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THE WATCHMEN BEAT ME

WE LEFT THE SHULAMMITE QUICKENED

FROM HER LUKEWARM STATE.

AFTER SHE REFUSED HER BRIDEGROOM

AND HE HAS LEFT, SHE REALIZES HER FOLLY.

SHE RUNS, DESPERATE, OUT INTO THE STREET,

CALLING OUT FOR THE ONE HER SOUL LOVES,

BUT HE GIVES NO ANSWER.

WATCHMENBEATME

I CALLED HIM, BUT HE GAVE NO ANSWER

THE WATCHMEN FOUND ME

AS THEY WENT ABOUT THE CITY,

THEY BEAT ME, THEY BRUISED ME,

THEY TOOK AWAY MY VEIL,

THOSE WATCHMAN OF THE WALLS.

(SONG OF SONGS 5:6-7)

THEYTOOKAWAYMYVEIL

Last week you did such a good job of digging into this, pondering it, considering also what commentators thought. I want to go deeper this week, and consider also, how to have strength when we may face this same persecution. Generally the watchmen are interpreted by those I respect, both ancient and modern, to be guardians of the church. They may be true shepherds disciplining the sheep, just as Israel was disciplined by the Lord for her disobedience. Or they may be persecuting her unfairly, as the harshness seems to imply. It is not uncommon for a believer who has passion to be misunderstood, even by her family or the family of God. Michal hated David when he danced before the Lord. Eli assumed Hannah was drunk when she was praying with passion.

the_joy_of_the_redeemed_king_david_dancing_2-458x575
The Joy of the Redeemed: King David Dancing John the Baptist Artworks

How often has it happened that someone puts her trust in Christ, only to be chastised by her liberal minister who may not belong to Christ and is alarmed by her passion and/or concerned about losing one of his members? There are also pastors who know the Lord but who feel that their denomination is the only True Church and are skeptical of anyone outside. I have a dear friend who came to Christ in Bible Study Fellowship. When she shared her testimony with her minister, instead of rejoicing with her, he seemed concerned and then told her to leave BSF. He was alarmed that they might teach something different than their denomination taught. Because she could not deny what had happened to her, she left that church with great sadness. She joined another and went on to become a wonderful teaching leader for BSF in Chicago.

But persecution can be far worse than that. There are wolves in sheep’s clothing, charismatic leaders who claim to be Christian but twist the Scripture to promote their own evil agenda. Hitler formed “the German ‘Christian’ Church” and used, for example, Jesus’ indictments against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees to imply that Jesus hated the Jews. Amazingly, either out of being spellbound, or because they feared for their lives, many German pastors aligned themselves with Hitler, swearing an oath of allegiance to him, and becoming part of the persecution against Jews and the Christians who were endeavoring to protect them.

Hitler

It frightens me to see what is happening in our country today that seems eerily reminiscent of this. Yet, God only gives Satan enough rope to hang himself, for nothing slips between His fingers. Even “the blood of the martyrs,” as Tertullion said, is the “seed of the church.” The persecuted church is far stronger than the church at ease. The Open Door has reported the highest number of martyrdoms in 2015 (7,000) in their history, and a 50% increase over 2014. How we must be ready and cling to the One who is our only hope.  What the Song of Song accomplishes is to show us His great love and cause our cold hearts to melt. Seeing His great love for us turns our heart of stone into a heart of flesh, and that, and that alone, is our strength when we face persecution.

heart-of-stone-heart-of-flesh

The world was shocked when Islamic militant posted videos of their beheadings of twenty-one Christians on a Libyan beach in February of 2015. The eerie videos showed tall men in black hoods towering over men in orange jumpsuits kneeling on the beach. Twenty of those men were young Coptic Christians from Egypt, but one man, Matthew Ayairga of Ghana, somehow got corraled with them. Each Christian was asked to deny Christ, and when he refused, was beheaded or shot. Finally they came to Matthew and asked him “Do you reject Christ?”

