Righteousness and Good Works

dandelionLast week I talked about being content. But I can’t stop there. I tend to err on the side of being too content.

I’m meant to be serving God with joy, but that has softened into happiness. Which melted down into contentment – not with myself, but with my place in life. I’m often satisfied with living a socially acceptable life and letting God’s grace fill in the gaps. I’m not zealous for the Lord! I’m just satisfied with where my life is going, and that is not the same thing at all. There must be love for God’s Word, fear of His holiness, and zeal for walking in the Spirit.

Matthew 6:5 says:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,
For they shall be filled.

And the Westminster Confession tells us that good works are the fruits and evidences of a true and living faith.

Good works must come from a heart that is humble and right with God. A good work can only be what is commanded in the revealed will of God. And it must be done for the kingdom and glory of God, with the intention of loving God and my neighbour.

Good works come from the Holy Spirit’s influence, but we mustn’t always wait for His special leading. Instead, we must be diligent in stirring up the grace of God in us.

“Why should we do good works if we have been saved? What purpose can there be in struggling against the flesh when salvation is sure?” you might ask. Well, I know how hard and even hopeless striving for godliness can seem in this broken world. But here are the reasons given by the Heidelberg Catechism  – and, sister, these are biblical reasons!

86 Q. : Since we have been delivered by grace alone through Christ, why must we yet do good works?

A. : Because Christ, having redeemed us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit to be his image, so that with our whole life we may show ourselves thankful to God for his benefits, and he may be praised by us.
Further, that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by its fruits, and that by our godly walk of life we may win our neighbours for Christ.

The Westminster Confession Chapter 16 says that by doing good works, we show thankfulness, strengthen our assurance of salvation, edify our fellow believers, adorn the profession of the gospel, deprive our opponents of arguments against it, and glorify God. Great!

NB I am not talking about salvation by works, but life after salvation by grace.

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The Necessity of Love

Love Heart in Sand
I’m not going to contribute to the fascinating discussion of the different Greek words for love in the New Testament. I’m just going to start this post right here and say –

Without love, there is no real life. Neither is it loving to end someone’s life.
Killing someone is not love, no matter what the euthanasia campaigners would have us believe. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Love is not taking someone else’s life –  it is giving them yours.

Even if you don’t give your life – if you don’t actually die for your friends, love is still about giving. It’s about forsaking yourself in the interests of others.

Jesus didn’t only love His friends – He loved His enemies. In fact, He even died for them, and  for you. Because you were an enemy of God. But He sent His own Son to reconcile us to Himself  – while we were still His enemies, Christ died for us. Now God even calls us His children!

How much does this say about your love? Is your every thought, word, deed and desire rooted and grounded in love? (Ephesians 3:17) Are you truly a loving person?

We are called to love. And now it’s time – for you. To love your God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength. To love your neighbour as yourself.

Because God is Love.
And He’s commanded it.

With love,
Rhoda

Dwelling in the Love of God

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On Wednesday, Mum has back pains, side pains,chest pains. She can’t do very much. But life goes on much as usual.

Dwelling in the Love of God

Sunday night, I sit on my bed in the half-dark. I cry to God:
“Papa God, I’m not humble enough. And I don’t try hard enough at anything. Please send me a trial,so that I can grow less prideful through it.”

Monday morning, Mum feels even worse. She rings the doctor’s office to ask for an appointment that afternoon. The receptionist says:
“If you have chest pains, you must immediately ring an ambulance! You might be having a heart attack!” Mum feels that it would be silly to ring the ambulance, when she has been in pain for days. So she walks down to the hospital at 1:30. We are left with instructions to ask Mrs Gonen to come and look after my brothers while I’m at work if Mum hasn’t rung by 2 p.m. She doesn’t ring, so I ring Mrs Gonen. As I wash the lunch dishes, I think: No! Just because I asked for a trial, does that mean that this is my fault? Did I do this to Mum? And the answer is no. My prayer has no power to bring this illness. God allowed it, in His Divine Providence. And  whatever the purposes for which He ordained it, I know that it is for our good. (See Heidelberg Catechism, Q & A 1.) So I stand, washing, washing, holding back the tears.

Dwelling in the Love of God

I talk to people on the phone. Dad, Grandma, the Library. There is much to do. I tell myself to stay calm, waiting for Mrs Gonen.

Dwelling in the Love of God

I am late getting to work. I come out the back, into the workroom. My eyes fall upon Julia. I hug her and suddenly I am crying. :
“It’ll be alright. Don’t worry about your mum, she’ll be fine.” I nod, swallowing hard. “You don’t have to work today. You know you can go home.” I shake my head
“No, I’ll stay. I’ll be okay.” I go into the locker room and kneel on the floor. Papa God, do you want me to stay?
I  put on my badge. I am ready.

Dwelling in the Love of God

Wednesday. I am outside the library, in the garage, when Chris calls me.
“Your mother’s on the phone.” I follow him inside. He puts the call to another phone. I sit down. Mum’s been at the hospital for more tests.
“Hello?”
“Hi darling. How’s it going?”
“Okay.”
“Honey, they want me to go down to Dunedin Hospital today, for surgery. The Gonens are coming to take you all out to Kakanui.”
My mind doesn’t have time to process this.
“Okay.”
Mum says she will ring back in a few minutes with more details.
“Okay. Bye Mum.”
After a word to Chris, I head back to the garage. Then it’s back inside to start boxing up some old books.
Soon, Jean asks me to take a break with her. I don’t usually take time in my one-and-one-half hours each day for a break, but since I’ve been asked,  I  agree. In the staffroom, we make our drinks and sit down. Two volunteers join us, talking contentedly. Suddenly, the door opens, and Mum comes in. I jump up, and hug her close.
“Mum, are you okay? What’s happening?”
“The doctors found some stones in my gallbladder, a whole family of them. Mrs Gonen is taking me down to Dunedin soon, so I can have my gallbladder removed.”
I can’t think of anything to say. Mum goes back around the corner to the small local hospital. Jean asks me:
“Do you want to go with her? You know you don’t have to finish work today. Family is more important than the library. Are you sure?”
I’m confused. I shake my head, and we go back to work. People ask me what’s happening, and try to make me feel better. But I know that the only way to be at peace is to be

Dwelling in the Love of God

On the way to the Gonens’, we drive along by the sea. As I watch the waves, the rocks, the seaweed – a lump rises in my throat,and tears spring up in my eyes. I tell myself: This trouble is a wave washing over me, but I don’t need to be worried for anything. I’m secure on the Rock which never moves.

