God rejoices in his loving initiatives

rejoiceI’ve recently been studying the amazing covenant promises of God and tracing them through his Word (as part of my external studies with Moore College, a subject called Promise to Fulfilment). While reading that famous passage about God establishing relationship with us and writing his law in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-36) I was reminded of a less famous but equally gracious promise located nearby. Here it is:

“They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.”
(Jeremiah 32:38-41 NIV)

These verses have been highlighted in my old NIV bible for a long time. The passage contains so many elements of grace and blessings unimaginable! God is the one who ‘inspires us to fear him’ and gives us ‘singleness of heart and action’. Our faith is a gift; the Spirit is a gift that enables us to follow him and secures our relationship with him. God gives this and does this because it brings him pleasure; he rejoices in doing good to us. We can rejoice that he has ‘assuredly planted’ us in Christ, in his growing family of believers, the Church. We have a home in heaven that Christ is preparing for us. None of this is down to us, to our own making. God graciously provided our salvation and he rejoices in it. How could we do anything else?

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Four little girls, suffering and God’s perfect peace

4girlsspaffords1You’ve probably heard of Horatio Spafford. You may realise he is the author of the hymn “It Is Well” (When Peace Like a River) and that he suffered the tragic loss of his four daughters before penning those now famous words. But here is a little more background you may not be aware of, along with an interesting question from Tim Keller:

“Horatio Spafford was an American lawyer who lost everything he had in the Chicago fire of 1871. Only two years later, he sent his wife, Anna, and their four daughters on a ship across the Atlantic Ocean to England. The ship hit another ship and began to sink. As it was sinking, Anna got the four little girls together and prayed. The ship went under the water, and they all were scattered into the waves, and all four little girls drowned. Anna was found floating unconscious in the water by a rescue ship. They took her to England, and she cabled Horatio Spafford just two words: “saved alone.”

spaffordWhen Spafford was on the ship on his way to England to bring his wife home, he began to write a hymn – “It is well with my soul… When peace, like a river…” Those are the words he wrote.

Here is what I want you to think about: why would a man dealing with his grief, seeking the peace of God – the peace like a river – spend the entire hymn on Jesus and His work of salvation? And why would he bring up the subject of his own sin at such a time? He wrote:

My sin, oh, though the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.

What has that got to do with his four little girls who are dead? Everything!
Do you know why? When things go wrong, one of the ways you lose your peace is that you think maybe you are being punished. But look at the cross! All the punishment fell on Jesus. Another thing you may think is that maybe God doesn’t care. But look at the cross! The Bible gives you a God that says, “I have lost a child too; but not involuntarily – voluntarily, on the cross, for your sake. So that I could bring you into my family.”

In that hymn you can watch a man thinking, thanking and loving himself into the peace of God. It worked for him under those circumstances. It worked for Paul under his circumstances (Phil 4:6-13). It will work for you.

– Timothy Keller, “Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering”, p.311-312

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

You can listen to a new arrangement of IT IS WELL by Todd Fields. Find it here on Spotify (our church songlist for 2014).

Greater is the One living inside of me

mercy welcome‘Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed
When others say I’ll never be enough
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world

These lines are the chorus of a really lively and encouraging song on the latest Mercy Me album. The song is titled Greater. It explores the fact that the Great One – Jesus Christ himself – lives in us by grace, through faith!  From His perspective we are redeemed, we are fully accepted by Him, with all our guilt and pain. Though there are days we lose the battle, “grace says it doesn’t matter”.  He is living in us and He is greater than the world that would condemn and discourage, and call us fools.  I pray that your joy and strength may be renewed in the Lord as you sing along.  Below you will find the lyric video, the story behind the song and the lyrics themselves. (If you don’t have a copy of the latest Mercy Me Album, this site says it is just 5.99 on iTunes for a limited time: http://mercyme.org/)  Blessings to you!