He said, “Their God is my God.” And he died with his brothers. Their passion for Christ gave Matthew the same passion. (James Dean: World News Radio, Dec 1, 2015)

When we trust the Lord amidst suffering and persecution and even death, our trials and our trust is a trail that leads others to Christ.

isisI want you to listen to the following story, a story that is happening again and again right now in the Middle East. From a Reformed point of view, I disagree with the lyric “I have decided to follow Jesus” because I don’t think we decide. We do not have that ability, but instead respond to His love. (I used to give Kathy Troccoli a hard time about her song, “I Will Choose Christ,” for the same reason.) You may see this as nitpicking, and it may be,  but this will be taken up again in the sermon by Michael Reeves for this week.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KOBSu_A4LU&list=RD_KOBSu_A4LU#t=36
Richard Sibbes, the Puritan who wrote extensively on the Song, said:

She was misused of the watchmen. They scorned her, and her “veil is taken away,” yet notwithstanding, she loves Christ still. …Certainly where the love of Christ is, there is a spirit of fortitude, as we may see in the church here, who is not discouraged from Christ by any means. He is still the chief of ten thousand. When she was wronged for seeking after him, yet he was altogether lovely.

 She must find her beloved and exhorts the daughters of Jerusalem to help her. When they ask her why he is “better than others,” she is ready to give an answer! And that is where we are headed next week, Holy Week, the holiest week of the year. We will contemplate why our Lord is better than others.

Sunday: Icebreaker 

1. What stood out to you from the above and why?

2. What are some ways God wooed you before you came to Him, and woos you still, despite your failings? 

Monday-Tuesday Bible Study

The key holes in ancient doors were so large you could put your hand through them. When the Shulammite refuses to open the door, he leaves a gift of oinment, myrrh, for her. It is a parting act of grace.

key-hole

3. Read Song of Songs 5:5-7

A. What happens to her when she finally rises to open the door? What message is he giving her through leaving quietly and leaving a gift?

B.  CHALLENGE QUESTION

         What “gifts of myrrh” has Jesus left for you when you were lukewarm or disobedient?

C. Describe her emotions in verse 6.

D. What happened to her when she went out into the city? What do you think this means?

4. Peter writes to the persecuted church at time when Nero was putting Christians to death in horrific ways. When Peter writes to them to encourage them to be strong, he reminds them of some of the treasures they have. Find them in 1 Peter 1:3-7.

5. Pray here for the persecuted church.

6. Read Song of Songs 5:8-9

A. How does the bride respond to the beatings?

B. What question do the daughters of Jerusalem ask, and why, do you think?

Wednesday-Friday  Sermon by Michael Reeves

Some of you may have already heard Dr. Reeves speak on this material — but this is a better recording and longer, ending with lovely prayers based on the Song that I so want you to hear and emulate. There’s an interesting discussion we can respond to on “Is love a choice?” For those of you married to men that may feel hard to love at times, there is hope.

6. Listen and share your notes and thoughts.

The Love of Christ in the Song of Songs

7. What do you remember about the discussion “Is love a choice?” Thoughts?

8. What do you think is the secret of experiencing the presence of Christ — even in the midst of trial?

These are two of my lovely friends who were on the cruise with me and whom you also know from the blog. What I see in each of them (and in many of you) is the joy of experiencing the presence of Christ. I even think you can see that joy, love, and peace in these pictures. Each of these women has suffered deeply, but they are confident of Christ’s love, and kept pressing into Him in the midst of their suffering. Each of them causes people to ask questions about their Lord — different variations of “How is your beloved better than others?” Each of them would be able to give an eloquent answer, for they have spent so much time beholding Him and know how beautiful He is. And they reflect His beauty as the moon reflects the sun. When I look at them, and when I look at the picture of the Coptic Christians on the beach, what I see is “God’s vineyard in bloom.”

Twilalaughing
Twila: At the retreat she shared her memorization of Psalm 18 as a testimony to Him running for her and rescuing her from a deep and long depression. It was so moving people kept asking her to do it again. (I’ll film it sometime)

 

Rebecca
Rebecca:  People told me at the retreat that they saw Jesus in her.

