Book Introduction

(The following will be the Introduction to the book, Beyond a Mere Christianity. As I begin the steps required for publishing this new book, I would like to do something I have never done — to share the process with our readers. It began as a series in June 2018, as we have posted what the Lord has given for this project. I appreciate all who have responded with Likes and Comments.

As I continue to write and publish, I want to start a beta group. Beta readers receive a copy of the book and read and reply with comments and critique. These read before the book’s final edit. For those who are interested in being a part of this group or of a review group, please leave a comment to let me know. Readers and reviewers receive free copies.)

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Introduction
When I began this series on my blog in June 2018, I did not know if it would become a book. Like Abram, not foreseeing what the end would be, I simply started with faith that the Lord was leading and blessing the process for me to seek His will, His instructions, and His provisions. He continues to reveal amazing things of His kingdom. Even as I write this introduction, it is with a knowledge that I did not have a year ago.

Now, I want to continue on this new course with joy and excitement to edit, and format as soon as possible. I had hoped to publish by my eightieth birthday on August 1 but decided to settle down and enjoy how the Lord would bring this to pass in His own timing. Every day in obedience, there is communion and fellowship with Him as He continues to show me His ways, teach me His paths, and lead me in His truth – for He is the God of my salvation, and I wait on Him all day (Psalm 25:5)

Why the title Beyond a Mere Christianity? C.S. Lewis’ book was the first of the two other books and a sermon that came to mind when I posted the list of chapters on the blog. Each of them is used in reference to the Christian faith, each by men who have died but whose works are still speaking to people today. After reading and studying these books by C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Oswald Chambers, and Jonathan Edward’s sermon, my memory retained much of what they taught. The Lord used each one to bring me to a greater knowledge of Him.

Though I have lived longer than these men, I can never know all they knew. But the Lord has challenged me during every decade to seek more and more of His kingdom through a committed and vibrant relationship with Him.

This treatise is meant to challenge each of us to take what we have received from all sources, to seek and add more and grow stronger in our faith. Most of the valuable works for the kingdom are by men who are no longer living but the Lord still lives to lead us beyond what we have already – so as not to be satisfied with what men give us.

He sits as our great High Priest, with the promise and power of the Holy Spirit, to teach us from His Holy Word. The more time we spend with Him personally in prayer and study of His Word, the more powerful our Christian faith becomes. From generation to generation, we learn and share with others.

Meaning of the Word Mere
Until beginning the introduction to the book, I did not do a thorough search for the meaning of the word mere.

There is a definition of mere meaning pure, simplebeing nothing more than specified.
From the same source is another definition: a small pond of standing water. Vocabulary.com

This meaning has become intriguing as the noun mere, which means lake; a shallow body of water. This definition lends itself to the meaning of this book.  Christianity is thought by some to be shallow – as a small pond of standing water. Such thoughts negate the moving of the Holy Spirit and the depth of His working in the hearts and lives of God’s people.

In a synonym study, Dictionary.com compares the words mere and bare, which imply a scant sufficiency. They are often interchangeable, but mere frequently means no more than (enough). Thus, a mere livelihood means enough to live on but no more; a bare livelihood means scarcely enough to live on

So, when I hear the title Mere Christianity, it seems from my former understanding  to mean that Christianity is nothing more than any other religion. When we try to make Christianity a common faith, we are in danger of dumbing down the power that Christ died to give us. We lose the essence of the faith that is by grace alone, the working of the Holy Spirit for revelation of the truths of God’s Word. 

Many, by reading Lewis’ book, have been encouraged to embrace Christianity even as he did. I believe God has used His work to bring many to a knowledge they never had and who may have become followers of Christ. My purpose in writing is to look beyond what he believed, spoke, and wrote, to discover a greater depth, beyond a mere Christianity; for a mere Christianity will not suffice for Christ’s followers to proclaim and live the legacy God has bestowed on His children.

