Sunday, October 28, 2007

More on Trials of Faith...

Well, I'm still going through the book "Spiritual Depression" by D. M. Lloyd-Jones, and I continue to be blessed and convicted. It continues to be one of the best books I have ever read. It's so much more than depression-He really touches on the ares of our life and our walk that are common to man, and that do lead to spiritual depression when we're not seeing things in light of Scripture. The chapter I just finished, chapter 10, was on faith. He brings us to the passage of the disciples in the boat with Jesus. (Luke 8:22-25) I agree with Lloyd-Jones that I'm so thankful God put the disciples in the Bible for us to read about. I think we can all see ourselves in them and all their blunders, and here they were having a crisis of faith.

God permits things in our lives and often we find ourselves thinking He is unconcerned with our trials. "Master, Master, we are perishing!" It's as if they were saying, "Doesn't He care that we are all going to drown, Himself included?" He was asleep, but was He really unconcerned? Is He really unconcerned about us and our trials when He seems to be "asleep?" No, that would be inconsistent with His very nature. But, Christ does allow trials of faith in our lives, He permits trials. Feeling like Christ is unconcerned about what we are going through IS this trial of faith. Apparently, this was a very familiar theme with the Puritans and the Christians in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It goes to further prove that there is nothing new under the sun. There is nothing we are struggling with that is new.

What greatly encouraged me in this chapter was the last paragraph. It brought me to tears-and I'm talking the "pouring down your face" kind of tears! It was on "the value of even the weakest and smallest faith." When we look at this passage of Scripture, we see the disciples' weak and poor faith. They got agitated and panicked, but at the end, they did the right thing. They went to Christ. They still knew He could do something. Yes, it was poor faith, but "it is faith, thank God." And, the scriptures tell us that faith "as small as a mustard seed" is "valuable, because it takes us to Him." And, we learn something from the disciples here. We see what happens when we have weak faith. God is disappointed in us, He disciplines us, and He doesn't conceal that. "Where is your faith?" "O ye of little faith." "Why do you behave as if you were a Christian at all?" "Why didn't you apply your faith as you should have?" He doesn't conceal His disappointment, but:

"blessed be His name, He will nevertheless still receive us. He does not drive us away. He did not drive these disciples away. He received them, and He will receive us. Yes, and He will not only receive us, He will bless us and He will give us peace. 'He rebuked the wind and there was a great calm.' He produced the condition they were so anxious to enjoy, in spite of their lack of faith. Such is the gracious Lord that you and I believe in and follow. Though He is disappointed in us often and though He rebukes us, He will never neglect us; He will receive us, He will bless us, He will give us peace, indeed He will do for us what He did for these men. With this peace, He gave them a still greater conception of Himself than they ever had before. They marvelled, and were full of amazement at His wonderful power. He, as it were, threw that into the bargain on top of all the blessings."

And, isn't that just like our God? We all know how it is when we come through these trials. We see God at the end. But, it is possible to see Him in the midst of these things. We must exercise our faith, the faith that we already have been given. The tears came from realizing his faithfulness in spite of my weakness. Tears of what a gracious God I serve. It reminded me of one of my favorite verses.

"If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for HE CANNOT DENY HIMSELF."

2 Timothy 2:13

Monday, October 15, 2007

Farley Family Photos...

A few from my latest photo shoot. I'm thrilled with these shots. Such a cute family!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Latest book I'm reading...

Well, the latest book I'm reading is "Spiritual Depression: Its causes and cures" by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He retired as the minister of Westminster Chapel in 1968, and passed away in 1981. But, he has been called the "greatest Bible expositor in the English-speaking world." This book is a collection of 21 sermons originally delivered at Westminster Chapel in London. "Christian people too often seem to be perpetually in the doldrums and too often give the appearance of unhappiness and of lack of freedom and absence of joy. There is no question at all but that this is the main reason why large numbers of people have ceased to be interested in Christianity," said Lloyd-Jones. In this book he "lays bare not only the causes that have robbed Christians of spiritual vitality, but also the cure that if found through the mind and spirit of Christ."

I struggle with depression myself off and on. I know most people that I know do, too. This book has been amazing. I picked it up one day off Shane's bookshelf for lack of anything else to read. But, I believe it was God-ordained for me. It has really ministered to me. I am only about half way through, but I have been convicted and encouraged. I really think everyone needs to read this book, especially if you struggle with depression at all. He talks about the causes and cures of spiritual depression.

This last chapter I read was chapter 9, "Labourers in the Vineyard." The passage of scripture Lloyd-Jones focused on was Matthew 20:1-16, where Jesus tells the parable of the vineyard workers, and how they were all paid the same at the end of the day, whether they came early or late to work. This is a bit long, but so worth the read, if you have the time.....I was both very convicted and encouraged.