 

Saturday

9. Emulate the prayers at the end of Michael Reeve’s talk, praying The Song.

10. What is your take-a-way and why?

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  1. 6. Read Song of Songs 5:8-9 
    A. How does the bride respond to the beatings? 
     
    She he asks if the daughters of Jerusalem would “adjure” her if they saw her beloved; that they tell home how she was “sick” with love for him.
     
    B. What question do the daughters of Jerusalem ask, and why, do you think?
     
    How is your love any better than others? Why is he so special? I think they don’t want to be bothered unless it is a truly important thing to do. Why do they have to do it? They are wanting to be convinced. 

  2. 7. What do you remember about the discussion “Is love a choice?” Thoughts?
     
    As Reeves points out-in the beginning God didn’t ‘choose’ to love Jesus..He just did and that is His nature..He just loves-He is Love. When we come to know Him, He gives us His spirit and so He is in us..As we rest in His love and let His love fill us His love will change us inside and His love will spill out of us onto others. His fruit will be flowing out of us: Love, joy, peace, forbearance, goodness, self control, patience, kindness, gentleness. We won’t have to paste on fruit or ‘force’ ourselves to be kind, patient, sacrificial or genuinely interested in others. We won’t perfectly love until we are face to face-yes, but as Reeves said, He is making us more like Him and we do as we rest in His love and HE gets the glory-not us. Others will see us and sense His Love and we should be glad if they see Him in us.  He isn’t finished with us yet but He is making us like Him. So we must rest in His Love for He DESIRES us even when we don’t desire Him and THAT should melt our hearts in wilderness times and in non-wilderness times. 🙂  My ‘choice’ is that I spend time in His Word every day communing with Him in prayer as well..and as I walk throughout the day..and as I drink His water He makes me thirsty for more. 
     
     
    This is staying with me right now: When Reeves said we are dark but lovely-that is the Gospel..I am learning that to be SO TRUE..However, he brought out that the good news is that my ‘loveliness’ (His righteousness covering me and His fruit developing in and flowing out of me) is more than my dark heart. Hallelujah! He desires to fill us with His goodness..to free us from the enslavement of sin! I needed to hear that-to be reminded and pound it in deeper for my dark heart is DARK..I mean REALLY dark…it scares me to think what is deep in that muddy whirlpool!! satan wants us to stop there..satan attacks with temptation and condemnation those who are drawing nearer to him…but His righteousness covers us and it is more than our darkness and we can say to satan, ‘take it up with Christ.’ I may extend that…”take it up with Christ who is my covering and the lover of my soul!”

  3. When Peter writes to them to encourage them to be strong, he reminds them of some of the treasures they have. Find them in 1 Peter 1:3-7.
    It’s really sobering to see this passage in light of the persecuted believers in Peter’s day.  I usually think of it as applying to my own ‘light and momentary’ troubles.  And there is deep hope and encouragement for me here.  But…to remember the audience for which it was written; that makes it so very much more powerful.   
     
    These are the treasures I see: 
    Great mercy.   New birth.  Living hope.  Resurrection of our Lord.  An inheritance that doesn’t spoil, fade or perish.  A personal inheritance; kept in heaven for us.  The shield of God’s power (to have with us on earth) while we wait our ultimate salvation.  Genuine faith which is greater than gold.  Refinement; as an outcome of suffering.  Jesus, himself is revealed to us through our trials.  The belief that He is always with us, even though we do not see Him, gives inexpressible, glorious joy.  The result of our enduring faith is eternal, ultimate, everlasting salvation.

  4. I know this is the continuation of a lesser theme that has emerged here this week, but after doing some reading, I feel like I should add this.  I mentioned Watchman Nee, simply because I had two commentaries on my bookshelf about the Song of Songs.  I bought them both during my Bible College years.   One treats the The Song  only as a marriage manual.  (I got rid of that one) and Nee’s book, interprets it basically, the same as what we’ve been learning here.  I was introduced to Nee in the 70’s by some Intervarsity/college group friends.   I pulled out my old books of his (old paperbacks in which the binding glue has dried and to open them, is to have them totally fall apart!)  and skimmed again his book on Ephesians, “Sit, Walk, Stand”   and his book called ‘What Shall This Man Do’.  Those two and his book on ‘The Song of Songs’ are the only ones I’ve read.  There are many more.  I was very interested to learn of his ‘Quietism’ as I didn’t even know that word or it’s meaning.  I read a few articles about it.  So interesting that so many whose writings were regarded highly by well respected Christian leaders years ago, are under criticism now.  I know I am pretty naive about a lot of ‘movements and philosophies’.   My only purpose in writing this is to say that I find it fascinating.    
     