GREATER (Mercy Me, Album: Welcome to the New)

Bring your tired and bring your shame
Bring your guilt and bring your pain
Don’t you know that’s not your name
You will always be much more to me

Every day I wrestle with the voices
That keep telling me I’m not right
But that’s alright

‘Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed
When others say I’ll never be enough
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world
In the world, In the world
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world

Bring your doubts and bring your fears
Bring your hurt and bring your tears
There’ll be no condemnation here
You are holy, righteous and redeemed

Every time I fall
There’ll be those who will call me
A mistake, Well that’s OK

Chorus:

There’ll be days I lose the battle
Grace says that it doesn’t matter
‘Cause the cross already won the war
He’s Greater, He’s Greater

I am learning to run freely
Understanding just how He sees me
And it makes me love Him more and more
He’s Greater, He’s Greater

Songwriters: Barry Graul, Bart Millard, Ben Glover, David Garcia, James Bryson, Jim Bryson, Michael John Scheuchzer, Mike Scheuchzer, Nathan Cochran, Robby Shaffer

You would probably also like this song from the same album: Flawless
https://sevennotesofgrace.com/2014/05/14/the-cross-has-made-you-flawless/

 

Remembering grace – specifically!

prayer2No matter who we are or what circumstances and concerns we have, all of us have to deal with trouble in our lives. This post comes from Paul David Tripp with some great advice for turning our troubles into a time when we can be thankful, when we can remember God’s grace to us in a very specific way – quite a challenge!

“When trouble comes, it’s vital that you talk to yourself. . . no one is more influential in your life than you are because no one talks to you as much as you do. What you say to you in moments of trouble will impact the way you respond.

David was a man well acquainted with trouble. Poor David; if you read the Psalms, he always seems to be in trouble! But in these moments, David was always talking to himself. We saw this in Psalm 27 – “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

There’s something else David did in times of trouble that’s very helpful; it’s found in Psalm 4 – “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” (Psalm 4:1, ESV, emphasis mine). In the midst of trouble, David remembered the acts of God. Notice how the above phrase is in the past tense – “you have given me relief when I was in distress.” He’s not thanking the Lord for currently relieving his distressing circumstances.

What can we learn from David? In times of trouble, it’s helpful to remember with specificity the past acts of God’s relieving mercy and grace. You and I have such a short-term memory. Because of sin, we’re all about the gratification and pleasure of today. When trouble comes knocking, we get absorbed in the immediate, forgetting what God has delivered us from in the past and what he’s transforming us into for the future.

David speaks gospel sense to his soul: “Remember, this is not new. I’ve experienced trouble in the past and God was good to me then. He remains good to me today, and what I’m facing is not out of his loving and wise rule.”

I would guess that David learned this theological skill from his ancestors. In the Old Testament, God stops the rushing waters of the Jordan River so the nation of Israel can cross on dry land. The Lord tells Joshua to set out 12 memorial stones. Why? “So that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty.” (Joshua 4:24)

I would encourage you to take notes from Joshua and David. Remember, with specificity, the good things God has done for you. Journal, take a picture, or do whatever else can help you, so when trouble comes knocking, you can say like David, “You have given me relief when I was I distress.”

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

1. How often do you talk to yourself?
2. Reflect on some of the things you’ve said to yourself in the past week. What were you saying to you?
3. What, or who, are some influences that can shape what you say to you?
4. What are some examples from your life when God has given you relief from distress?
5. How can you create “memorial stones” to remind yourself that the hand of the Lord is mighty?

 

New Christmas album from Sovereign Grace!

Sharing an exciting announcement from Sovereign Grace: A new Christmas album, Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus in Song, will be released on September 1. Here are the details from Bob Kauflin:

PHR Album Art bg_Fotor“We released our first Christmas album, Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man, in 2006. A few years ago I started thinking we should do another one. After all, we can never have too many songs that help us reflect on and celebrate the wonder of Jesus becoming Emmanuel, God with us.

So I was intrigued last fall when my good friend, Marty Machowski, asked if Sovereign Grace Music would be interested in producing a Christmas album to accompany an Advent curriculum he had written. After a few conversations with Marty and his publisher, New Growth Press, we decided it would be a great opportunity. The result was our next album, Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus in Song, due out Sept. 1. While the album will stand on its own, thirteen of the fourteen songs on it correspond with lessons from Marty’s devotional.

Writing songs to specific passages of Scripture in each lesson caused us to explore some new territory for Christmas songs. While not all of the songs ended up being congregational, I’m pretty excited about what we ended up with.

Below is a preview version of a song I co-wrote with Jason Hansen, a pastor in the Sovereign Grace Church in Gilbert, AZ. We started it at a songwriter retreat in January and finished it over many long distance sessions using FaceTime and Google Docs.