Lewis may have used the word “Mere” to express the idea of the Christian faith as pure and simple. It is pure. It is simple and needs nothing added for those who embrace Christ and who live by the power of the Holy Spirit. But to those who do not know Him, Christianity is a complex, misunderstood faith. It is much, much more to those who are growing in the doctrines of the faith. It is a living faith — a powerful faith beyond any others. It is a way of life to those who have been transformed by the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Word of God – The Holy Bible.

When the gospel is watered down to satisfy everybody, we withhold the wealth that comes only by a personal relationship with the Father and Jesus, His Son. Christianity comes at a high price, the blood of Jesus Christ, and requires more than we are able to give in return.

To receive the inheritance that is ours in Christ is a supernatural act of the Holy Spirit working through new hearts, drawn to and committed to Him. His grace does not relieve us of duty, but binds us to it and fulfills the requirement, whereby we experience this new life, a heavenly life above and beyond what most people know.

Others have written from Lewis’ theme but from different perspectives. In the following chapters, we will incorporate many facets of the kingdom that our heavenly Father reveals to us, through His Word and His Holy Spirit, in and through the life of His Son, Jesus Christ. Through these, we pray He will make clear His role as a loving heavenly Father, Creator, Redeemer, and our Life; His presence, power, His name, His kingdom, and His will.

These are His truths, promises, and blessings for a people who know Him, fear Him, love Him, obey, worship, serve, praise, pray, proclaim, and live in the power of  the good news of Christ, who are being transformed as living sacrifices and conformed to His image, bearing the fruit of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance, holiness, righteousness, truth, grace, humility and compassion.

This is to live the “abundant life” (John 10:10) in the “fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:19) — “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27)  here in this life, as He continues to prepare us for eternity with Him. True Christianity is separate from any other religion — and the reality of a holy life in union with our heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, by the power of His Holy Spirit. (I know that I am repeating myself.)

He reveals Himself to and in us as Jehovah, the Lord our God. He sires children of His own who are HIs image-bearers. Though not perfect, we are His off-spring through His Son, as He continues to lead us through an imperfect world, shining through us His holiness and humility.

He calls us to discover the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10). He leads us to more than a casual swim in a shallow pond. He brings us to the ocean’s edge and directs us to “Launch out into the deep.”

Gracious and glorious Father, continue to lead us in the paths of righteousness, leaving our shallow thoughts of you to plunge the depths of your grace, your love, your presence and power — to live the abundant life to which you call us in Christ. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Fran

The Fullness of God in One Body

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,
as the manner of some is.

Hebrews 10:25

What happens when we neglect corporate worship?

A part of the body of Christ is missing.  Imagine that one of your fingers separated itself from your body or could decide on its own that it would not respond to you?  Usually, more than one member neglects to attend worship on the Lord’s Day.  So, imagine a finger, a foot, and one of your organs missing.  You are hindered from a full capacity of life. Jerry’s left leg was amputated twelve years ago.  He still enjoys life, but he will tell you that it is not a full life.

So, too, the body of Christ comes short of what it needs to operate at its fullness.  True — worship is planned and carried on for those who are there, but let’s imagine what worship looks like when the whole body is present and actively participating in the worship to which He calls us.

Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you (everybody) the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. Ephesians 1: 15-23

The church—each member—has its calling, as an heir of the riches of His glory.  It is our inheritance, as His saints. What Christ has secured in heaven is for all His body.  His fullness fills all members with all that we need to rule with Him in His kingdom. Christ as the authority and head over all things has given dominion and power to the members of His body.

Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:16-21 expresses the same truth.

That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Now unto
him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

He is speaking of all believers, all members, of the body of Christ.  In this prayer, Paul is praying that our heavenly Father will give His Spirit–according to the riches of his glory to do the work in the hearts—in the inner man —–for what purpose? That they may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which is beyond (human) knowledge.

Can one member receive all?  Can one heart conceive of the love of Christ? No! It was never meant to be. It is beyond any one of us to know—to comprehend—such a love.  Christ, who is the fullness of the body, sends His Holy Spirit to fill each heart with its portion—its small measure. (Ephesians 4:16)  For who could hold such knowledge, such love as is ours in Christ.  It is His working to give each the portion of our inheritance allotted and to bring that measure together with the others.