    When I looked up more of Watchman Nee’s biography, I learned other stuff that made me ponder.  He was saved as a very young man, after the Boxer Rebellion in China, in the 1920’s had caused the death of many believers.  He never had formal Bible training but learned from the writings of a LOT of varied influences.   John Bunyan,  Hudson Taylor, T. Austin Sparks, Andrew Murray, George Muller,  Madame Guyon (whom today I learned is a quietist writer) and many Brethren writers and teachers including John Nelson Darby (this influence had raised a red flag for me, when I saw him quote Darby in the books I read) and also Anglican missionaries.   The above names were the ones I recognized  There were many other influences listed, that I didn’t know and didn’t copy down.    Nee’s passion and determination to further the gospel by starting local churches, led to the establishment of hundreds of churches on the mainland of China.   And he was scorned and persecuted by people in other denominations as well as imprisoned for five years, where, in poor health, he died in confinement.    His story (I decided to read a more complete biography and began it last night)  is compelling.   I suspect some of his writings do contain a lot of questionable and unscriptural teachings.  Yet, he was putting into practice that which he learned from others and the Lord’s work was carried out in tremendous ways, through his obedience.  Kind of amazing to me.  We have such a HUGE glut of resources and teaching at our very fingertips and we (talking to myself) do so little.  He had relatively so little by way of resources…..I’m imagining him scrambling for written literature and gobbling it up when he got his hands on it) and he did SO MUCH!
     
    Also interesting to me was that, through my researching of Quietism, I found that Hannah Whitewall Smith was also aligned with this philosophy.   I have her book,   “The God of All Comfort”   (the other book by that title!)   and ‘The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life’ and I know that they were both highly acclaimed by conservative Christians when I was a young woman.  In fact, I’m sure I ‘won’ one of them from a well known Christian radio station in the 80’s.  They were printed by Moody Press.  I actually haven’t read either, but now I am curious if there are things that glaringly stick out to me as heresy.   In my reading, one pastor wrote of the cliches   “Let go and let God”  and “our responsibility in faith is our response to God’s ability”  as symptomatic of the Quietism philosophy.   I can remember hearing both of those several times (even writing them down in my Bible margins) when I was young.  I doubt that any of the teachers I heard use them, believed the tenets of the Q. philosophy. All so interesting to me at this point in my life.
     
    Hmmm.  When I ‘uncover’ stuff like this.  Better said, when I finally ‘catch up’ to what  might be common knowledge for many…. (I’ve sort of lived with my ‘head in the sand’ in regard to Christian writings and teachings in the past decade or so……due to being disappointed by so much ‘fluff’ available front and center of the Christian bookstores)…it makes me want to go back to what I have been doing:  Just read  C.S. Lewis and Tim Keller and call it good!!     Tongue in cheek there!!  I’m not serious…….but, am I making any sense??
     
    Ok.  Now, back to Mike Reeves……  (sorry for the long post.  I tried to shorten and couldn’t seem to say it in less)
     

    1. oops.  just a couple quick corrections.  The name of the author I mentioned:  (Hannah Whitall Smith….not Whitewall 🙂 ) and I see that my copy was published by Moody and distributed as a special edition from Billy Graham Assoc.    Also Watchman Nee was imprisoned far longer than I mentioned above.  

