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Eowyn's Heart

The name of this blog is based on the character Eowyn from Lord of the Rings because I strongly identify with her on many levels. The purpose of this blog is to proclaim the glory of my Lord and King through His work in conforming me into the image of His Son, Christ Jesus. In all things, I trust you will see His hand at work.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Return to Me - Day 5 - Part 2

Good Morning :-)

I wanted to touch base on two passages - 2 Corinthians 10:5 and Proverbs 23:7- a couple of days ago but ran out of time.  Plus, what I'm going to discuss here is more of a "side note" to the study than related to the topic for the day.  The awesome thing is, I learned something new!!  :-)  And this is surprising because these are passages I've been familiar with and used all my life - to realize that I never really applied my own teaching of "everything IN CONTEXT" to these verses was a bit of a revelation.  So grateful the Holy Spirit still teaches!  And, yet another reminder to anyone who reads this - EVERY human teaching should be measured against Scripture and EVERY Scripture must be observed in it's textual and cultural context!  :-)

So - on to my thoughts.  Specifically, I have used the "taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" ( 2 Cor 10:5b, NASB) as a reference for teaching that we are to be mindful of our thoughts and not let ungodly or inaccurate thoughts settle in our minds.  This is a daily struggle and I still believe that this is ESSENTIAL to holy Christ-like living.  I have supported this with Proverbs 23:7, which tells us, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he" (NASB).  

Now - both of these verses teach the principle of being careful of what you think about & dwell on - HOWEVER - that is NOT their PRIMARY meaning when you look at them IN CONTEXT!!!!  Surprise, Surprise!! (to me, anyway).  Let's look & learn, shall we??  :-)

Let's go back to verse 3 of the 2nd Corinthians passage (get out your Bible or click on THIS link, I'm not going to re-type the whole thing here).  I think verses 3-6 give us solid context for the phrase we are looking at.

Here's the key - "taking every thought . . . " is NOT a command - which is how I have used it in the past.  It is a RESULT!!  The passage is a specific reference to engaging in spiritual battle using the weapons of spiritual warfare.  The insinuated instruction is to make use of the spiritual weapons we have been given and, in so doing, we will NATURALLY end up "taking every thought captive"!!  So - the question becomes, what weapons do I have to use in order to battle well and get this desired result?  The obvious answer lies in the Ephesians 6:11-18 passage that delineates our spiritual battle armor. 

I won't go into these in detail but I do want to share a couple of thoughts for consideration.  I've always heard it taught that all the pieces of the armor are defensive except for the sword - which is our "offensive" weapon.  But ponder the image of a warrior in battle missing any one of those pieces of defensive armor . . . feet bare or chest bare or no helmet . . .  the lack of the piece reveals a weakness to the enemy and emboldens them.  A fully clad warrior, on the other hand, presents a much more intimidating foe and gives the enemy pause - making our "defensive" armor a weapon as well.  Also consider the difference in perception of a soldier clad in worn and unkempt armor - maybe fully clad, but the armor is in obvious need of repair . . . again, the enemy will see an opportunity to attack at weak spots and will be emboldened.  If we want to be true warriors for Christ, we must not only have our armor on and sword in hand, but it must be well maintained armor & a shiny, sharp sword . . . .  Also consider that every "defensive" piece of armor can be used offensively - a helmet "butt" against an enemy's unclad head is deadly; a breastplate or shield used to deflect an enemy's attack leaves them open to counter-attack.  Just think about actual hand-to-hand combat as it was done in the time this passage was written.  Every bit of the soldier and his armor was honed to defeat the enemy. . . .

Also, I've always heard this passage taught through verse 17 - but 18 is an obvious continuance, which means PRAYER and VIGILANCE are weapons as well!

All this to say - dust off your armor, ensure it is in good repair, sharpen up your sword, and go forth into battle with prayer and a watchful eye and you WILL take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ - and probably not just YOUR thoughts.  Notice the first part of 2 Cor 10:5 - this is spiritual warfare at it's finest!

