah chs. 6 & 53)

Thabiti Anyabwile: "Sin is contempt toward God. Don't say it was a mistake, or I messed up."

Alistair Begg: "On what authority do you do this? The money changers never objected to what He [Jesus] said, they just wanted to know by what authority was He saying it." (John 16:5-15)

Robert Godfrey (On predestination): "How is it that some believe and some don't? It's all according to God's sovereign purpose."

Ligon Duncan: Question: "What would make an Calvinistic evangelist even get up in the morning, knowing that nothing he does will affect the outcome of his work?"
Thabiti Anyabwile: Answer: "Guaranteed success!"

R.C. Sproul (on God's sovereignty in predestination): "Let me give you pastoral counsel if you don't like this concept: TOUGH!"

If you missed it or want to watch it again, the entire conference is available to watch (including the first five sessions of the pre-conference) by clicking here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

God's Sovereignty in Creation

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1

Ever since I was a child God spoke to me through creation. There has never been a day where I have not been awed by it. I suppose though that could be said for the majority of people whether or not they believe in God. Many fight tooth and nail for a house with a view. Why is that? Because they see beauty in creation. Yet God is revealing Himself to them through creation:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.
Romans 1:18-20

As a Christian this makes perfect sense! That feeling I get when in awe of stunning scenery or a crisp, clear night sky, the bright white moon crowning it I now know it to be not with what I see alone but with the fact God is revealing Himself through it. Amazing! I see a glimpse of His glory, His majesty, His greatness!

But sadly through the years, since the theory of evolution many professing Christians try to force this theory (evolution) into their faith thus denying God's sovereignty in creation and administration. To accept evolution is to deny the creation account in Genesis and thus deny the whole of Gods Word.

Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.....Then God said...and it was so.
Genesis 1:3,9

Here we see God's sovereignty. He said and it was so. Therefore who are we to take the creation account, label it as myth, take a theory and make it fact because it is labelled "science". This requires MORE faith! All through the Bible we see God said and it was so (the plagues in Egypt, commanding weather, the fiery furnace even). Therefore, again, to deny the creative account in Genesis is to deny God's sovereignty elsewhere through the Bible. Deny His sovereignty you deny He is God. Or as Pink put it:

To say that God is sovereign is to say that God is God A.W.Pink.

God rules over all His creation.

The LORD has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all.
Psalm 103:19

We see this everyday. If God were to withdraw His governing hand from creation I dare say everything would be destroyed in moments. Everything would be in chaos! Take the weather, when we complain about it we are really murmuring against God. 'Deny that God is governing matter,deny that He is "upholding all things by the word of His power" (Heb 1:3), and all sense of security is Gone!-A.W.Pink. How true!

In meditation of the sovereignty, majesty and greatness of God I finish with a verse taken from Psalm 104. If you can I recommend turning to the whole Psalm.

O LORD, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all.
Psalm 104

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Valley of Baca

Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee;
in whose heart are the ways of them.
Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well;
the rain also filleth the pools.

Psalm 84:5,6

We are in this world "strangers and pilgrims". A stranger is away from home, but a pilgrim is on the way home. It is on this journey to our heavenly home we will come across the Valley of Baca or as it is also known, Valley of Weeping. The exact location of this valley is unknown. But what is known about it is that it appears to be a dry place. The sun burning above made the valley arid and dry. This Psalm was penned by David in exile as he watched the Israelites make their way to worship at Jerusalem. Three times a year they would make this pilgrimage.

I went through my own valley not so long ago which brought the words of Psalm 84 vividly alive to me. It was a place I was brought where I could turn to no one else but the Lord. It is a very lonely place yet also very precious. Many treasures are found in this valley if one only lifts his/her eyes to heaven and in doing so is brought to lift one's head and look around. It is a place of deep intimacy between you and the Lord and you draw ever closer to Him. It is then you thank God for your times of trouble, for this valley of weeping. How precious is your communion with the Lord at this time. Only you MUST draw near to Him and bring all before Him:

casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.1 Peter 5:7

You must turn to Him in this hour of trouble and cast your cares upon Him and:

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.James 4:8

In so doing we are digging a well in this dry and arid valley just as others before us. Here is a wonderful quote by J.C.Philpot who gave a fantastic sermon on the valley of Baca;

“Make it a well;” that is, there are from time to time sweet refreshments in this valley of tears; there are bubblings up of divine consolation; there are fountains of living waters, streams of heavenly pleasures. And when the sun-burnt, weary pilgrims, all parched and dry, are journeying through this valley, and their tongues cleave to the roof of their mouths with thirst, the Lord from time to time opens up in this valley a well; as we read, Isaiah 41:17-18,When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and dry land springs of water.”