Dwelling in the Love of God

I look at the faces around the dinner table. I tell myself: No matter who I’m eating with, I’m always with Jesus, the One Who never leaves.

Dwelling in the Love of God

Thursday. We wait for the bus. The two little boys stretch our patience. I cannot see the sea. We talk, trying to fill the time. Waiting, waiting for Dad.

Dwelling in the Love of God

Friday. I get up and begin serving my family. Little Mama cleans, and tidies, and washes, and comforts. Then I am myself again as I walk to work. Everyone is lovely, and I cover seven books. Once home, it is time again for Little Mama to appear. Dad and the boys go to tune an organ. Little Mama is busy, making bread dough, washing dishes, and sweeping floors. Home they come, for the lunch kindly provided for us by a sister in Christ. Dad is off to play for a funeral, and the older boys soon follow across the road to the Anglican church. But little Jamie is asleep on the couch, and Little Mama still has plenty to do. When everyone is home, it is time for the long drive to visit Mum in hospital. We drive out to the farm, where Grandma joins us, and all continue southwards.

Dwelling in the Love of God

Our visit is all too soon over. But on the way home, I am busy talking to my Heavenly Father: “Papa God, I wish I could just die. But no! Then who would care for my brothers? Oh Father, it is so hard to be a Little Mama.” I feel the familiar ache, the longing to be at home. Then I realize, “Home is where my family is. Right now, home is here in this car. And, actually, home is where God is. And He is right here with me.” I feel the hand of God on my shoulders, and I am comforted.

Dwelling in the Love of God

Obedience is Only Instant

tea towelsImagine your mum comes into your room, and says “Go hang out the washing”. Do you:
Say “Sure, Mum, I’d be glad to,” put a marker in to your book, and head to the laundry?
Say “Yes Mum,” finish your chapter, and go along out?
Say “Mmhmm”, read for 15 minutes, and then climb out the window and sneak round the house so she doesn’t see you?
Well, I’m sure you realize that only the first scenario is the right one. And it makes no difference who gave you the instruction, what it was, or what you were doing. If you don’t obey instantly, you’re not real obeying at all. And this doesn’t just apply to legal minors. This is true for all of us, no matter who we’re supposed to be obeying.
Imagine that your instructor instructs you, and then hangs round staring at you until the task has been carried out. It would be irritating in the extreme, but you would definitely get onto the job much sooner, and perhaps even do a better job, knowing that you were being watched.
I’ve just realized that God is always watching. He sees every time you sit around, slack, take too much break time, or carry out your chore with a sullen attitude or rebellious heart. God sees. And he cares.
Look up these verses, in context, to more fully understand this important truth. John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Acts 5:32 “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Romans 2:8 “but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.” Ephesians 6:1 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Hebrews 13:17 “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

An instant response to the initial prompting of the Holy Spirit, or to the commands of another authority, is true self-control. Look up 2 Peter 1 and  Galatians 5:22-23 on the subject.

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 We don’t serve God because we have to. We are freed from Satan. Serving is our privilege, and it is our work of thankfulness to God for our freedom from slavery to Satan. Put aside your pride, and become an obedient servant of God, and all the authorities He’s placed over you. And do it with Joy!

Life as an Actress

file7781250177228Girls, did you know that you are an actress? You are performing your own life, live on your own personal stage.

Your audience consists mainly of your director. Others come and go, but they do not fully understand your performance. The director instructs you, and gives you guidance when the script is blank. This play is a one-off event, and at the end, you will either gain admittance to the director’s mansions, or be sentenced to eternal death. The director’s son is also watching. He is a perfect man who has acted his play, and is seated with his father.

As you live, you are acting. But you are not reading the script. It is in your hand, but you pay little attention. The script has all you need in order for you to act the play correctly. It is, literally, ‘at hand’, but you ignore it altogether. You see this as your play, and have no intentions of obeying the orders of anyone else. You have your own ideas about what you should be doing and only glance briefly at the script when you are at a loss for what to do or say next. You have no wish to follow the director’s instructions.

Your director is totally repulsed by your performance. You are not following the script at all. In fact, you are doing the complete opposite of what is written! Only occasionally do you do something which vaguely resembles your instructions. The director can only give you a mark of zero and condemn you to a place far removed from him. It is a place where you, among many others, will wander, eternally doing your own thing. Always you will be there.

On stage, your heart grows faint. You realize the futility and absolute worthlessness of your performance, and you have an inner assurance that, when you take your final bows, there is no future for you but listlessness and eternal nothingness. You can feel the full weight of all your misdeeds on your thin shoulders. You fall to the ground, bowed down with anguish and completely humbled. All you can do is whisper,

‘Sir, I can do nothing but to ask you to remove this burden…’

The director stands, and calls out,

“Son, be there!”

The Son comes onto the stage. Gently He lifts you to His shoulder, and begins to act your part. He gives you strength, and you cry, with utmost gratitude, from the depths of your soul,

“Abba, Father!”