TRULY, I BELIEVE TOGETHER WE CAN MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND THIS YEAR.
IF YOU’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE, WELCOME BACK!
IF YOU ARE NEW, WELCOME! (Newcomers — go to Dee’s homepage, click Bible Study Blog on the top, and then look for this picture, click on it, and it will give you easy directions to participate.)
THOUGH IT IS TRUE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS TEND TO BE BROKEN,
I THINK THAT IS BECAUSE WE ATTACK THE SYMPTOM AND NOT THE ROOT.
We resolve to spend less, eat less, get less angry.
Or, we resolve to be more like Jesus and give more grace, be more other-centered,
live more simply…
But we seem to break all those resolutions.
MY BOOK OF THE YEAR FOR 2016 IS:
FOR THE NEXT TWO MONTHS I WILL CONCENTRATE ON SOME OF THE LIFE-CHANGING INSIGHTS FROM SCRIPTURE THAT WILBOURNE BRINGS.
WE WILL BEGIN WITH WILBOURNE’S DEFINITION OF A TRUE BELIEVER.
MANY PEOPLE, IF ASKED TO DEFINE WHAT A CHRISTIAN IS,
WOULD TELL YOU IT IS FOLLOWING THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS.
YOU ASK YOURSELF, “WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?” AND TRY TO DO IT.
AND WHILE THAT IS NOT WITHOUT MERIT,
THE FUNDAMENTAL ERROR IS THAT IT ASSUMES CHRIST
IS OUTSIDE OF OURSELVES,
AND THAT LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE MEANS TRYING,
WITH ALL OUR MIGHT, TO DO WHAT HE DID.
THAT APPROACH FAILS, AND LEADS NOT TO JOY,
BUT TO MISERY AND DESPAIR, FOR, A FEW DAYS INTO THE NEW YEAR,
OUR BUDGET, OUR DIET, AND OUR GOOD INTENTIONS HAVE FAILED AGAIN!
WE HAVE NO POWER IN OURSELVES.
WE SIMPLY CANNOT DO IT ALONE.
THE WORD CHRISTIAN OCCURS ONLY 3 TIMES IN SCRIPTURE.
THE PHRASE “IN CHRIST” OCCURS AROUND 165 TIMES.
THIS PHRASE BETTER GRASPS THE SECRET.
THIS IS HOW WE ARE GOING TO START THE NEW YEAR RIGHT!
BY CONTEMPLATING THIS MYSTERY,
ALLOWING IT TO SOAK INTO OUR VERY BONES,
AND RAISE US FROM THE DEATH OF TRYING TO DO IT OURSELVES
TO JOYFUL VICTORY IN CHRIST!
WHAT IF THE ONLY RESOLUTION YOU MADE THIS YEAR WAS
TO CONCENTRATE, THROUGH THE DAY, ON KEEPING COMMUNION WITH CHRIST?
I BELIEVE YOU WOULD DISCOVER LUSH FRUIT BEGINNING TO APPEAR
IN YOUR VINEYARD.
YOU WILL NEED PATIENCE, SUCH AS AN ORCHARD KEEPER DOES,
BUT IF YOU PERSIST IN A LONG OBEDIENCE IN THE SAME DIRECTION,
AND AT THE END OF THIS YEAR,
SHOULD THE LORD ALLOW YOU ANOTHER YEAR,
YOU WOULD FIND YOURSELF ON HIGHER GROUND!
I KNOW MOST OF YOU ARE IN OTHER STUDIES, AND I WANT YOU TO DO THEM.
I WILL KEEP THESE STUDIES SHORT, WITH A LITTLE TO DO EACH DAY.
I WILL POST A NEW STUDY EVERY TWO WEEKS.
EACH OF US WILL STUMBLE, BUT WILL FIND STRENGTH FROM ANOTHER
WE WILL PERSIST, AND WE WILL, THROUGH THE MIGHTY POWER OF CHRIST,
AND OUR UNION WITH HIM AND ONE ANOTHER, GET TO HIGHER GROUND.
AND EXHORT ONE ANOTHER TO PRESS ON
TO TRUST NOT IN OUR OWN EFFORTS,
BUT IN CHRIST ALONE.
Go at your own pace, but I’ve given you bite-sized assignments each day. This way you can keep up with your other studies. If you don’t have other studies, you can spend more time here. Read comments as you feel led.
SUNDAY, NEW YEAR’S DAY, 2017!