“Some manifestation of His gracious presence, some promise coming with power to the soul, some testimony of saving interest in the love and blood of Jesus, some smile from His countenance, some word from His lips, some encouraging testimony that the feet are upon the rock, is given. This is a well at which his thirst is slaked; his parched tongue no longer cleaves to his palate; he drinks of the water that bubbles up from the thirsty soil to refresh the weary pilgrim.”

C.H. Spurgeon also wrote about this valley. It is a result of his going through the valley of weeping. No one who has not traveled the valley of weeping can tell of this place no more than can anyone tell of a far country in which they have never been to! But for those who have travelled through this place, perhaps many times, have left wells dug, way-marks if you will for the next pilgrim to find.

The Psalm also speaks of pools which the rain fills. How amazing that the wells were not the only resource! But notice how it is the rain that fills them. We can dig the pool but it must be filled from heaven. These pools can be "the means of grace, the ordinances of the Lord's house, and those various helps that the Lord Himself has appointed; but which are themselves as desolate and dry as the pool or tank, and need the rain of heaven to fill them".

How often I have been refreshed by these pools. Prayer was an opportunity to get back into the presence of God and enjoy sweet communion with Him while the storm raged. Reading His Word and claiming His promises found in them revived me. Listening to the word being preached encouraged me. But how often have I come to a pool and found it dry! Again Philpot actually remarks on this very well:

“I find them so [dry], you find them so, who know the difference between the letter and the Spirit, between “bodily exercise which profits little,” and the power of vital godliness that is profitable unto all things. The Lord will teach his people this; and He will teach it his ministers also. They may construct a pool-in their parlours at home they may build a very pretty tank; it may be divided and sub-divided; a cell here, and a compartment there. And they may come with their pools to chapel. But unless the rain fills it from above, all their ingenuity will be thrown away.”

This valley is a painful experience and one we must never think is only travelled through once. But when we do find ourselves in this valley again be comforted and encouraged. There is much to refresh the soul here if we would only dig and seek it. Communion with Christ is all the more intimate in this place and therefore a place to be cherished. We can also leave our own way-marks for others and be comforted to know that others have been here by their way-marks left.
All my springs are in thee. Psalm 87:7

Monday, March 23, 2009

The New Creature

A friend and I were discussing the sad condition of many a church today. It is in sad times we live when we cannot even recommend anywhere for the new convert, which happened to be the main topic of our conversation. It is worse still when leaders are content with the way things are. But then our focus was shifted on the new creature and what this life looks like! I believe Horatious Bonar sums up the differences wonderfully. He paints a beautifully balanced description of both. I cannot do it justice so will quote it here for you. Enjoy!

“Take yon member of the church. He wears the garb and bears the name of Christ. He is a fair average specimen of a large class. He has the profession of being a Christian yet he is fond of the world! He grasps at its gold. He loves its fashionable gaiety. He reads his novels. He frequents its haunts of amusements. He enjoys its company. He relishes its foolish talking and jesting. Is he a new creature in Christ Jesus? Is it possible that with so much worldliness, so much selfishness, so much self-indulgence, so much pleasing of the flesh, he can have been born again whatever his profession may be?Sin has become hateful. Holiness has become supremely attractive.
A new creature then, old feelings, old habits, old tastes, old hopes, old joys, old sorrows, old haunts, old companionships are all gone. Old things have passed away. All things have become new. Formally I sought the things of this world, so now by the necessity of my new nature I seek the things above. Sin has become hateful. Holiness has become supremely attractive. My vision has been purged so that now I see everything as with a new eye. The evil with an eye which loathes it. The holy with an eye which loves it. I approach everything with new feelings, new tastes, new sympathies, new antipathies. I behold everything in a new light and from a new point of view. My self, this world, the world to come, God, Christ and the everlasting joys. All these are to me now what they have never been before. My whole inner man has changed, respecting them. There has been a new creation. What then have I to do with sin? With the flesh? With the vanities of so vain a life as the men of this world are leading? Oh, the unimaginable blessedness of those on whom this new creation has taken place. Oh the unutterable, the endless misery on whom no change has passed in whom old things still remain.”