    2. Wanda…..you have been a busy woman….and you have unearthed a whole lot of interesting information!  Which can be so disturbing…….from what I have read, Hannah Whitall Smith did renounce her Christian faith later in her life (Gospel Coalition has an article entitled “Hannah Whitall Smith’s Unhappy Life” from 2010)……and there are too many others…. Hannah Hurnard , who wrote Hinds Feet on High Places, came to a place of believing in universalism, pantheism and reincarnation……..just sad, sad, sad.  Whenever I hear someone described as a “Mystic”, my antennae go into overdrive!  Of course C.S. Lewis used the term “Christian mystic” to describe himself!!!  Ugh.  In it’s purest form it can surely be Spirit driven and edifying……and then….comtemplation can become unmoored from the Scriptures and the Spirit…..and devastating heresies creep in.  Oh how we need to be humble and teachable and willing to admit when we have been led astray.  Awhile back Dee had mentioned that one of her sons only reads the Scriptures……I have thought on that SO much!  I am such a voracious reader that I know it would be good for me to have seasons of “Bible only” as a reset and a guard on my heart.  And Dee, by the way, reminds me of the quote I shared from Rosaria about how  a good teacher doesn’t shame others. Her way of pointing out dangers and stumbling blocks only makes me more eager to seek Christ, His Word, His Truth …..and avoid the pitfalls that seem to be around every bend of the road!  
       
      You are so on track and pricked my conscience with these words:  “We have a HUGE glut of resources and teaching at our very fingertips and we (talking to myself) do so little.”  It circles me back to the Laodicean church that we looked at last week.  Also….Mary and Martha……so much to work out!  

      1. Jackie:   I did see that article by TGC  from 2010.   I agree with all you’ve written here.  It is disturbing.  Anyway, i just thumbed through HWS’s books and though they may be good in content, I don’t think they grab my interest enough to keep them.  So what do I do?  Pass them on to a thrift store?   Their content is probably okay.  But I always question what to do with writings of people who have fallen from orthodoxy or from good practice or with whom I no longer agree.    Sadly, this has come up quite a lot in our lifetime.  

        1. Yes Wanda…..books are SO hard to just “trash”….especially something like Hinds Feet on High Places…..that’s exactly what I did with that book though several years ago.  My reasoning was simply that if someone picked it up at a thrift shop and loved it (rightly so! ) they might seek out more of the author’s writings (I know I would do that!) and her latest work was really dreadful and would lead very far astray.  I just felt very strongly about my responsibility in that!  BUT…..I truly don’t expect that everyone would have the same perspective on that ……it’s a very individual decision between each of us and the Lord.  

    3. Wanda, I too have a Watchman Nee book I read back in the 80’s but only had one and I don’t remember much of it..I had no idea until this week about quietism. I looked it up and found a link to some excerpts from his writing in The Normalcy of The Spirit and oh my…it is WAY off.

      1. Rebecca,   AND in my searching, I discovered that almost all of his writings are online under ‘the collected works of Watchman Nee’.     I read through a few things.  He does really have a ‘mix’.  The things I read when I was young and skimmed again, really are just fine, I think.    But, there is so much more.   And I am certain, by knowing some of his influences, that there is much distortion.  I had to laugh when I saw all of this online, because when I shared some of his commentary a couple weeks ago, I painstakingly re-typed it all.  I am so old school!  I could have copy/pasted if I had a clue that I could find it online!   

  5. 6. Listen and share your notes and thoughts.       Another treasure trove from Mike Reeves.      He shares a lot from Richard Sibbes, summarizing that the Song is a plain demonstration setting forth the love of Christ for the church and her love for Him.
    If you see how much Christ loves you and how much he loves someone else and sees them as beautiful, that works to reawaken our love.  The point was made that this is also the key for evangelism-to have a heart’s desire for others.   UNION is the foundation of COMMUNION.  Just as union of marriage is the foundation for a happy communion that a couple has with each other.  They have a sweet relationship with each other because of a secure union with each other and love for each other.  This is the opposite of the salvation by works culture which says communion is the foundation of union.  Which is to say ‘I think that by communion with Christ, I secure my union with him’  NO.  I can try communion with Christ as much as I want, but it will never win union with him.  There is only true communion because we are already united with him.  
     
