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Friday, March 21, 2008

All the Vain Things That Charm Me Most...

This post was actually written seven or eight years ago as part of a book I was working on at the time.

On Easter Sunday several years ago the Spirit of God ministered to me regarding Christ's sacrifice on the Cross. During the worship service there was special music - a solo that opened up to me a new view of the resplendent and multifaceted jewel of the gospel. I saw it from a new angle. The song was “Ten-Thousand Angels”. The last line of the chorus is, "But He died alone for you and me". This really hit me.

Lately, because of conversations with my neighbor, an elderly widow, I've been thinking about the agony of dying alone, one of her fears. On a human level it is a very frightening thought. To face death abandoned, helpless, loveless, deprived of comfort, sympathy and human touch is a nightmare we cast far from our thoughts. And yet, that pain becomes negligible in comparison to Christ's aloneness at His death.

He was sinless, not deserving of death for physical death is punishment for sinful man (Gen. 2:16-17). He not only died alone, but also was rejected by loved ones in His last hours. He died a most violent, agonizingly painful and humiliating death. He died to eternally benefit those who hated Him, the same ones He created and sustains. He died a criminal's death although He had committed no crime, was innocent of even the smallest offense, and had, in fact, brought only good into an evil world. He was mocked and spat upon by sinful men, the very ones He was dying for. He knew He did not have to die; He could have called ten-thousand angels.

And finally, the anguish that was by far the most grievous to Him - to be forsaken by the One with whom He had had intimate fellowship from eternity past (Mt. 27:46). This is the same One who now promises never to leave me, never to forsake me (Heb. 13:5). He died alone for you and me. Does this cause not you to wonder at so great a love (1 Jn. 3:1)?

Isaac Watts understood the significance of the cross in his song, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross":

When I survey the wondrous cross
Onwhich the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it Lord that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down:
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

What a glorious declaration of the miracle of the cross. It indeed is wondrous. And as Watts penned, it demands from us our very lives and loyalties; it calls us to sacrifice those vain things that charm us (Phil 3:7-9); and it compels us to hold in contempt the pride that robs our glorious Prince of the honor, thanks and praise that we owe Him and which is rightfully due Him.

The cross is emptied of its power when we make insignificant things our delight (I Corinthians 1:17). It is because we "forsake" Him again for mere idols or ideals. When we esteem something else as more important, of greater value than Jesus Christ and Him crucified, we forsake Him on the cross, so to speak, making the message trivial, emptying it of its power. If the cross is not of the greatest importance to us, then we make it an impotent message in our experience and in our witness to others.

"All the vain things that charm me most" can be anything good or bad. For Christian women, it almost always is one of the good gifts God has given that we then elevate to the place that only Christ should occupy in our hearts. It could be family, ministry, or husband.

Oh, Lord Jesus, what have You suffered on my behalf? I can merely glimpse it. You have not required my blood for my own transgressions against You. But You, sinless and perfect, imposed my sentence upon Yourself and bled in my place. Though I have forsaken You, You will never leave me. Now, even though I may die with no human fellowship, I will not be alone in that hour for You will be there closer than a brother to carry me through the veil to Your loving embrace.

May I always stay near to You, cling to You, never turn from You; may I never again forsake You for lesser things since I was the one who caused Your pain and justly should have received Your death sentence in my sinful flesh. Please forgive me for being captivated by things that can be understood, easily explained and produced with mere fleshly effort.

What can be more significant than the cross work of Christ? For us who are being saved it is a matter of life or death, of heaven or hell. We can never plumb the depths of it. Even in eternity the cross will continue to draw us and make us wonder. How great a Savior we serve; how indescribable His love for those whose rebellion caused His pain. It is unfathomable, too deep for me to understand, but I want to continue to ponder this supremely sacrificial act and the glorious One who willingly died for me. Now may I ask, what charms you most?

Celebrate the risen Christ by honoring Him as your most precious treasure! Have a blessed day remembering and rejoicing in His wonderous gift of love to you.