Lastly, a brief note on Proverbs 23:7.  Context (verses 6-8) shows us that the "as he thinks, so is he" teaching is not a generically applied statement.  I've always thought it was "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." But "a man" is not in the passage.  It is a statement specifically referring to a selfish, miserly man and is a warning to consider the character of a man before having anything to do with him.  More globally applied, it is an instruction to avoid being deceived by the seeming kindness of one who has proven him/herself to be self-centered.  You will regret it.  This is akin to the warning of Matthew 7:6 , "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." (NASB).

I hope you have found these thoughts interesting and challenging.  I would love to hear what the Lord is teaching you - please feel free to leave a comment here or in the Facebook post :-)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Return to Me - Day 5

Good Morning :-)

The title for today's study is "Embracing Christ-Guided Thoughts".  I'm going to focus on just one passages of Scripture used this morning - Psalm 101:2-3.  The 2 Corinthians 10:5 passage deserves some attention as well, but time is short so I will address that in my next post.

Psalm 101 is a portion of King David's Psalm of Commitment.  This passage delineates the specific commitments he is making to God to ensure he lives a holy, "blameless" life.  Depending on the version you use, you will note the use of the word "perfect" in the Psalm 101 section.  It is important to note that a better translation is "blameless".  As a perfectionist, I am keenly aware that "perfect" & "blameless" are two very different things!!  I muff things up all the time - SO far from "perfect" - but blameless - that's something I can strive for.  And so can you.

It is a conundrum the Lord has given us - the call to holy, "blameless" living and the battle we have with the flesh as we strive to attain to it.  Think it's impossible?  It's not.  Check out 2 Peter 1:3 . . .   We CAN - the question is whether we will.  If we say we will not, it is the same as saying we cannot.  It is admitting defeat in the battle with the flesh.  This is one of the reasons I am more & more inclined to put together a study on that "Birthright" book - I believe the author has captured the heart of the matter and it is revolutionary, to say the least.  We are taught all our lives by well-meaning and highly respected Godly people the same thing that they were taught and that has permeated the church from it's earliest days - that we are "sinners, saved by grace" - that salvation leaves us with TWO natures - the sinful (erroneously referred to as the flesh, which is different) and the saintly.  The truth of the matter, in a nutshell is that we are NOT "sinners saved by grace" - we WERE sinners who, on encountering the grace of God were TRANSFORMED INSTANTLY into Saints.  Read 2 Corinthians 5:17.  Note that the verb phrases in this passage "are passed away" and "are become" are in the Greek "past, completed" tense - signifying an event that has occurred at a particular time, is DONE, and is NOT ongoing.  Our change from sinner to saint was instantaneous and fully completed at the moment of salvation. period.

Now, I realize this leaves us with the conundrum of how we live in comparison to who we are . . . but that's a much larger topic for another time (and a whole study in & of itself . . . )  Suffice to say, regardless of how we feel about it - the Scripture is clear and the fact is - we CAN live a "blameless" life on this earth. :-)  SO - STRIVE FOR IT!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Return to Me - Days 3 & 4

So, it's week 3 and I've only just completed Day 4 of this book.  Ron's work schedule changed, impacting my morning schedule.  I don't do "change" well, so it's taken me some time to adapt.  Aaaand then there's the old battle with laziness to fight as well . . . :-/

On the one hand, my lack of daily attention to this study is disappointing - it means I have not been as diligent and faithful as I should be - it means I've allowed laziness to sometimes rule (though that's not always the reason for missing).  On the other hand, I'm encouraged by my attitude when I do complete the study for the day.  I'm taking it much more to heart and meditating on the things I'm learning.  I've not given into the "task" mindset and this has not become another box for me to check.  So, that's progress :-)

I admit to some disappointment with some of the content in days 3 & 4 of the study - a bit legalistic for my understanding of Scripture - but we'll get to that as it comes up.  Day 3 was completed last week but I did not have time to Blog that day, Day 4 is from this morning - so I'm combining the two days of my thoughts here.  I hope something in here will be an encouragement to someone :-)

The title for Day 3 is "The Passion to More Fully Know and Seek God" and the title for Day 4 is "Victory Over Insincere Worship" - these two tie together well since Knowing & Seeking God cannot help but lead to Sincere Worship.  So - on to my thoughts through the study:

1. "a five minute quite time on the run is not 'seeking God with all our hearts.'" (p 20).  I agree with this conditionally.  IF our 5 minute time with God is (1) normal practice and (2) out of a desire to check off the spiritual "did this" box - then the statement is all too true! I have a bit of a problem with the "requirement" to spend a specific (and typically significant) amount of time dedicated to prayer and Bible Study EVERY day as some sort of evidence of spiritual maturity.  The daily time in the Word and in prayer discussed in Scripture is something that should and will come naturally to a growing Believer.  As our relationship with Christ deepens, our desire to spend time with Him increases and becomes a higher priority.  I'm not saying we shouldn't spend daily time - not at all - in truth, we NEED that time.  But it is WE who NEED it, not God.  He's not going to stop molding and growing us just because we missed a day or two or week or month or . . . .  HE is faithful, even when we are faithless.  God desires to be a priority of our HEART, not our task list.  The awesome thing is - the more He is a priority in our hearts, the more He will naturally become the priority of our task list.  

2. "If we truly love someone and want to know them, we will give hem quality time and full attention. . . .  we must never view Bible study as a duty or merely an intellectual pursuit.  Abiding in prayer and Scripture is a love relationship . . . When we truly know God, we have an insatiable desire to know Him even more."  (emphasis mine) Supports my first point.  Nuff said :-)

3.  The author went on to discuss the benefits of praying the attributes and names of God.  Sadly, the rest of that particular section was more of an advertisement for another of the author's books than useful guidance in the practice recommended :-(

In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus starts out with "Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name."  Father - signifying a personal, intimate, authoritative relationship; In Heaven - setting Him apart from earthly fathers; Hallowed . . . name - signifying the special and unique nature of the title and, thereby, the person being addressed.  There is great value in knowing the names used for God.  To pause in the beginning of our prayer and take a moment to consider Who we are speaking with is of great value.  There are a number of study's out there on the Names of God - or you can just look for those specifically in whatever passage you're studying at the time.  Here are some links that should be helpful if you want to do a study of your own:

4. "Give unto the LORD the glory due His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness." Psalm 29:2 (p 22 of Return to Me).  This verse is the perfect segue to the concept of Sincere Worship - for how can we worship "in spirit and in truth" someone we do not know?

5.  "Believers, it is crucial to realize the very reason we are created is to continually worship, love and glorify God." (p24).  I could go on for pages about this but the simpler and better option is to direct you to John Piper's "Desiring God" study - OH MY!  That's a good one!  And the entirety of the study focuses on this one concept.  

6.  Lastly, an important point - "Worship is the Life We Live".  While I think the author goes a bit overboard and puts his own opinion of what holiness looks like into his discussion, the basic truth is undeniable.  We forget all to easily, that (1) Worship is a lifestyle and (2) if we are in sin, we are not worshiping.  You cannot claim to be worshiping God with your life if you allow anger or bitterness or hatred or laziness or selfishness or greed or  . . . (put your own weaknesses here) . . . to rule in your life.  We NEED time in the Word AND in prayer - focused time, each day (something I'm still working on) to keep our hearts and minds focused on Christ, keep sin at bay, and keep us in an attitude of worship throughout the day.  If you are a Believer, Christ lives in you (think on that a bit).  Consider the things you think, say and do, and confess those things that you know are not pleasing to God.  

One caveat - there's a lot of "gray" out there in the world.  Some would disagree but I point to the account of meat offered to idols and those who could eat and those who could not eat it.  (1 Corinthians 8).  Each person must determine in his/her own heart what their boundaries are - where the Holy Spirit convicts them to make changes that will allow them to grow.  And then, accept that others may have different boundaries.  For one, a glass of wine on occasion is fine, while for another, it's a path to sin - we cannot apply to another our convictions on things that are not clearly laid out in Scripture as sin - BUT - we MUST ensure our own hearts are in submission to the areas God has convicted US in.  The point is that we are to strive first for holiness in our own lives so that we may be living in worship.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Return to Me - Day 2

Hello Again,

Day 2 of the study, day 4 of my "re-commitment" :-p  Need to get to bed earlier and be more committed to not going back to bed after my husband heads to work!  I will keep working at it.