How amazing is this creative miracle! How amazing is Gods sovereign grace!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17

Friday, March 20, 2009

Encouraging One Another

I cannot believe how time flies between posts! Getting a quiet moment in my house is rare indeed. I reserve the first ones to be with the Lord but to find another in the day is near impossible. Needless to say I have been struggling to catch up to the next post! I'm so glad I have sympathisers out there who understand what it is like to be a wife and mother, it encourages me to know I'm not alone. Speaking of brethren who encourage brings me to the point of this post, of which I must confess may stray slightly off this month's theme. That being said when we do talk about God it is impossible not to overlap themes sometimes!

How amazing it is that the smallest distractions in life can build up so much that your vision becomes very narrow. Let me give you an example from personal experience;
This year began with good intentions. I prayed and determined that I would keep up with all my commitments. I even gave some up because of time. But in time, in no time at all really, everyday concerns, cares and needs had me pressed in on all sides scrambling for more time. My head hit the pillow and that was it, I was out like a light! Until the next morning it started all over again. After a while without realising it my vision would only extend to the everyday concerns that would wrapped around me. Those good intentions seemed to get further and further away! I longed to be out with others witnessing but it wasn't an option. With my husbands long shifts and no family to help with the children there's rarely time to go out anywhere. That zealousness for sharing the gospel you could feel dying down as much as you don't want it to. The desire is still there but not as strong. Circumstances seem to get the better of you until.........

In the briefest of moments God uses someone, a brother or sister to shine like a beacon and reignite that passion you had and encourage you on. You may not even meet this brother/sister face to face but it could be something as simple (yet precious) as a testimony, a song or maybe just a word. They are encouraging without even knowing it!

Enter my most recent beacon of light, Deborah Drapper. A 13 year old girl born into a large Christian family in the south of England. The most amazing documentary of this young girl can be seen below. Watching it really set my heart on fire again to press on through my daily toil and extend my vision once more. And what do you know!...........only yesterday at the most unusual time two Jehovah's Witnesses came to my door! God has brought the opportunities to me!!!

So brethren, be encouraged to know that your devotion and faithfulness to God, when seen by others will bring encouragement to them. Granted I should not have allowed my everyday chores to distract me from seeking first the Kingdom of God!
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day [is] its own trouble.Matthew 6:33-34

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Constitutional Peasants

I am not exactly what one would call a Monty Python fan, however, there are certain bits I really enjoy. Perhaps my favorite skit of all time is the "Constitutional Peasant." This scene, taken from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, depicts a smart-aleck peasant who insists on arguing politics with King Arthur, who merely wants to know the answer to a simple question. Listen carefully for some of the objections raised by Dennis, the "Constitutional Peasant," against Arthur's authority:

Two things are evident in this scene: 1) Arthur is king; and 2) Dennis doesn't like it. In fact, Dennis comes up with numerous reasons why Arthur's sovereignty does not apply to him, why he thinks Arthur's rule is oppressive and therefore wrong, and how things should be run. Yet Dennis' feelings and opinions do not change the fact that Arthur is king. While it makes for great comedy, there is a ring of truth to this exchange when we consider its similarity to our human understanding of God's sovereignty.

Not too long ago I had read a transcript of a panel discussion in which one of the members of that panel, John MacArthur, had made an excellent point regarding sovereignty. MacArthur said that people who are accustomed to democratic rule will especially struggle with the idea of sovereignty. Here is an excerpt from that interview:
PASTOR MACARTHUR: I also think that Americans have a specially difficult time with this, because we don't know what a monarchy feels like. We have never lived under a sovereign ruler. We don't have any concept of that. You would find people historically in a culture where they're ruled by a king, who have a very clear understanding, and willingly bend their minds to the fact that somebody can actually be in charge. Not everybody is an elected official. Some people have a divine right to sovereignty. This is a bigger problem in America, I think, than it is in Europe . . . And it has to do with, I think, as much culturally, we just really have a hard time understanding that somebody is the king, and the king does whatever the king wants to do. And the King of the universe does exactly what He wants to do, whenever He wants to do it . . . And we don't like the idea of not being free, you know. We want to have the freedom to choose whatever we want to choose. And that may be the American way, but that isn't the biblical way.