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

All the Vain Things That Charm Me Most...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Theology Two - Soul Food for the Hungry Heart

"For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things." Ps. 107:9

Theology - nourishment for all His daughters that hunger and thirst for Him
Theology is a gift from God and His gifts are good for all His children, regardless of tribe or nation or tongue or people. In third-world countries, most women continue after salvation to be bound to the culture due to illiteracy and/or lack of resources, crippled by the superstitions and practices of their dark world. Not until God’s women have a steady diet of His nourishing word will they be set free from the worldly deceptions that bind them, regardless of whether those lies are sophisticated or primitive.

There is a real need for a consistent intake of theology in the lives of women who have broken from the world and are growing spiritually, whether that break was recent or many years in the past. If she is a new believer, a woman will remain bound to her culture unless she has a steady, earnest and comprehensive intake of the word of God. For those who have walked awhile with Christ, the yawn of complacency is always waiting to meander its way into our innermost being.

Each day should reveal more of God’s perfections to us, especially at times when our lives are unchallenged by trials. Psalm. 27:4-5b tells us why this is necessary, “One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in His pavilion….” Knowing Him now, while the waters of life are calm, will ensure that we will find Him to be our refuge when the winds howl.

Women, like men, can easily loose their sense of spiritual direction in the peak of a stormy trial. During the tumult, when our circumstances may seem to contradict our convictions, i.e. “How can God be good when this is happening to me?” are the times when our theology must really pass muster. When trials challenge our ideas about who God is, our theology must go to work for us like the anchor of a storm-tossed ship. Questions arise in our minds during trials and we begin, like Job, to dialogue ardently with God. If we are not anchored in the Scriptures, we can easily loose ground and be cast adrift on a sea beset with many "winds of doctrine". When we are sound in our theology, when we really know God, those questions will not hinder our faith but rather strengthen it.

In a world where there is no balance, stability will only be found within the pages of Scripture. The solid truths of historic Christianity, the whole counsel of God, the doctrines of the Bible – in short – theology, should be a Christian woman’s intake rather than the sweet, fluffy snippets, served up in dainty little devotional booklets that so often characterize a woman’s spiritual diet, especially in developed countries.

Consequently, in writing this article, it is important for me – rather it is imperative – to be able to not only recite the truths of theology, but also to demonstrate how they can be actualized in my life and in the lives of the women I teach, on any continent. Since God has given that opportunity, I must know how the theology I embrace here at home in my easy chair will prove to be practical also for women who work half the day simply to get a drink of water.

The truths of theology, when taken in as food for the soul, will change a woman’s perspective and way of living. Providing her with a solid foundation, these precious teachings will free any serious Christian woman from her worldly culture, provide balance and equip her for even the most difficult of circumstances. Armed with a real knowledge of God, she will be empowered to produce the fruit of righteousness in any situation or culture. Confidence, peace, joy, love, etc. will result and this fruit will ultimately resound to the glory of God.

Theology is necessary food - real food - for every Christian woman, no matter where she lives, or what her circumstances are. Dear Christian woman, what is your circumstance? Are you bound to destructive habits? It is because your worldly diet has malnourished you. Come to the table beautifully adorned with the sumptuous soul food prepared just for you by your Creator and Redeemer. He feeds the hungry, He heals the lame, He sets prisoners free. He is the very Bread of Life and the Living Water that our souls yearn for.

"Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according to the faithful mercies shown to David." Isa 55:1-3

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

Theology Two - Soul Food for the Hungry Heart

Thursday, March 13, 2008

In Awe of Your Grace Works of Art

Most of these works of art have been used in posts here on In Awe of Your Grace. As far as I know, they are in public domain (use any you like as you wish). Many of these pieces have inspired me, so I decided to show them as a collection in a "gallery".

Should you want to read the original post that is associated with the art, just click on the picture itself and it will link you to the article. Some pictures have not yet been used in a post. Should you click on one of those it will not produce an accompanying post.

Posted by Sharon Kaufman

In Awe of Your Grace Works of Art