Anywho, I decided I didn't want to be restricted to the formatting & length of posts permitted by FB so will be posting my study thoughts here and then linking to them in FB.  I've also been pondering the Bible Study idea and, though I'm not quite ready to commit to starting yet, I'm definitely leaning that direction and I think I've chosen the book I want to work through.  It's titled, "Birthright: Christian, Do You Know Who You Are?" and it's written by David Needham.

The challenge in presenting a Bible Study in this format is that you can't really use a "study" that's already written - what's the point? Without the opportunity for discussion, as you would naturally have in a live group, it just becomes more of a copy/paste and "here's my thoughts" - which really isn't much of a "study". So I've been thinking about whether to snag a book of the Bible or a particular topic and the Lord has nudged me in the direction of topic - and to the "Birthright" book mentioned above.  I got about 1/2 way through reading this book years ago, which was transformational in my thinking about my relationship with Christ.  As my personal study in Return to Me also focuses on my relationship with Christ, this is a perfect mix.  

So - if you're interested in following along with me in a Bible Study type forum - which I have yet to figure out ;-) - snag yourself a copy of Birthright and watch this space for updates :-)  I don't think it will be long - just waiting for the Lord to confirm this idea and figure out the technical details for how to make it a true "study".

Now - on to my Day 2 thoughts from Return to Me . . .

I was tempted to "catch up" and read through Day 4 - but only briefly.  As I said Monday, I really want this to be more of a heart than task process.  I'm only going to do one day at a time and if I miss a day here & there, then I'll just take that much longer to get through the book!  :-)

So I set myself to soak in the subject of Day 2 - which is a concept I hold to be of the highest importance.  

The title of the section is "Hallowing His Name" and the focus is on what it means to see God for Who He Is - HOLY.  Most of the impact for me in this section came from the verses referenced:

1.  Leviticus 10:3 (go on, look it up . . . I'm not gonna spoon feed this ;-)  ).  "I MUST be regarded as holy . . . I MUST be glorified." (emphasis mine).  MUST - an imperative, a requirement, a non-negotiable.

"Holy" means "to be set apart"  Rev 4:8b "holy, holy, holy" - Anything repeated more than once in Scripture = PAY ATTENTION, THIS IS IMPORTANT.  Don't miss this - God is OTHER than us.  Yes, we are made in His image, but we are NOT Him and He is NOT us - God is GOD - there is NONE like Him.  He is "set apart". He is, to finish the quote of Rev 4:8, "Lord, God Almighty."  He is not to be viewed as anything less than this - "I MUST be regarded as holy . . . I MUST be glorified."  While the person of Christ is presented as our brother and friend (and this intimacy is strongly encouraged in the New Testament), that MUST be taken in context with an understanding that Christ is GOD and GOD is holy and must be glorified.  It is a beautiful blending of intimacy and awestruck reverence that the Scriptures describe.

2.  Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 "FEAR God . . ." (emphasis mine). I've heard this defined as "respect" and "reverence" - which is accurate, but - I believe - incomplete.  I can respect and reverence something/someone without having a healthy *fear* of them.  I am reminded of C.S. Lewis's Aslan and the Hippogriff, Buckbeak, in the Harry Potter stories.  There is a clear element of respect and reverence those creatures demanded *combined* with a healthy fear of their power and capacity to be dangerous.  From C.S. Lewis: "Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safeBut he's good." (http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/344456-aslan-is-a-lion--the-lion-the-great-lion-ooh)  

I think that far too often, we Believer's forget that our God is NOT "safe".  And such forgetfulness makes sin less egregious in our own eyes.

3.  Proverbs 8:13 - on the subject of sin, and with the previous point in mind, this verse tells us that a proper fear of the Lord naturally results in a "hate" for that which is "evil".  It then goes on to expound on "evil" as Pride, Arrogance, the "evil way" and the Perverse Mouth.  Something to seriously consider as we (I) pray and ask the Lord to reveal areas I need to confess.  I can guarantee you, none of us is totally innocent in all of these areas . . . 