    To be able to say these things plums the very depths of who God is…..the very nature of God.  To have a God who willl treat us like this means you have a very particular sort of God.    Reeves described the great debate of around 320 about the nature of God.   One man, Arius, believed that God was not a father, but that he created a son to ‘do the dirty work for him’.  This makes him a God with an aloof character, not inherently loving. the relationship is merely a business deal.  there is no desire in God for Jesus, but just to appoint him a role.    On the other end of the spectrum was Athanasius who defended the eternity of the Son because he sees the great consequence in doing so.    If you don’t have an eternal son……the whole nature of God is different.  There is no eternally loving Father, if there is not an eternal Son.  This is HUGELY profound and Trinitarian.    
    (I LOVED this part!   I remember studying  the Athanasian creed and looked it up.  There is such depth.  Yet repeated in a way that it could be remembered.  It states that…..“the Son is God from the essence of the Father; begotten before time….”    Realizing some of what the debate was and who the players were, makes the creed so much more powerful.)
     
    He also spoke about how Christ loves the church, his bride maximally and she must receive his love maximally.    And then, this teaching from Sibbes was SO GOOD:
    Do we entertain Christ to our loss?   Do we think we are doing him a favor?  Does Christ come empty????  NO!!!  He comes with all grace.  His goodness is communicative and diffusive to enrich the heart.   He comes to spread treasures,   To bear all afflictions.  To encounter all dangers.  To bring peace of conscience.  To bring joy in the Holy Ghost.  This also applies to the painful removal of our sin.  He is doing it for our liberation. It is pure kindness.    Not for his own ends but to empty his goodness into our own hearts.  He comes out of love to us.  Who he is and how he treats us rolls out of who he is eternally.     
     
    You see this in Ch. 4: 9,10.  He is captivated by her love.  He strongly desires her.  It is a language of perfection.  ” There is no flaw in you”.  
     
    Though there is no explicit mention of the cross in the Song, here is gets close to the cross.  “He declares that she is beautiful and so she is!’   Justification is by HIS declaration.   He delights in her.   Language that is also seen in James 4 (yearns jealous for her)  Zeph. 3:17  ( joy over you with singing)  Heb. 12  (for the joy set before him, endured the cross)  
      Comparison of the garden in Song of Songs and the wind blowing on it to bear fruit with Isaiah 5 in which the grapes were sour and unpleasant.  When Christ by his Spirit changes us, we are genuinely beautiful and the fruit is lovely.  When we are more loving, kind, patient….that is His fruit.  He loves to see his fruit in us.  Christians should not only examine their hearts for sin to be humbled but for what good there is , to find joy in it and be thankful.    When we enjoy the kindness of God, we become kinder and he takes joy in that fruit which is His own work; not ours. 
     
     

    1. oh Wanda – between your notes and Rebecca’s…..after listening to Mike Reeves I came here thinking to share just a bit from my own notes….but I had to chuckle when I saw yours …..the very things that I had highlighted to share were identical to what you shared.  UNION is the foundation of COMMUNION…..To be able to say these things plumbs the very depths of who God is….the very nature of God……Do we entertain Christ to our loss??  All of these have me shaken and thoughtful and SO very grateful to God for Who He is.  

      1. Except, Jackie.….that you spelled ‘plumb’ right!  Ha 🙂    I did SO gain from this message.  I just had to type them out so I could print and keep.  And I will also print out Rebecca’s because yes….she got the points that I didn’t, so together…..most of the message is covered.  

  6. Busy week again and Mike Reeves audio is for some reason fuzzy on my laptop. So, thank you for those who have shared their notes here. Fascinated by the uncovering of Hunnard and WHitall Smith-I have their books from of old as collected by my husband. It is disconcerting for me to read of their straying from the Word of God and made me more aware of being careful with my theology. Also, I see quite a few of my Christian friends leaning so much on works rather than on the finished work of Jesus Christ. Justification is by HIS declaration. Yes, Wanda on your notes. Nothing I do can justify me-only as declared. And oh how much He has to suffer so I can be declared justified.
    8. What do you think is the secret of experiencing the presence of Christ — even in the midst of trial?
    Is this where I choose on how I would respond in the midst of trial? That Jesus is with me no matter what. Is it a mindset? An open heart to see His presence and allow Him to infuse me with understanding of His deep love however troubled I am with my circumstance? And because I know He so longs for me that I can invite Him into it without fear of being rejected? More questions for me than answers.