The song is called “Who Would Have Dreamed” and is based on Micah 5:1-2.

Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us;
with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

We tried to capture the wonder that God would choose unlikely Bethlehem as the birthplace for the Messiah, and the greater wonder that the Son of God himself would be born as an infant. Here are the lyrics:

On a starlit hillside, shepherds watched their sheep
Slowly, David’s city drifted off to sleep
But to this little town of no great renown
The Lord had a promise to keep

Prophets had foretold it, a mighty King would come
Long-awaited Ruler, God’s anointed one
But the Sovereign of all looked helpless and small
As God gave the world His own Son

And who would have dreamed or ever foreseen
That we could hold God in our hands?
The Giver of Life is born in the night
Revealing God’s glorious plan
To save the world

Wondrous gift of heaven: the Father sends the Son
Planned from time eternal, moved by holy love
He will carry our curse and death He’ll reverse
So we can be daughters and sons

And here’s the preview (above). I’m delighted that it’s being sung by my youngest daughter, McKenzie.”
(By Bob Kauflin)

The amazing grace that justifies the ungodly – that’s me!

all of graceToday I was exploring my Olive Tree Bible app (on the ipad) and discovered a library of free books, from Piper to Edwards to Spurgeon and more! The excerpt below comes from Spurgeon’s “All of Grace“.  Though he was writing in the late 1800’s he is direct and bold in his writing – you can’t run and hide. He offers us salvation, by grace, through faith. I trust you will find it an encouragement – a reminder of the grace that saves. (You can find the book free on many places on line as well.)

“If God justifieth the ungodly, then, dear friend, He can justify you. Is not that the very kind of person that you are? If you are unconverted at this moment, it is a very proper description of you; you have lived without God, you have been the reverse of godly; in one word, you have been and are ungodly. Perhaps you have not even attended a place of worship on Sunday, but have lived in disregard of God’s day, and house, and Word- this proves you to have been ungodly. Sadder still, it may be you have even tried to doubt God’s existence, and have gone the length of saying that you did so. You have lived on this fair earth, which is full of the tokens of God’s presence, and all the while you have shut your eyes to the clear evidences of His power and Now, while this is very surprising, I want you to notice how available it makes the gospel to you and to me. If God justifieth the ungodly, then, dear friend, He can justify you. Is not that the very kind of person that you are? If you are unconverted at this moment, it is a very proper description of you; you have lived without God, you have been the reverse of godly; in one word, you have been and are ungodly. Perhaps you have not even attended a place of worship on Sunday, but have lived in disregard of God’s day, and house, and Word- this proves you to have been ungodly. Sadder still, it may be you have even tried to doubt God’s existence, and have gone the length of saying that you did so. You have lived on this fair earth, which is full of the tokens of God’s presence, and all the while you have shut your eyes to the clear evidences of His power and Godhead. You have lived as if there were no God.
Indeed, you would have been very pleased if you could have demonstrated to yourself to a certainty that there was no God whatever. Possibly you have lived a great many years in this way, so that you are now pretty well settled in your ways, and yet God is not in any of them. If you were labeled
UNGODLY
it would as well describe you as if the sea were to be labeled salt water. Would it not?
Possibly you are a person of another sort; you have regularly attended to all the outward forms of religion, and yet you have had no heart in them at all, but have been really ungodly. Though meeting with the people of God, you have never met with God for yourself; you have been in the choir, and yet have not praised the Lord with your heart. You have lived without any love to God in your heart, or regard to his commands in your life. Well, you are just the kind of man to whom this gospel is sent- this gospel which says that God justifieth the ungodly. It is very wonderful, but it is happily available for you. It just suits you. Does it not? How I wish that you would accept it! If you are a sensible man, you will see the remarkable grace of God in providing for such as you are, and you will say to yourself, “Justify the ungodly! Why, then, should not I be justified, and justified at once?”
Now, observe further, that it must be so– that the salvation of God is for those who do not deserve it, and have no preparation for it. It is reasonable that the statement should be put in the Bible; for, dear friend, no others need justifying but those who have no justification of their own. If any of my readers are perfectly righteous, they want no justifying. You feel that you are doing your duty well, and almost putting heaven under an obligation to you. What do you want with a Saviour, or with mercy? What do you want with justification? You will be tired of my book by this time, for it will have no interest to you.
If any of you are giving yourselves such proud airs, listen to me for a little while. You will be lost, as sure as you are alive. You righteous men, whose righteousness is all of your own working, are either deceivers or deceived; for the Scripture cannot lie, and it saith plainly, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” In any case I have no gospel to preach to the self- righteous, no, not a word of it. Jesus Christ himself came not to call the righteous, and I am not going to do what He did not do. If I called you, you would not come, and, therefore, I will not call you, under that character. No, I bid you rather look at that righteousness of yours till you see what a delusion it is. It is not half so substantial as a cobweb. Have done with it! Flee from it! Oh believe that the only persons that can need justification are those who are not in themselves just! They need that something should be done for them to make them just before the judgment seat of God. Depend upon it, the Lord only does that which is needful. Infinite wisdom never attempts that which is unnecessary. Jesus never undertakes that which is superfluous. To make him just who is just is no work for God– that were a labor for a fool; but to make him just who is unjust– that is work for infinite love and mercy. To justify the ungodly– this is a miracle worthy of a God. And for certain it is so.”

Waiting on the Lord

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.   He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.   Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;   but those who hope in the Lord  will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV

Waiting on the Lord has taken on a whole new meaning in last two weeks. My family is waiting to see the Lord’s decision on my dad Martin, 85, who fell over his excited young dog on the farm, broke a rib and cartilage down front of rib cage, then ended up with in ICU with a digestive blockage and surgery. He has been in and out and back to the ICU, been sedated much of the second week – but he continues fighting on. It has been a difficult time for everyone and I would appreciate your prayers. I will probably continue to be fairly quiet on Seven Notes for a while yet.
Thank you all for being such a caring Blogging family!
(Below you can see my dad Martin on Boxing Day 2013, his 85th birthday, with the 5 grandkids – mine are the three at the back. You can also read about him on this post: 23 Things my dad taught me ).

Blessings, Ros

Grandad and kids

The glorious gospel song

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A true story of rescue, grace and timing

This is the true story of an event which happened to me at the local pool in 2004. I hope you will enjoy the reminder of the preciousness of life, as I did!

Aquatics webThe Lesson

While some may call it fate or destiny, others would call it “divine intervention”.  Whichever the case may be, there are times when you know that you are moved by a hand greater than your own.  For me, such a moment remains unforgettable:

It is like any other late summer afternoon at the local pool.  Chemical fumes overwhelm me in the steamy enclosure.  The scene assaults my senses:  the dirty, steamy windows, the huge rust marks on the ceiling, the mould which grows thickly on wet pavers beneath my feet.  My toes cringe!  My ears ring with squeals of laughter, screams of defiance, legs kicking and the instructor barking out commands.  All this is accompanied by the unsettling drone of the pool equipment.

A dozen small, gleaming bodies swim tireless laps in the choppy water.  The instructor spurs them on.  They bow to her will entirely.  My two eldest girls are among them, showing great resilience to perform this wretched task.  Is this fun, or some form of torture?

I take to the tranquillity of the shallow end of the pool, with my youngest daughter.  Though not totally water savvy, Bekky exudes a confidence well beyond her three years.  She dives through the waves and pops up a few metres away.  With sea-green eyes and an infectious smile, she helps me ignore the suffocating atmosphere that clings about us.

The swim instructor paces at the end of the pool.  She notices Bekky’s exuberance and suggests I challenge her to “swim” the length of a small pool nearby.  Feeling I too must obey, we head for the small pool, seven metres long and hidden in a secluded alcove.  The chlorine fumes are even thicker here, hovering over the water as a solid mass! My toes test the water.  The temperature soars by degrees.  We plunge in, regardless.

A young mum sits beside the pool, cuddling a baby.  She watches her little daughter, bobbing up and down behind us.  I turn away.

“Swim to me Bek, come on!”

She needs little convincing.  She leaps through the thickened air and carves a path through the waves to me, to safety.  I point her to the side ledge of the pool.  She clambers onto slippery pavers.

“Don’t run!” I warn.  I could more easily hold back the tide than curb such enthusiasm.  So begins an endless cycle of jumping, swimming, running . . .  Her confidence grows with each moment.

The heat and fumes combine to bend my awareness of the scene.  The little girl in the corner behind me continues to splash and play.  Her mum lies the baby down on the pavers for a nappy change.  Perspiration drips from her brow as she awkwardly shifts her weight to avoid falling in the pool.

Bekky jumps into the water again, the hundredth time.  She certainly will catch up to her sisters soon, and join those serious swimmers in the other pool.  Yet there is a growing impatience within me.  When will the instructor be done?  When can we escape?  I need some air, and water – to drink!

Glancing over my shoulder I notice that the mum has finished the nappy change and is dealing with her baby in the pram.  The small girl in the water has stopped splashing and is floating peacefully on her back.

I turn back to Bek, to the arms and legs wildly splashing.  She could never lie still long enough to float peacefully like that . . . .

In that split second, horror grips me.  I spin back to the small girl.  She is rolling side to side!  Her nose is centimetres beneath the surface of the water!  Her arms float loosely, feet sink slowly.  There is a deathly stare in her eyes!

I look to her mother.  She simply smiles!  She doesn’t know her daughter is struggling for life, a metre away!

How long these moments take, I have no idea.  And where is Bekky? Time stands still.  I scoop the child from the murky water.  I hold her up before my face.  She stares blankly at me.  I call the mother, with words I do not know.  The girl stares, her face glistens with beads of warm water.

I lay her down, on her side, on the pool’s edge.  What was that first aid acronym?  There are no signs of life, just a questioning look in those deep brown, almond-shaped eyes.  Her mother speaks.  I don’t understand!

I thump the small girl’s back.

A splutter?

A cough?

I am beside her on the mouldy pavers.  I lift her up, her face on my shoulder.  The instructor will know what to do.  As I take a step, a wave of warm vomit and water pours down my body.  She is alive!

It is a long walk to the other end of the pool.  The instructor is surrounded by little bodies.  The girl vomits twice more as we walk, emptying herself of the deadly liquid that almost took her life.  Her mother trails behind us.

The instructor looks up, puzzled.  She knows this child is not my own.  And where is Bekky?  I discard this thought.

Hastily I explain what has happened.

“Stupid woman!”  The instructor says, of the mother.

She takes the girl and wraps her in a beach towel.  She sits her down and checks her over.
”You need to get her to a doctor!”  The instructor commands the mother.

“No English,” she stammers.

We look around for someone who may be able to translate.  A woman steps forward through the gathered crowd of children.  The message is passed on, we hope.  My own daughters look at me strangely.  Bekky appears suddenly by my side.

The little girl sits by her mother.  She looks to me briefly.  I smile.

Soon they gather up their gear and leave.  I remain with my own girls to pack up.  My head is swimming.  A thousand thoughts crowd for attention.

What if I hadn’t . . . . ?

Now as I lay in bed, searching for sleep, the face of one little girl remains before me.  She stares, questioning.  Her face is seared into my memory.  I am content, knowing that I was in the right place at the right time, for at least one moment.  I helped save something so precious that words can scarcely describe it.

By Ros Barrett

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Rising Sun (All Sons and Daughters)

IBR-1113189Here is another song from All Sons and Daughters. Again the lyrics have a beautiful Psalm-like quality. As you may know, I’ve embarked on a quest to find singable contemporary Psalms. Suggestions are most welcome. Enjoy!
(Scroll down for youtube link with lyrics).

Rising Sun

Praise Him all you sinners, Sing oh sing you weary
Oh praise Him all you children of God
We lift high His glory, Shown throughout our stories
We praise Him as the children of God

Our great redeemer, Glorious Savior
Your name is higher than the rising sun
Light of the morning, You shine forever
Your name is higher than the rising sun
Your name is higher than the rising sun

Praise His name forever, Speak it loud and clear now
Oh praise Him all you children of God

Our great redeemer, Glorious Savior. . .

Hallelujah, Name above all
Simply to speak Your name is praise
Hallelujah, Now and always
Forever we lift Your name in praise
Hallelujah, Our God, You reign
Simply to speak Your name is praise

Our great redeemer, Glorious Savior. . .

Hallelujah name above all
Hallelujah name above all
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Learn more about the Album Sons & Daughters Live

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all sons and daughtersImage created by Sarah Danaher with a Canon EOS 5D MkII