When we neglect to meet with the other saints we not only fail to bring what we have received, but we miss the knowledge that we would have received from the other members. Some part of the love of Christ is withheld from the body, and we go lacking that which we could have received.

And so the members of the body of Christ go through the following days, weeks and years, wondering why life is not what it should be.  We are hungry and thirsty for something good, not understanding that all the fullness of life is in Christ; that our hunger and thirst will never be met outside the whole body of Christ, and we are withholding something that someone else needs. As members of one body, let us exhort one another for the faithful attendance to His worship and His Word.

“And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love
one toward another, and toward all men,
even as we do toward you:
To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable
in holiness before God, even our Father,
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ
with all his saints.”

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

Father, we need the gift of your Holy Spirit to fill and stir each of our hearts with a measure of Christ’s love. Move us to bring that portion to our worship today so that we may all know the fullness and glory of your presence. In Jesus’ name, I pray and thank you. Amen.
Fran

Images: Google

Contentment vs. Anxiety

Why has it taken so long for me to write this post?

It is not because I have been at my task of caring for Jerry. It is not because there are not enough hours in the day to witness of the Lord’s goodness ~ this is the reason I write.

Titles come so very easily, but the meat is not always simple to come by. We long to publish the truths of the Father’s kingdom, but it must come by experience. And so this is true of the subject matter of contentment and anxiety.

Growing up in an environment of anxiety stamps a person for life, until we encounter Christ and learn of Him.

Then, we are born and sealed with His Spirit of promise, sanctified, and set apart for His use.

But even as Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord, so we wrestle for the promises that are ours in Him. This wrestling is the work of the Holy Spirit within us, bringing us to know the promises through God’s Word, claiming them, and working through life with the two-edged sword to destroy the strongholds that have have been set up in our lives.

There is as much difference between contentment and anxiety as between day and night. The difference is as light and darkness; as good and evil. And each has its ownership and connotations.  Books have been written, messages spoken and songs sung, and we could say more, but we post very simply today of how the Lord brings us from the anxiety of this life to contentment in Him.

The Source and the Fruit
Anxiety is the abnormal attitude of human beings; the seed thought of every man; flowing from the spring of unbelief.

“O, ye of little faith.”

“Yes, Lord, I hear you. I recognize your voice. I acknowledge my lack of faith.”

“Why do you doubt?”

“I have no excuse. My thoughts carry me where I do not want to go. They seem to have a power of their own.”

“Have I not proven that I love you and am able to provide all that you need?”

“Yes, Lord, I am guilty of forgetting you and your goodness when my thoughts wonder away from you. When times are difficult I am carried away by the moment. I am still learning to be content in every circumstance. I confess my sin, and ask that your Spirit keep me in your Word, to always remember your promises. Let me not dwell on the things of the world, and the power of the enemy. But let your Word be the source of my thoughts, to do its work. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation and the contentment that is ours in you. Bear in and through me the fruit of your Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, temperance; the fruit of holiness, righteousness, truth, grace, and humility. Fill me with your fullness, so there is no room for doubt or fear, but only thoughts of you, your grace and your glory.”
Fran

image: Google

Humility and Exaltation ~ Chapter 12

As we come to the end of our year’s review of Humility~The Beauty of Holiness (PDF) by Andrew Murray there are certain things that are evident. These remain ever and always throughout this life, and concern not only the whole of this life but the next.

1.  Pride must be slain; it is our worst enemy.

2.  We must die to self.

3.  We must humble ourselves before God and men.

We have found these to be necessary for holiness and a real relationship with God; and for any worthwhile relationship with man.  They are also beyond our doing. The supernatural things required in this life by our Creator and Redeemer are realized only by His own power working in and through us as His creation.

1209960215lqloOp As vessels created and redeemed for His glory we must be emptied, so that He has His rightful place in us to do His work. A vessel filled with pride has no room for God. We have as much power to die to self as we do to create ourselves. When we know the power of the heavenly Father working through His Spirit, His Word, in our hearts, minds, and our circumstances, we are brought to see the humility that is still needed.