  • "...they [the workers who had been there all day] began to murmur. ...they are murmuring because they were not given something extra. Is that not a terrible thing? But how true it is that Christian poeple can be guilty of this very thing that our Lord here depicts-the tendency to murmur as the children of Israel did of old, and as these people did at this point, commiserating with yourself, feeling you are not given your rights, feeling you are being dealt with harshly....You remember how the Apostle Paul addresses a word about it to the Philippians. He reminds them that they are to be as luminaries in the heavens, they are to 'do all things without murmurings and disputings; that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.'...What a tragic thing it is that Christian people can be miserable and murmuring instead of rejoicing in Christ Jesus. It is an outcome of the fact that they have forgotten that EVERYTHING IS OF GRACE. They have forgotten this great principle that goes right through the Christian life from the very beginning to the very end.

    But, that's not all. It leads to another thing, namely, a contempt for others and at the same time a certain amount of jealousy of others.....This tendency comes in and attacks Christian people who have been faithful in their witness and who have done most excellent work. It comes in most subtle ways and makes them miserable because they feel that others have been rewarded in a greater way than they have....

    But, above all, and this is the most serious and the most terrible thing of all, they had a feeling in their heart that the householder was unjust. In this conidtion they had persuaded themselves that this man was not righteous in his dealing with them. They were absolutely wrong, there was not a vestige of foundation for that attitude, but they felt it. And so the Christian is tempted of the devil to feel that God is not being fair. The devil comes to him and says: 'Look at how much you have done, and what are you getting for it? Look at that other fellow, he has done nothing yet look at what he is getting.' That is what the devil says, and these people listen to him....That is the spirit, and the thing that makes it so serious is that in that condition the Christian, unless he is very careful, will soon be ascribing unrighteousness to God. He will be feeling that God is not fair to him, that God is not giving him his rights, that God is not giving him his due.

    What a miserable thing self is, what an ugly thing, what a foul thing. We are all guilty, of this, every one of us, in some shape or form. The devil comes to us and we listen, and we begin to doubt whether God is just and righteous in His dealings with us. Self needs to be exposed for what it is. Sin in its ugliness and foulness needs to be unmasked. It is not surprising that our Lord dealt with this wrong spirit in the way He did in this parable. It is the greatest enemy of the soul, and it leads to misery and unhappiness. It is bound to do so for every reason. It is utterly wrong, and there is nothing to be said in its defence.

    That brings me to the cure. What is the treatment? Is is to understand the controlling principle of the Kingdom of God. That prinicple which seems so obvious but which we are so prone to forget in detail. Our Lord puts it here once and for ever. I am simply putting what He said in other words. The principle is that in the Kingdom of God everything is essentially different from everything in every other kingdom. For, he says in effect, the Kingdom of God is not like that which you have always known, it is something quite new and different. The first thing we have to realize is that 'if any man be in Christ he is a new creature (he is a new creation), old things are passed away, behold all things are new.' If only we realized as we should, that here we are in a realm in which everything is different! The whole foundation is different, it has nothing to do with the principle of the old life. We have to work this out in detail, but first let me underline again that new principle. We must say to ourselves every day of our lives: 'Now I am a Christian, and because I am a Christian I am in the Kingdom of God and all my thinking has got to be different. Everything here is different. I must not bring with me those old ideas, those old moods and concepts of thought.' We tend to confine salvation to one thing, namely forgiveness, but we have to apply the principle throughout the Christian life.

    ...The first thing is this. Do not think in terms of bargains and rights in the Kingdom of God. That is absolutely fatal. There is nothing so wrong as the spirit which argues that because I do this, or because I have done that, that I have a right to expect something else in return...I don't care what it is, whether prayer or anything else, in no respect must I ever argue that because I do something I am entitled to get something-never....The Holy Spirit is Lord, and He is a Sovereign Lord....we have no right to anything at all...even the rewards are of grace. He need not give them, and if you think you can determine and predict how they are to come you will be quite wrong. Everything is of grace in the Christian life from the beginning to the end....we need to watch our own spirits lest we harbour the thought that He is not dealing with us justly and fairly.

    ....Do not keep a record or an account of your work. Give up being book-keepers. In the Christian life we must desire nothing but His glory, nothing but to please Him. So, do not keep your eye on the clock, but keep it on Him and His work. Do not keep recording your work and labour, keep your eye on Him and His glory, on His love and His honour and the extension of His kingdom...In effect, leave the book-keeping to Him and to His grace...there is nothing so romantic as God's method of accountancy. Be prepared for surprises in this Kingdom. You never know what is going to happen. The last shall be first. What a complete reversal of our materialistic outlook, the last first, the first last, everything upside down. The whole world is turned upside down by grace. It is not of man, it is of God, it is the kingdom of God. How excellent this is.