I think this is an exceptionally astute observation. Much of what we understand about God is unfortunately overshadowed by our own personal experience, and even worse, our own personal opinion. We forget that God is King. We like to talk back to Him. We raise our objections using our puffed up knowledge and our fancy, inflated vocabularies. We like to make the decisions, take votes, and decide - on the basis of "majority vote" - what is right and what is wrong. Yet this does not negate the fact that God is King, and the King has spoken.

It is easy to see this rebellious attitude in others who openly and deliberately reject Christ. Like Dennis, they argue that "supreme executive power comes from a mandate from the masses," and not some "farcical" story about a Messiah who conquered the grave. But this attitude often continues to live in our hearts, even after we have sworn loyalty to the King. We object when circumstances do not go our way. We cry "foul!" when we are reminded that we did not seek after God, but rather, He chose us. We struggle with doctrines that are clearly taught in scripture, and assume that if we take a church "vote" on it, we can change the rules to better suit our liking.

When things do not go according to our plans, let's not be "constitutional peasants", crying out, "Help, help! I'm being repressed!" every time God attempts to mortify our pride or give us a thorn in the flesh. We are merely peasants who have been granted the privilege of addressing Him directly. But He is King, He is sovereign, and He is all-powerful. When we try to raise objections against the Sovereign, Almighty King of Kings based on the concept that we are entitled to certain inalienable "rights," we become, like this scene, nothing short of comical. I have been guilty of being a constitutional peasant. Have you?

Click here to read the complete transcript of the panel discussion featuring John MacArthur, or listen to a recording of it, courtesy of Grace to You.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Knowing God

Last month here at Reformed SHEology the theme of the month was Total Depravity. This month as you know our theme is the Sovereignty of God. Yet very sadly however within the church today and in Pink's time;

“Few, very few, today really believe in the complete ruin and total depravity of man....there are fewer still who really believe in the absolute sovereignty of God.” - A.W.Pink

As a result what is being taught in the pulpits affects our understanding of salvation and even our walk with God. This is exactly what happened to me....

Growing up I believed in God. Deep and firmly rooted within me I knew God existed. However the only place I learnt of God as a child was in school. It was a CofE and we often visited the church we were linked to for the usual celebrated dates. I was in complete awe of the church building. As I sat on those hard wooden pews, tapping the worn prayer cushion on the cold stone floor with my foot, staring at the colourful picture book windows and the smell of incense in the air my mind would wander. My thoughts were far from what was going on in the service. When those thoughts weren't on wondering how to get to the top of the tower to see the bells, they were always on the Being for whom this beautiful building was crafted and constructed for. The church became for me a very special place. It was a kind of refuge for my thoughts. I was Christened there with my brother and sister, took part in school nativity plays for parents and the congregation....... until I was nine and we moved. My life would never be the same again.

Far from where I grew up and in a new school, by God's providence (though I didn't know it at the time) God continued to be made known to me by my new headteacher. A short yet quite broadly built man with a strong Welsh accent(kind of like a granddad type figure, lol.) In every assembly he would sing loudly and almost very proudly, hymns from the school's hymn books. He sang so passionately in fact that I believed every word he sang. Like the building had done, those words drew my attention to the person and work of the Lord. No one really taught me how to pray; I would just talk to God. It was safe to say that growing up I did have a tender conscience however it was often mocked and trampled on. It wasn't "normal" for a child to be so "soft" especially in my family. The women are all very independent and strong minded. But the days came where I was forced to face the harsh realities of life. I felt I had to try and take on some of those characteristics of the women in my family just to survive. Slowly but surely I was pushing aside God and my conscience.I said the prayer, was baptised and that was that. I became just another notch on the belt.

Fast forward to where I was reintroduced to the Lord. He never completely left my mind and neither had my conscience. But the church I became a part of never told me of my sin, only urged me to accept Jesus "back" into my life. I said the prayer, was baptised and that was that. I became just another notch on the belt. Over the next few years I would genuinely seek God but just didn't know why Jesus had to die. No one told me what sin was and the need to be saved. I was in church for years before someone held up to me the mirror of the law and I saw myself for who I really was.....totally sinful, lost and helpless to do anything to save myself. Then I saw Jesus upon the cross and the joy that filled my heart to realise what He had done for me only to be followed by the shock and horror of my sinful self.

There He was.

There I was.

I fell to the foot of the cross in repentance, understood that there on my knees I had to die to self and stand up as a new creation in Christ, take up my cross and follow Him. No more would I be blindly groping in the dark trying to find my own way. Suddenly all made sense to me. I was led to believe that as I let go of God growing up He became a helpless figure unable to tame me. That I was in total control of my life and that I chose Him to "come into my life". OH how wrong I was!