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
MONDAY, JAN 2
2. Read James 4:8
A. What promise is in the first sentence?
B. What, according to the 2nd sentence, is it important to keep short-accounts throughout the day?
C. How does this song from Sara Grove’s illustrate the truth of this passage?
TUESDAY, JAN 3
Wilbourne quotes Aristotle who says “the soul never thinks without an image.” So the Word gives us images to show that Christianity, unlike the world religions, does not have a leader who is outside ourselves, but who, through His Spirit, lives in us, bringing rivers of living water welling up in our souls. Two images from the Word that help us begin to grasp this mystery are “the organic life of a plant” and “marriage.” A tree’s roots draw strength from the soil, and a branch draws strength from the vine. They are “one.” In the same way, a husband and a wife become “one.” Both of these metaphors permeate the Song of Songs. Watch the promotional video for my upcoming book, He Calls You Beautiful.
3. Take some time with this:
A. How does the image of a vineyard, or the vine and the branches, give you insight into how you might move to higher ground in 2017?
B. How does the image of marriage give you insight into how you might move to higher ground in 2017?
4. And of course I’d love input into the video! 🙂
WEDNESDAY, JAN 4, 2017!
On a personal note, after this picture below was taken of me and 8 of my 13 grandchildren this Christmas, I thought about how my late husband Steve (born on Jan 4th!) wanted Psalm 128:3 on his tombstone.
(I forgot — but will remedy that on his stone some day!) Whether you have biological, adopted, or spiritual children — our marriage to Chirst, our union with Christ, can make us fruitful vines, helping the next generation to hear of HIs faithfulness and goodness. One day we will all be around His table.
This psalm combines the metaphor of marriage and the vine and has me PONDERING!
Our union and communion with Christ affects not only us, but generations to come.
5. Think about your children, for if we have known the Lord for a few years, we have spiritual children, people we are mentoring, or, you may have biological or adopted children/grandchildren. How does your life impact them? How could you pray for them today, show them Christ’s love, or mentor them?
6. What I pray for you is that each day you will get your soul “happy” in the Lord, as George Mueller put it. When will you “eat,” what will you “eat,” and where will you “eat”? (Planning a routine will help!)
Thursday and Friday, January 5 and 6
THE TREE AND VINE METAPHORS
Psalm 1 and John 15 are key in helping us grasp communion in Christ. So we will begin 2017 with these pictures — and consider the marriage metaphor another time.
Let’s start with classic Keller on Psalm 1 — an image of a tree planted by rivers of living water — closely related to a branch abiding in the vine. Please listen to this and share your thoughts and comments. It will help you get started on the path toward joy in 2017. If you are running out of time, do it over the weekend!
7. Share your notes or reflections on Keller’s The Search for Happiness.
Saturday, Jan 7
8. What is your take-a-way this week and why?
Sunday, Jan 8
I was quickened when Keller talked about why we are tempted to lie, or to cheat, or to run elsewhere. We seek happiness above holiness, and yet holiness is what leads to happiness. Seek happiness and you lose it, seek holiness, seek righteousness, seek Christ — and happiness gets thrown in. This is like Jonathan Edward’s belief that “True human happiness cannot be found or experienced apart from God’s glory. “Therefore God’s glory and human flourishing are one and the same.” For example, when I refuse forgiveness from my heart, I do so, because I think it will make me happier. But indeed, if instead, I choose God’s glory, and forgive from my heart, to my surprise, I find joy seeping up into my bones. C. S. Lewis famously said the same:Rankin Wilbourne shares the same in Union with Christ — and also does a wonderful job of showing how throughout the ages this is the secret the saints and the martyrs knew. Holiness is to be sought for it leads to joy and beauty. I am experiencing this. Sometimes I beat myself up that it took me so long to really grasp this — for I don’t have that much life left! Yet I am thankful to see it now and want to mentor younger women to discover it sooner than I did.
9. What thoughts do you have on the above?
10. How did you do in the first week of the new year? (Remember, we are not aiming for perfection but for, what Eugene Peterson calls, “a long obedience in the same direction.” This will lead to fruit in your vineyard. Did you keep shorter accounts with God? Did you draw near to Him? If not, what would He tell you?
MONDAY, JAN 9
Prepare your heart with this from Kim Hill: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0DVrTk80Ps
11. Read Psalm 1, remembering that “blessed” is another word for “happy.” What is the main point of this psalm and how will you apply it?
TUESDAY, JAN 10
12. Look at Psalm 1 again
A. You may have already memorized this psalm — if so, review it. If not, or even if you have, choose a verse that quickens you and meditate on it day and night. What did you choose and what reflections do you have?
B. Has the Word become a “delight to you?” If so, why? If not, find heart in knowing it is an acquired taste, and it will be if you persist in a long obedience in the same direction.
WEDNESDAY-FRIDAY JAN 11-13 2017
(On a personal note I am speaking in the prison/hospital in Houston for the rest of the week and covet your prayers!)