    ...Paul..says: 'Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus'. You see what that means. He did not look at Himself, He did not consider Himself and His own interests only; He made Himself of no reputation, He laid aside the inisgnia of His eternal glory. He did not regard His equality with God as something to hold on to and say: 'Come what may I will not let it go.' Not at all, He laid it aside, He humbled Himself, He forgot Himself, and He went through and endured and did all He did, looking only to the glory of God. Nothing else mattered to Him but that the Father should be glorified and that men and women should come to the Father. That is the secret. Not watching the clock, not assessing the amount of work, not keeping a record in a book, but
    forgetting everything except the glory of God, the privilege of being called to work for Him at all, the privilege of being a Christian, remembering only the grace that has ever looked upon us and removed us from darkness to light.

    It is grace at the beginning, grace at the end. So that when you and I come to lie upon our deathbeds, the one thing that should comfort and help and strengthen us there is the thing that helped us at the beginning. Not what we have been, not what we have done, but the grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. The Christian life starts with grace, it must continue with grace, it ends with grace. Grace, wonderous grace. 'By the grace of God I am what I am.' 'Yet, not I, but the grace of God which was with me.'

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Verse of the day

"Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee. Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever."
Psalms 73:21-25

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Jason and Ashley

Another few shots from a couple I photographed a few weeks ago. She is the twin sister of Melissa, whose wedding I did earlier this year. Jason and Ashley were a gem to work with-such a great couple!

Tate '08

Just a few fun shots from another senior photo shoot I did recently.

Monday, October 01, 2007

On being a soldier....

"Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, he carried them on his wings. The Lord ALONE guided him, and there was no foreign God with him." Deuteronomy 32:11-12

(another gem from C.H. Spurgeon-from the devotional Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman)

"...See you not, then, that God may take away your comforts and your privileges, to make you the better Christians? Why, the Lord always trains His soldiers, not by letting them lie on feather-beds, but by turning them out, and using them to forced marches and hard service. He makes them ford through streams, and swim through rivers, and climb mountains, and walk many a long march with heavy knapsacks of sorrow on their backs. This is the way in which He makes them soldiers-not by dressing them up in fine uniforms, to swagger at the barrack gates, and to be fine gentlemen in the eyes of the loungers in the park. God knows that soldiers are only to be made in battle; they are not to be grown in peaceful times. We may grow the stuff of which soldiers are made; but warriors are really educated by the smell of powder, in the midst of whizzing bullets and roaring cannonades, not in soft and peaceful times. Well, Christian, may not this account for it all? Is not thy Lord bringing out thy graces and making them grow? Is He not developing in you the qualities of the soldier by throwing you into the heat of battle, and should you not use every appliance to come off conqueror?"

Trials, Tribulations, and Crises of Faith

Trials...not necessarily my favorite part of being a Christian. God's Word says they will come, and we know they will come, and then we act surprised when they do! Well, I do, anyways. Trials come in various shapes and sizes-some are big, some small..but they all feel big. I go through these "crises of faith" as I call them. They don't make me question my Christianity, but they make me question my faith in God. Do I really believe Him, do I really take Him at His word? Too many times the answer is "no, I don't." I'd like to tell you all that I do. I'd like to tell you that I pray your faith is as strong as mine...but if I did, my close friends who know the truth would laugh at me! I struggle. My faith falters. But, my God does not. His word IS truth, His promises ARE true, no matter what I am going through. No matter what I FEEL.

God allows us to go through trials and trying times so that we lean on Him. He wants us to grow in character and in faith. He desires us to go deeper with Him, and that usually can only come through what seems to us to be fierce storms of life. Trials and tests of our faith. I want the character, and I want to be refined, but I want it the easy way. But, I tell you what, this time of the testing of my faith has caused me to go deeper with God, to fall on my knees in surrender day after day. To seek God until I find Him, just to get me through some days! But, He is good. He comes to my rescue. I know He has a purpose.

My girls always are asking me why I have to read my Bible and spend time with God. And, I always tell them that I won't be a good mommy if I don't. Well, last week I had a "not so good" attitude day! As the day was ending, I apologized to my little Lizzie, telling her I was sorry for being grumpy. She said she thought she knew why I was grumpy. When I asked why, she said, "Mommy, did you spend time with God today?" I had to be honest and tell her I didn't. I asked her if she thought that was why I had a hard day, and she said, "Yep. It is, mom. Do you want me to go get your Bible for you?" :) They are watching us, and they will see what comes of our faith or lack of it. I want to be found faithful.

"Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief." (Mark 9:24)