Now as I looked back I saw things very differently. My life now up to this point made complete sense. It wasn't chaotic and unpredictable as I viewed it before. Tracing my footsteps I could see I was never alone. God was directing my steps. I wasn't the independent, free spirit I thought I had become. Far far from it. I wasn't free at all. I was a slave to the wrong master. All this time God had been drawing me to Him. I saw His long suffering towards me. No longer was Salvation for me about choosing the Lord and finding Him but He found me, opened my eyes to sin and the price He paid on the cross!

How many more similar stories I have heard since then. A failure to see ourselves as we really are effects our knowledge of Him. Yet once we realise our need for the Saviour (a truth that needs to be preached more today) we can begin to learn who God is, His attributes, to understand He is sovereign. As we learn more about Him and draw near to the Lord in relationship our faith strengthens and there can be no denying that God is in complete control. This knowledge brings with it comfort:
But When we receive all that enters our lives as from His hand, then, no matter what may be our circumstances or surroundings-whether in a hovel, a prison-dungeon, or a martyrs stake-we shall be enabled to say, “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places” (Psalm 16:6). But that is the language of faith, not of sight.”-Pink

As I started my new life in Christ I grew to know Him. It was progressive but the more I learn who He is the more I love Him and the more we focus and fix our thoughts on Him there will be rest for the heart and peace for the mind. Mere head knowledge alone will not do. We must also know God!

To quote Pink once more;
“The people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits, Daniel 11:32 We know of nothing which is more calculated to infuse spiritual vigour into our frames than a scriptural apprehension of the full character of God.”

In summary, it is crucially important that we understand the basic Christian truths and how we apply them, to have a right view of ourselves, and of God. Once we understand God is sovereign we see Him as the the potter and we as the clay, the Lord as The Good Shepherd and we as His sheep. This is the abundant life indeed!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

So Many Men, So Little Time!

Choosing a marriage partner is perhaps one of the most important decisions in a person's life. For this reason, many people believe it is best to choose from a wide selection of individuals. With so many millions of people in this world, the task of finding "The One" can seem extremely daunting. There's always that nagging thought that if we just hold out a little longer, something better will come along. When we finally do settle, we have a tendency to look at all the others and ask, "What if I made the wrong choice?"

Today, the internet was ablaze with discussion of the American television program, The Bachelor. Like its counterpart The Bachelorette, the show features a man who must choose a wife from a group of 25 women (or a woman who must choose a husband from a group of 25 men). Last night's episode marks with striking accuracy why playing the field is not the best way to find "The One." If you didn't see the show, don't worry - I didn't either -- but countless clips and articles are available online for you to catch up on all the ugly details.

In a nutshell, Jason had whittled his decision from 25 women down to 2. He sent Molly home and proposed marriage to Melissa. But six weeks later, he changed his mind and decided he'd rather be engaged to Molly. The play-by-play is detailed in this article from Yahoo! TV, which includes a culmination of some of the most comprehensive comments made by angry female viewers from around the web. Truly, what Jason did to Melissa is nothing short of despicable. But Jason's problem was not that his feelings for one woman dissolved. Jason's problem was that he was distracted by another. (Two viewers astutely observe in the above article that Jason's fickleness only proves Molly has no security in Jason's declarations of affection, either.)

How many of us are still playing the bachelorette and "dating" 25 men in our minds, even long after we are married?As Christians, we look at this cheap imitation of courtship with disdain. We would never date 25 men, and certainly not all at the same time! But how many of us find ourselves just as distracted as Jason by other members of the opposite sex? How many of us are still playing the bachelorette and "dating" 25 men in our minds, even long after we are married? Perhaps we can console ourselves by rationalizing that we don't have to worry because we've never had the problem of choosing a husband from 25 men. Yet let's be honest: how many of us have secretly been vacillating between two men, (even long after we are married)?

One of the main sources of this dilemma is the view that we are looking for the right man "for us." Never mind that marriage is a vehicle by which we must strive to glorify God - we insist it is all about us. We reject a genuinely nice guy who's asked for a courtship because he's missing some superficial quality that we perceive would significantly reduce our level of happiness. Or we perceive that someone other than our current spouse can make us "happier," so we get a divorce. Simliarly, when we are faced with more than one suitor (and when men are faced with more than one woman to pursue), confusion sets in because we are focusing not on God's will for our marriages, but on our own selfish desires. We only consider what might please us most: "Bill's got a great sense of humor, but he just doesn't listen to me the way John does." When we do not learn to rest in God's sovereignty, we carry this thinking over into the marriage itself: "Why can't my husband be more like Larry?" or, "Perhaps I made a mistake and should have married Charlie instead."