  7. Thanks, Dee! I may try again sometime when Richard is away and crank up the volume. 🙂 Am reading Phillip Keller “A Shepherd looks at Psalm 23”.  So blessed with a deeper understanding of Jesus love for me as one of His sheep.

    1. BING:   I could hear it great with ear buds!   Otherwise, I was about to do the same thing and crank it up….yet still not enough unless the room was quiet.  Ear buds worked wonderfully.  

  8. Just a little insight I gleaned from my reading in Numbers. The listing of the heads of the clans can surely be tedious but found a sweet word about women included right smack in the middle of it all! There was a man who did not have any sons and had 5 daughters. Their names were listed among the men and in the next chapter their request for equal inheritance with their brothers was granted! How so like our God to sovereignly include this in His Word. It was very personal to me and Numbers seem more palatable (Smile) to read when the Spirit enlightens and encourages.

    1. Bing…. I noticed that too!!  I think we are both doing the 5 day a week reading plan?? I am left with a LOT of questions for the Lord though when reading through Exodus, Leviticus, etc…..just so many!!  Even down to a woman being unclean for twice as long if she gives birth to s baby girl rather than a baby boy!!!  I always hope to avoid others asking me about THAT!??  ?.  I think so many things are just down to “God is God and I am not!”…….

    2. I read through the Bible last year and must have missed both of these good points (Bing and Jackie)  though I  wrote down many question along the way.  I’m SO grateful for everyone here and a place to ‘pool’ our findings and ponderings.   🙂  

  9. 5. Pray here for the persecuted church.  O Sovereign Lord, holy and true.  I am thinking about that scene in Revelation where the souls of martyrs slain for Your Word and their testimony are before You….crying out to You…’how long O Lord’…..til you avenge their blood….when I look at this picture that Dee has reminded us of….the Christians in their orange suits….now Lord, they are with You clothed in white.  You kept them true to You until their very last breath. Hallelujah!  Now they see you face to face.  Your Holy Spirit brings a boldness and a peace and a perseverance that seems impossible in the face of such mockery, such brutality, such evil.  Oh Jesus, may the blood of the martyrs fire all of our faith….but especially those saints who even in this moment are in harms way.  May they live with eternity and heaven in their hearts like a well of HOPE in the darkness.  The path that You have chosen for the persecuted church to walk is very hard, yes even impossible.  We pray to the God of the impossible on their behalf.  What JOYS You have stored up for them!  Please help them to see that they are not forsaken….that You are WITH THEM to the end….and for eternity!  And I pray for those who are visiting such evil upon believers and others…..like the death camp guard who Corrie Ten Boom forgave…..may You be pleased to convict the hearts of those You are calling….no matter WHAT they have done in this life…..help us to remember the apostle Paul, who one moment was seeking the death of Christians and the next was one himself!!  You are not finished calling sinners to the Cross….may some of the members of ISIS and other terrorist groups find YOU.  Remind us all, come what may, that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!  Amen.  Come quickly Lord Jesus.  We love You.  We long for You.  

    1. AMEN and AMEN  
      (Jackie,  so good to pray along with yours and Laura’s prayers here.)  
       

      1. Amen to this beautiful prayer. What suffering is endured that I cannot imagine.

  10. 8.  What do you think is the secret of experiencing the presence of Christ – even in the midst of trial?     I can only think to go to the Scriptures on this question…..for that is where I “find” the presence of Christ.  In his prayer in John 17 Jesus says this:  “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent…..”   Later in that chapter he prays – for us! – “Sanctify them in the truth, your word is truth.”  and then, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  Oh, so MUCH here.  His Word and His people.  The sanctifying power of His Word in unity with His people…..and such will “draw” unbelievers to Him!!  Later on in Philippians 3:10, Paul says “…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,…..”  
     
    So I do experience His presence in HIs Word…..with his people….and in my sufferings…..for as I am willing to be a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:2), He draws near to me…..and I know Him more…..and more…..