Prepare your heart with this from John Michael Talbot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHr7Z7ZS3GE
13. Read John 15:1-5
A. What does Jesus say in verse 1? Meditate on this and share what you see.
B. There is a pattern in John where Jesus differentiates between false shepherds and Himself, the good shepherd. He differentiates between attempting to come to God through others ways and through Him, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Now He says He is the “True vine,” implying we may try to get our sustenance from false vines. Consider ways you have tried to get guidance, help, or sustenance in false ways in 2016. How could this year be different?
C. Why is a branch not able to bear fruit unless it is connected to the vine?
D. Psalm 1 might lead us to believe that all we need to do is meditate — and even this passage might make us think all we need to do is to be in the Word. Yet it is possible to hear the Word and not obey. What does Jesus add in verse 10, and what are the promises in 10 and 11?
E. What similarities do you see between Psalm 1 and John 15?
SATURDAY, JAN 14, 2017
14. What is your take-a-way this week and why?
14. What is your take-a-way this week and why?
I cannot tell you how many times this past week I have visualized my “roots” reaching down deeper into the Lord’s reservoir for additional needed sustenance…I just love that the Lord is my provider, despite my being one among billions of His sons and daughters. It just blows my mind to think how personal the Lord is…He has billions and billions of sons and daughters, yet He calls me His beloved and allows me to feel uniquely loved and cared for by Him; He knows my needs and understands me better than I do myself.
My dear sisters in Christ-my heart has been heavy these days as I wrestle with my daughter’s personal struggles. I so long for her to get right with God. This study has really helped me keep digging deeper and relying more and more on Jesus. I found this article very helpful. Diane, thanks for encouraging me to share here. https://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/september-2007/let-them-come-home/
Praying your daughter will return to Him with her whole heart, Bing.
Thank you, Mary. Amidst your own health challenges, you bless me with your faithful prayers.
Amen to Mary’a prayers for children of Bing, Rebecca, and Lizzy. May we see God do a mighty work in their hearts!
Sweet Bing– I am so sorry for your continued pain with your daughter. The article was helpful for me and timely–thank you for sharing it. A good reminder, and convicting–I am not so good at being “gentle in your disappointment”. It IS hard, though mine is younger, I still feel our teaching falls literally on deaf ears–painful to watch, weary to keep pressing on. I have been convicted lately to give Him thanks, even in THIS, for He is greater, He IS sovereign, and He promises to work it all for good. Praying for you now dear sister.
Thank you, Lizzy. Yes, He is faithful and He promises to work it all for good.
Dee: we know u made it home safely…looking fwd to more details!! 🙂
What stands out to you from the above, and why?
My deceitful heart. I am saddened by the ways I seek glory for myself. I struggled with insecurity all growing up, but insecurity is really just a terrible form of pride. I hate how much others approval, or acceptance/understanding of me still matters. I work through it, and remind myself truth—and am living more and more out of that place, but there are still times, where my feelings get hurt, I feel misunderstood or over-looked—and it hurts more than I want it to. So thankful He is faithful to keep working in me! I do so deeply desire, more than I ever have, to live fully for Him, for His glory, and not my own. He is working that deeper in me—and I am finding, maybe as Mary did with Judas’ comments when she poured her perfume on Jesus’ feet, that when I feel I am most living for Him—others, including those closest to me, don’t always accept it or understand.
Lizzy Your post really struck a chord with me. I am so there with you in this. I am re reading Andrew Murray’s book ” Humility” The beauty of Holiness. I wrote in my journal from it this morning. “Faith seeks the glory that comes from God, that only comes from where God is All. As long as we take glory from one another, as long as ever we seek and love and jealously guard the glory of this life, the honor and reputation that comes from men, we do not seek and cannot receive the glory that comes from God. Pride renders faith impossible. Salvation comes thru a cross and a crucified Christ. Salvation is union with and delight in, salvation is participation in, the humility of Jesus. Is it a wonder that our faith is so feeble when pride still reigns so much, and we have scarce learnt even to long or pray for humility as the most needful and blessed part of salvation? ”
I used to pray for Humility and I had someone tell me not to pray for it that I will be humbled not praying for it. Well I am praying for it anyway.
Your last line is so touching to me “I do so deeply desire, more than I ever have, to live fully for Him, for His glory, and not my own. He is working that deeper in me—and I am finding, maybe as Mary did with Judas’ comments when she poured her perfume on Jesus’ feet, that when I feel I am most living for Him—others, including those closest to me, don’t always accept it or understand. ”
Liz–I had signed off for the night but came back to check an email & this so blessed me-thank you. Andrew Murray’s Humility book is beside me on my desk as I type–one of my favorites! I pick it up every few days and glean so much from it. So love your heart.