4.  Isaiah 66:1-2.  The opposite of what the Lord hates and, therefore, precisely what we should strive to have defining our own character, "But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word,"  The Hebrew for "poor" is better translated "humble" (reference: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H6041&t=ESV) and should not be confused with financial reference.  Rather, this refers to the condition of a person's heart - opposite of Pride & Arrogance is Humble - aware of one's neediness, aware of one's weakness.  NOTE IMPORTANTLY - this is not a shameful thing - it is not shameful to be needy - it is not shameful to be weak!  SUCH a difference from the way the world presents things!!!  In fact, is is MORE DESIRABLE to be needy and weak and to recognize that in ourselves.  Such acknowledgement leads us to a deeper leaning on the strength of our Lord!!!  Dependence is NOT a bad thing when it is dependence on Christ alone. (II Cor 12:10)

That's it for today.  I hope this is useful to someone out there.

Sources for the Birthright book: 
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Birthright-Christian-Classic-Critical-Concern/dp/159052666X
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/birthright-david-c-needham/1101010936  (nook is $5 less)

An internet search will give you a plethora of other options :-)

Return to Me Study - Day 1

These thoughts and comments are generated from my study of the book, "Return to Me says the Lord - A Journey of First Love Surrender" written by Gregory Reed Frizzell.  It is highly recommended reading.  What follows is a copy of what I posted to Facebook a couple of days ago from my time on "Day One" of this study.

I've re-committed to a better use of my morning hours and am grateful that I can report a good first Monday. Instead of going back to bed and wasting a couple of hours, I stayed up, got in some good exercise on my Simply Fit board and the Total Gym, had my coffee, and settled into a Bible Study.
Choosing what to read/study was a bit of a challenge at first till, following prayer for guidance, I was reminded that my primary need at this time is a return to intimacy with Christ. That led me to the study our church did communally in January of last year - "Return to Me" by Gregory Reed Frizzell. It was a powerful study then, but I did not really put whole heart & soul into it so I know there is much more I can get out of it.

I've actually "re-started" this study several times since last year but never made it passionately past the first few days (it's a 21 day study). That will change this time.

Part of my challenge has been that I have approached it with a "check this duty off the list" attitude (the "Martha" in me). This time, I'm choosing more of a "Mary" approach and it feels different.
So - keys from this morning's study that I will meditate on today as the Lord brings them to remembrance:

1. Seek ye FIRST the kingdom of God . . . Not seek ye first to confess every single thing you think probably disappoints God. This is key for me because I am a perfectionist. I could spend HOURS confessing all the "sins" in my life - some of which would be legitimate, obvious sins and some of which are more "gray" - to me anyway. But focusing on the negatives will not draw me closer to God. Yes, if the Holy Spirit brings it to mind for confession, I know I must do that - confess and repent - but apart from that, I need to focus on the positive. If I am seeking Him and loving Him, the sins will naturally decrease and the obedience will naturally increase. This will also help me avoid a legalistic approach to life -which is something I am susceptible to.

2. "God does not require perfect vessels, just hearts WILLING to be honest, surrendered, and 'pressing toward the mark'" (p.9, emphasis mine)

3. This one's important - "our whole life purpose is the passion to know, love, and fear God in obedient lifestyle worship." (p11)!!!!!! Said differently, "Above all else, our central life purpose is INTENSE love and worship of God." (p12, emphasis mine)

4. "...every effort [in this spiritual journey] is TOTAL DEPENDENCE upon God's grace and Spirit" (p11, emphasis mine). I CANNOT do the work - HE must do it in me. Thankfully, He has promised to do just that!!! (Phil 1:6)

5. "Make no mistake - our level of worship flows directly from our level of love." (p12) . . . let that one soak in for a bit . . . .

6. "Virtually all sin stems from the failure to properly know, love and fear God." (p13) . . . another truth to seriously ponder.

That's it for this morning :-) I hope to post every weekday at the very least and soon I hope to begin preparing lessons again - I miss teaching. I'm thinking of re-starting my old Blog with a Bible Study focus . . . we'll see how the Lord leads in that.