  11. 8.  What do you think is the secret of experiencing the presence of Christ – even in the midst of trial? 
    Because sufferings can knock us off balance and because our vision can be clouded, it becomes critical to keep myself watered by the word ~  reading, listening, allowing the lies coming against me to be exposed by that continual input of Truth.   And oh, how essential it has been to not isolate myself from other believers, for an isolated sojourner can certainly be discouraged and overcome   (I know because I have, at times, isolated myself.)
     
    I Peter 4:12-13 says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
     
    Love Scotty Smith’s prayer response to this and to Romans 5:3-5:
     
    Dear Lord Jesus,
    this portion of your Word comes like a kiss from heaven; a balm from the throne room of grace; a relief that no man-made elixir could offer. To know that suffering is a normal part of the Christian life actually brings a great deal of relief. For many of us have endured the destructive power of bad theology—various teachings that make Christians feel like spiritual pygmies for suffering any degree of illness, lack, loss, defeat, doubt, economic struggle, emotional duress, and the list goes on. But you tell us painful trials and suffering are not strange at all.

    It’s not that I want to suffer more, and I know I can suffer much simply from my own foolishness. But no one wants to suffer in vain or with a sense of being a disappointment to you, or feeling abandoned by you, or being punished by you. The gospel tells us your love for us in unwavering, but pain is an accomplished and effective liar.
    Jesus, please help us understand how our suffering can be understood as participating in your sufferings. Your death on the cross was a once-and-for-all suffering—perfectly securing the salvation of your people. However, you’re not a distant, disconnected, dispassionate Savior. You are presently making all things new, and this involves showing up in the messes and madness of life.
    Where there is injustice, disease, brokenness, and suffering, you are right there. How do we join you there, joyfully  and enter into the costly and redemptive fellowship of the suffering? (Phil. 3:10) Grant us grace for this calling, Lord.
    A Day of no more suffering is coming (Rev. 21:1-5)—the day when your glory will be fully revealed—and what a day of rejoicing that will be. Until then, give us all the sufficient, sustaining, serving grace we need now to suffer with you and for you. So very Amen we pray, in your wonderful and merciful name.
    http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/scottysmith/2013/10/02/a-prayer-for-accepting-the-normalcy-of-suffering/
     

  12. 8.  What do you think is the secret of experiencing the presence of Christ – even in the midst of trial?   (I just posted a lengthy answer to this and it disappeared.  So, I’m sorry if it ends up being here twice!)
    Since life can be disorienting at times and we can be thrown off balance and have our vision muddied, it becomes critical to keep up a continual input of truth through reading and listening, which continually exposes the lies I may be believing.     It is also critical that I not isolate myself from other believers, because an isolated sojourner is at great risk of becoming discouraged and overcome.  (I know, because I have isolated myself at times.)
     
    I Peter 4:12-13 says,  “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”
     
    I love Pastor Scotty Smith’s prayer response to this and to Romans 5:3-5:
     
    Dear Lord Jesus,
    This portion of your Word comes like a kiss from heaven; a balm from the throne room of grace; a relief that no man-made elixir could offer. To know that suffering is a normal part of the Christian life actually brings a great deal of relief. For many of us have endured the destructive power of bad theology—various teachings that make Christians feel like spiritual pygmies for suffering any degree of illness, lack, loss, defeat, doubt, economic struggle, emotional duress, and the list goes on. But you tell us painful trials and suffering are not strange at all.
     
    It’s not that I want to suffer more, and I know I can suffer much simply from my own foolishness. But no one wants to suffer in vain or with a sense of being a disappointment to you, or feeling abandoned by you, or being punished by you. The gospel tells us your love for us in unwavering, but pain is an accomplished and effective liar.
     
    Jesus, please help us understand how our suffering can be understood as participating in your sufferings. Your death on the cross was a once-and-for-all suffering—perfectly securing the salvation of your people. However, you’re not a distant, disconnected, dispassionate Savior. You are presently making all things new, and this involves showing up in the messes and madness of life.
     
    For full response go to:
     http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/scottysmith/2013/10/02/a-prayer-for-accepting-the-normalcy-of-suffering/