When we realize that we need the humility of Christ, desire it, pray for it, seek it with all our hearts ~ even as we seek Christ with all our hearts ~ He will work it in us. Though we would want it to happen overnight we see that it is a lifetime process. We may lose count of how many times we are knocked off our pedestal of pride, broken, chastised, and humiliated by others; but if we are God’s children He will shake us lose from the gripe of pride, bring us to deny self, humble ourselves and follow Christ in His humility.

“He must increase; I decrease.”  John 3:30

Exaltation happens from the ground up. Until we are low enough we are too heavy to be raised. Until we are empty we have no room for the love that fills and lifts us by His grace. We have nothing of our own worth keeping.   A vessel held up on its own continues to fall and remains unfilled, hungry, and desolate for what He gives.

 It is not until God has everything that we get anything.

In His own power He raises us to fulfill in us all for which He created and redeemed us ~ that He would show forth His glory through us for His service, His own praise and exaltation; that we may “glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.” (Shorter Catechism)

“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity,
whose name is Holy;

I dwell in the high and holy place,
with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit,

to revive the spirit of the humble,
and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

Isaiah 57:15

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Dear heavenly Father, thank you for bringing us month to month through this study again.  You have shown that it must be a continual study, accompanied by your Word and the Spirit of Christ in us.  Thank you for pressing upon our hearts the need and fulfillment that you are able to provide.  Keep us ever seeking Christ and His humility so that nothing prevents the work of your praise and service through us for your names’ sake and for your glory.  I ask a special blessing for those who have been with us this year for this review; and for any who may read these later.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

Related Article: A Year For Humility

Riverbeds

Trinity-River

Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
coming down from the Father above;
Sweep over my spirit forever I pray,
in fathomless billows of love.”

 This is the chorus of a hymn that I sang as a child.  Recently I began singing it again, and couldn’t get it out of mind for a long while.

The thought of the hymn led me to John 7:37-39.

“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.  (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive; for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”

W.D. Cornell knew what Jesus meant by these words, and must have composed this hymn Wonderful Peace (sheet music) with this text in mind.

The world and God’s people are in need of such peace as Jesus gives.  It is a peace that comes from the Father through Jesus Christ, in the power of His Spirit and His Word.  It is a peace that passes understanding, that keeps the heart and mind in Christ Jesus. It is the peace of God.  (Philippians 4:7)  He is the God of peace. (Hebrews 13:20) He is the very God of peace, Who sanctifies us. (1 Thessalonians 5:23) Peace is from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (2 Timothy 1:2) Christ is our peace. (Ephesians 2:14)  Peace is a fruit of the Spirit.  (Galatians 5:22)  And the work of righteousness shall be peace. (Isaiah 32:18) Great peace have they which love His law. (Psalm 118:165)  Peace is to the brethren, with love and faith. (Ephesians 6:23)

When I read of such peace in His Word there is the same sense in me that was in the writer of this hymn.  When I come to Christ in obedience to His word, in prayer, praising Him, trusting Him, loving Him, asking for this river of living water, He is gracious to give, as He has promised.

The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that “All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.” (1:7)

The fullness of God is waiting to be poured out into waiting and willing hearts.  I pray for this greater love and peace that washes over us conforming us to the image of Christ, His Son.  His fullness is not ours alone, but to make us riverbeds over and through which He reaches His people. He, by His Spirit and the washing of the water by the word, provides a channel through which His grace and love can flow unhindered.

“Jesus calls us o’er the tumult of the world’s wild, restless sea.
Day by day His sweet voice soundeth, saying, “Christian, follow me.”

I pray that He would make us channels for His Spirit, and fill us to overflowing with praise, prayer, and the proclamation of the love of Christ, that others may know His peace—for His glory and our joy.

“Hereby perceive we the love of God,
because he laid down his life for us;
and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
1 John 3:16

(From Waiting is Not a Game ~ Articles of Faith 2007)
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