Saturday, September 25, 2021

Gentle & Lowly Book Club - Session 3

Hello again, my friends!  

I hope this Sabbath finds you rested and at peace, even amidst the busyness that late September always seems to bring our way.  I'm so glad you're joining with me in creating space for reflection on chapters 13 - 18 of Dane Ortlund's Gentle and Lowly: the Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers.


The Spirit's role ... is to turn our postcard apprehensions of Christ's great heart of longing affection for us into an experience of sitting on the beach, in a lawn chair, drink in hand, enjoying the actual experience.  The Spirit does this decisively, once and for all, at regeneration.  But he does it ten thousand times thereafter, as we continue through sin, folly, or boredom to drift from the felt experience of his heart.

The one who rules and ordains all things brings affliction into our lives with a certain divine reluctance.  He is not reluctant about the ultimate good that is going to be brought about through that pain; that indeed is why he is doing it.  But something recoils within him in sending that affliction.  The pain itself does not reflect his heart.   He is not a platonic force pulling heaven's levers and pulleys in a way that is detached from the real pain and anguish we feel at his hand. 

God's thoughts are so much higher than ours that not only does he abundantly pardon the penitent; he has determined to bring his people into a future so glorious we can hardly bring ourselves to dare hope for it ... God's heart for his people is building toward a crescendo as the generations roll by, preparing to explode onto human history at the end of all things.  Our joyous restored humanity will surge forward with such spiritually nuclear energy that the creation itself will erupt in raucous hymns of celebration.

What do you perceive him to be in your sin and your suffering?  Who do you think God is - not just on paper but in the kind person you believe is hearing you when you pray?  How does He feel about you?  His saving of us is not cool and calculating.  It is a matter of yearning - not the yearning for the Facebook you, the you that you project to everyone around you.  Not the you that you wish you were.  Yearning for the real you.

God is always inviting us into something deeper and more vibrant.  What is He calling you to as the final quarter of 2021 begins?

Next Sunday we'll wrap up our discussion.  I hope you'll be back to reflect with us!
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  1. I am continuing to reap so much from this book. A few favorite quotes this time:

    “Your salvation is not merely a matter of a saving formula, but of a saving person.”

    “Do not minimize your sin or excuse it away. Raise no defense. Simply take it to the one who is already at the right hand of the Father, advocating for you on the basis of his own wounds. Let your own unrighteousness, in all your darkness and despair, drive you to Jesus Christ, the righteous, in all his brightness and sufficiency.”

    “We should not overly domesticate Jesus here. He is not just any friend. A few chapters earlier in Revelation we see a depiction of Christ so overwhelming to John that he falls down, immobilized (1: 12–16). But neither should we dilute the humanness, the sheer relational desire, clearly present in these words from the mouth of the risen Christ himself.”

    1. Barbara, thanks for kicking off this conversation. That 3rd paragraph you picked reminds me yet again that we can't put God in a box. His ways are so beyond our ways, His thoughts and plans beyond our imagination. Sometimes there are no words. No wonder John fell down, immobilized, in awe and worship.

      All we can do is walk into this complex yet simple relationship of faith. And praise!

  2. I will witness to the end,
    while I am here, and I remain;
    God will always be my friend,
    and He does not bring the pain.
    He mourns, He cannot change the rules
    established when the good world fell
    at the hands of Eden's fools,
    who handed all that was to hell.
    And thus the famine, plague and cancer,
    thus the wars of lust and pride,
    thus the questions we can't answer
    from which we do our best to hide,
    but when we place head in the sand
    we cannot see God's helping hand.

    1. Andrew—-so welll said. I say “He does not change the rules” because He is holy. The laws of a fallen world are going to play out UNTIL the new heave and new earth appear. I pray we continue to always see God’s helping hand…..

    2. 'God will always be my friend.'

      Reminds me of that old hymn, Andrew, 'What a Friend We Have in Jesus.'

      No earthly person has ever come even close. I'm embracing this spiritual love relationship more than ever before! And yes, yes, Carol, we grasp on to His hand ... and He never lets us go.

      I'm so grateful!

  3. I was so struck by the image of God yearning for us, Linda. And not the fake us, the ones pretending that our lives are perfect and unblemished, but the real us He created, warts, sins and all. What a powerful impression this left me with. In fact, it is the source of a poem I wrote that will appear on tomorrow's devotion.

    1. Martha, don't you just love that He can see past our masks, look at the reality of who we are, and love us just the same! What a wonderful Savior!

      Please link up your post here today if you'd like. Your poetry is always moving and I'd like to connect this community up with yours.

  4. The second and fourth quotes you write here were two that really spoke to me, too, Linda. How something recoils within Jesus in sending affliction though He isn't reluctant about the good He'll bring about through the pain. How He is never detached from the real pain and anguish we feel. Also how He yearns for the REAL us. His deep, deep love is so amazing! Thank you, Linda. Love and blessings to you!

    1. There's so much about the intricacies and magnificence of God that we'll never be able to figure out on this side of heaven. As the Psalmist wrote, there are so many 'things too lofty for me to attain' {Psalm 139}.

      And that's ok. I'm not God and He is. And in claiming that truth, there's peace.

      I'm glad you're here, Trudy. You bring your precious faith with you.

  5. "Sin, folly, or boredom."
    Saddened to my bones to acknowledge how often this nefarious trio has been my undoing, and it's really an outrage, isn't it?
    So much good food for thought in these shared quotes. This is a book I need to read.

    1. The nefarious trio. Well put, friend.

      And too often we just shrug our shoulders and move on.

      Lord, have mercy.

  6. I appreciate everyone's comments, but I'm not up to the same section as everyone else. I find there are places I need to spend more time on. Working through pain and suffering does not make sincere praise and worship easy.

    1. 'Working through pain and suffering does not make sincere praise and worship easy.'

      Amen. God only knows. And it's good for us to tell Him where we are, the good, bad, and the ugly. And then choose to offer whatever meager sacrifice of praise we can bring Him.

      He weeps with us.

  7. I love the quotes you picked out, Linda, especially the one about God's thoughts being so much higher than ours. I underlined so much in these chapters I hardly know what to share. I'd have to say Chapter 14 ("Father of Mercies") and Chapter 17 ("His Ways Are Not Our Ways") were probably my favorites in the whole book. Ortlund's explanation of Isaiah 55:8-9 in context was actually kind of mind-blowing, in fact: "There is indeed a great distance between God and us; we think small thoughts of God's heart, but he knows his heart is inviolably, expansively, invincibly set on us. ... Because although his ways are higher than our ways, the way in which his thoughts are higher than ours is that we do not realize just how low he delights to come." So good!

    1. Lois, yes. More than ever we're realizing how great and expansive and loving God is. And how insignificant our words are to describe the relationship He has offered us through Christ.

      While it's all too 'lofty to attain,' with faith we are able to step out and claim the inheritance He offers.

      Amazing, isn't He ...

  8. Linda, you have such a way with words to me that always touch my hearts. I love what you said...or maybe I should say asked: God is always inviting us into something deeper and more vibrant. What is He calling you to as the final quarter of 2021 begins? That is a great thing to ponder on right now for me. Hugs and blessings, Cindy

    1. It is a bit mind-blowing to realize we're in the homestretch of 2021. We were so busy recovering and adjusting and discovering our 'new normal,' that the months have gone by in a flash.

      This year has been unique in its own right.

      Makes me wonder what 2022 will look like. I'm so grateful He knows.

  9. I'm finally getting to the table! Sorry it has taken so long.
    A quote that I highlighted (among so many others!) on page 132: "the good in our earthly dads is a faint pointer to the true goodness of our heavenly Father, and the bad in our earthly dads is the photo negative of who our heavenly Father is. He is the Father of whom every human father is a shadow." I was blessed to have a loving, godly father. To know he was just a faint reflection of our Heavenly Father magnifies my longing to see Him face to face. I have many friends whose earthly fathers were the "photo negative" kind, and it so affects their view of God. I wonder if this "photo negative" image might help my friends see God in a new way?

    1. I was thinking along those same lines when choosing what quotes to feature. Many who were blessed with good earthly fathers can't quite begin to comprehend what it's like for those who've had negative or abusive parenting to wrestle with the concept of God as a loving, tender, Heavenly Father.

      This can be a hard challenge to grapple with. May those who hurt find the Holy One to bring healing and wholeness to their wounded souls. May God woo them gently, patiently, faithfully to Himself.

      He still does miracles.