If your thoughts are similar to these, one thing is certain: God is not in control of the situation - you are. The Bible tells us that God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). If we find ourselves in a situation where we are torn between two options, regardless of what we feel, we must shut out the opposing voices and rely on God's voice alone. Recognizing His sovereignty in our lives is a surefire way to eliminate all our doubts.

Someone once said, "The safest place on earth that you can be is in God's will." This is true always, but it is a crucial piece of advice when it comes to choosing a marriage partner.Someone once said, "The safest place on earth that you can be is in God's will." This is true always, but it is a crucial piece of advice when it comes to choosing a marriage partner. There will always be those in the world who will insist that they want to be in control of their own lives. But when it comes to choosing a marriage partner, the best guidance these people often have is a few trite words of advice set to music. As Christians, we can rest in the comfort of knowing that God has made these decisions for us. If you are married, there will be no regrets or "what ifs" when you survey your marriage to your husband. And if you are a single woman who does not have two dozen men chasing after you, consider yourself blessed. When one does show interest, you can be sure the absence of the other twenty-three will not distract you from hearing God say, "This is the one!"

Do not stress over the idea that the grass could be greener somewhere else. When we consider that it will essentially take the rest of our lives to fully know just one man, we will never be able to assess every other brother in Christ who may have made a good marriage partner. There's so many men, and so little time. Life is short. Spend it with the man God gives you, and spend it rejoicing:
Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 9:9)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

August Rush

This is one of those movies you'll either love or hate. As always, my hope is you'll love it, as I'd hate for you to sit through something you didn't like for two hours. And as usual, this is a secular film, more humanistic than Christian. Yet I chose it for one main reason: it showed me how incredibly cynical I can be.

At first, the cynic in me mocked this movie. For one thing, much of the plot depends on a string of serendipitous coincidences. I found myself saying, "Aw, come on! Like THAT would ever happen!" Then about halfway through the story, it hit me . . . carefully orchestrated events such as these happen all the time! They are child's play to God. As I realized my attitude, my heart changed. I can now say I absolutely love this movie, and with that, I present to you, August Rush, the story of an orphaned musical prodigy who finds his parents with the help of a social worker and a little thing called fate. Our theme of the month is, coincidentally, "The Sovereignty of God".

Year: 2007 (Rated PG)
Directed by Kristen Sheridan
Starring Robin Williams, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Terrence Howard, and Freddie Highmore.
Setting: New York City, 1996-2007.

Content warning: Mild language (The word "damn" is uttered about 10 times in one scene by street children. The Lord's name is never taken in vain.) Some mild scenes of violence, mostly in the form of intimidation of children. An implied reference to fornication at the beginning of the film (Couple kisses at night and wakes up the next day in an embrace, fully clothed). And I am pleased to report that this one has a happy ending!

1. Watch your attitude. If you're anything like me, you'll be rolling your eyes at first, thinking, "What are the odds of that happening?" but if you stop to think of some of your favorite Bible stories, you'll remember that in real life, events such as these can and do happen against the odds. Remember God is sovereign!

2. Music as a metaphor for God. The creators of this film did not intend for it to be that way, but Christians will appreciate the similarities between the personification of music in this film and the force of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Music appears to be that driving force that compels these characters to make certain decisions. At one point, August (Freddie Highmore) says of music, "Only some people can hear," to which Wizard (Robin Williams) replies, "Only some people will listen." Great exchange of dialogue, and also reminiscent of God's presence in the world.

3. Music as an expression of human emotion. There is a lot to be enjoyed in an auditory sense. There's an eclectic mix of all sorts of genres, from alternative rock to classical music. There's also a great gospel choir!

4. Another interesting commentary on orphans and adoption. Lyla Novacek (Keri Russell) decides to carry the child full term, despite her father's urging to "get rid of it." Lyla seems to know this is not just a living being inside her, but an extension of herself and Louis (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers).

The story is loosely based on Charles Dickens' classic, Oliver Twist.

Click here for the official website. The official trailer is below: