Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Streams in the Desert

If you do not own a copy of this devotional first published in 1925 by Mrs. Charles Cowman, you need to get one. Over 15 years ago I picked up an old copy at a library sale. On the back cover is this mini biography: "Mrs. Charles E. Cowman worked as a pioneer missionary with her husband in Japan and China from 1901 to 1917, and it was during these years they were instrumental in founding the Oriental Missionary Society. Broken in health, Mr. Cowman was forced to return to the United States where Mrs. Cowman nursed him for six years until his death. Out of these experiences and heartbreak comes the first volume of Streams in the Desert. It was during the next twenty-five years that Mrs. Cowman inspired several nationwide Scripture distribution campaigns and wrote seven books. After an extended illness, at the age of ninety, she laid her earthly mantle aside on Easter Sunday, 1960--her coronation day."

If that is not inspiring enough, inside the covers of this gem, Mrs. Cowman compiled Scriptures and poems, and hymns, and quotes, and writings divided into 365 daily readings. This is not your ordinary devotional. It is not for the easy, breezy Christian that has no problems with daily life or faith. This is for those who have seen the dark side of God, who have walked in the desert for many a day with not a drop of living water to taste. This is mature encouragement for the soul needy for more of Christ and not satisfied with a casual relationship with our LORD. This is for those Christians who are in the school of Job and cannot understand what is going on and may have lost hope.

Here are just a few passages from this month's readings that gave me courage to carry on
From July 5: "I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness...and I will give her her vineyards from thence." Hosea 2:14,15----"A strange place to find vineyards--in the wilderness! And can it be that the riches which a soul needs can be obtained in the wilderness, which stands for a lonely place, out of which you can seldom find your way? It would seem so, and not only that, but the "Valley of Achor" which means bitterness, is called a door of hope. And she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth!
Yes, God knows our need of the wilderness experience. He knows where and how to bring out that which is enduring. The soul has been idolatrous, rebellious; has forgotten God, and with a perfect self-will has said, "I will follow after my lovers." But she did not overtake them. And, when she was hopeless and forsaken, God said, "I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her." What a loving God is ours! (Crumbs)"

From July 19: "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" John 18:11---This was a greater thing to say and do than to calm the seas or raise the dead. Prophets and apostles could work wondrous miracles, but they could not always do and suffer the will of God. To do and suffer God's will is still the highest form of faith, the most sublime Christian achievement. To have the bright aspirations of a young life forever blasted; to bear a daily burden never congenial and to see no relief; to be pinched by poverty when you only desire a competency for the good and comfort of loved ones; to be fettered by some incurable physical disability; to be stripped bare of loved ones until you stand alone to meet the shocks of life--to be able to say in such a school of discipline, "The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?"--this is faith at its highest and spiritual success at the crowning point. Great faith is exhibited not so much in ability to do as to suffer. (Dr. Charles Parkhurst)

Well, there is a sampling of what is inside. Back to the Bible has a free email subscription service that will put each day's entry into your inbox if you want to read more. Personally, I do not get on the computer enough to read mine, so having a book in hand is way better! Last year Costco was selling leather bound journal style copies of Streams in the Desert and I think Amazon has that style for sale too, but you have to search a little for it. Highly recommended and worth it.

----posted by Queen Lucy

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Duties of Our Relationships

From Richard Baxter's Christian Directory comes this quote: "It is the pernicious subversion of all societies, and so of the world, that selfish, ungodly persons enter into all relations with a desire to serve themselves there, and fish out all that gratifieth their flesh, but without any sense of the duty of their relation. They bethink them what honour, or profit, or pleasure their relation will afford them, but not what God and man require or expect from them. All their thought is, what they shall have, but not what they shall be and do. They are very sensible what others should be and do to them; but not what they should be and do to others. Thus it is with magistrates, and with people, with too many pastors and their flocks, with husbands and wives, with parents and children, with masters and servants, and all other relations. Whereas our first care should be to know and perform the duties of our relations, and please God in them, and then look for his blessing by way of encouraging reward. Study and do your parts, and God will certainly do his."

Richard Baxter (1615-1691) was an English Puritan leader. So, of course, I am back to the Puritans for insight on godly Christian living and how to live out the Scriptures in everyday life. The subject of relationships is my particular fascination because the kingdom of God is all about relationships. The Trinity is about the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. No person of the God head is busy trying to see what they can "fish out" from the other person what might gratify themselves or promote their own interest over the other.

We, the church, have completely lost our understanding of what are our duties in the relationships that God gives to us. Our sole duty is to study and to seek out what we are to be and to do for those God gives to us for relationships. The two greatest commandments seem to cover this pretty succinctly: Love God with all our hearts, and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. It all comes down to service and duty for the kingdom of God, NOT about whether or not we are going to gain something or to benefit.

Now, IF we are all seeking this in our relationships, then things run very smoothly and no one person is left doing all the serving and pouring out. But when we are busy demanding or expecting the other person to be doing everything to make us happy, to meet our needs, to sacrifice for us,to take the initiative, then there is always a deficit in the relationship. Notice Baxter says that the selfish, ungodly people's approach to relationships subverts societies and is pernicious. Maybe this is a more clear and direct cause of the disintegration of God's church in America than any other.

What would happen if we raised our children to look at pursuing a mate as a blessed opportunity to find one other person to serve, to care for, to lay down their life for, to build up and edify, to nurture, to help reach their God given potential? And what would happen if they actually found a spouse that believed their duty was to do the same for them? What kind of marriages would begin to grow around us in the church? What kind of families would develop? What kind of friendships? What kind of churches would come from this kind of living out the faith?

God help us all to seek to please Him more than we seek to please ourselves, to learn to fulfill our duties to our spouses and children without selfishness, and thereby to build His kingdom. After all, we pray that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

---posted by Queen Lucy