Friday, March 25, 2022

Formed By the Word Week 11: Formed


Week 11: Formed

This week I didn't have a lot of time to dig into Bible study in order to have a word for today's theme. I was originally thinking about simply skipping this week with an apology, but as I was leafing through my spiritual formation art journal this morning I came across a page I made at the beginning of the journal. It contains a quote from a book by Dallas Willard that captures for me what spiritual formation is and the purpose of being intentional about what forms us as Christ-followers.

"Spiritual transformation into Christlikeness is a process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it takes on the character of the inner being of Jesus himself, The result is that the outer life of the individual increasingly becomes a natural expression of the inner reality of Jesus and his teachings. Doing what he said and did increasingly becomes a part of who we are." Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart.

Being a Christ-follower means that we are on a life-long journey in the process of growing more and more like Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatian church, "My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you..." Galatians 4:19

To the Ephesians he stated the goal this way, "to become mature, attaining to the whole measure the fullness of Christ" and "we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ." Ephesians 4:13 & 15 

To the Romans he wrote, "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likenessof his Son..." Romans 8:29

To the Corinthians he said, "We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness, with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18

Williard explains that, "The human spirit is an inescapable, fundamental aspect of every human being; and it takes on whichever character it has from the experiences and the choices that we have lived through or made in the past. That is what it means to be 'formed'." He goes on to say, "That spiritual place within us [the heart] from which outlook, choices, and actions come from has been formed by a world away from God. Now it must be our spiritual dimension has been formed, so it also must be transformed."

As we grow in the knowledge of who Christ is, how He lived, who He calls us to be, how He calls us to imitate His life, then we become increasingly formed into His likeness. But it is a life-long process making those who are in Christ life-long learners. It requires of us a dedication to reading and studying the Word of God. But, thankfully, it is not solely dependent on us alone. This is the great mystery of God; "Christ in you." (Colossian 1:27). God gave us His Spirit. "For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philiipians 2:13) The Spirit of God works in us and in conjunction with our will. It's a holy partnership!

Share the journey of being formed by the Word with me. After reading the above post, do some study on your own. Dig deeper into the verses and passages mentioned and then respond creatively. Share your thoughts and creative responses in the comment section below or on social media with #formedby theword and #wordsartandfaithgroup, and in our private Facebook group for words challenges the Words Art and Faith group.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Formed By the Word Week 10: Prayer


Week 10: Prayer

As I have mentioned before, my intent for this weekly post is mainly to take words from my studies and use them as a way to be formed by God's Word. I can think of no better means of spiritual formation than to be saturated and filled by the Word of God. For the past year I have been studying 2 Corinthians with a friend. We have moved through it very slowly, taking any rabbit trails that come along. And it has been so good. So here we are 15 months into our study and we have just completed chapter 7. We decided to reconnect ourselves with the first seven chapters before moving on, and as I was doing so this week I was struck by the significance of a few verses that I didn't really catch the first time. I love and appreciate that God's Word is living and active. Each time we engage it, we can see totally new things; things that may have a different significance based on what our current circumstances might be.

So, the passage is 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 and the verses that connected with me in a different manner this time are verses 10 and 11.

"He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many." 2 Corinthians 1:10-11

While I chose prayer as today's word, I specifically want to focus on intercessory prayer. What I clamped onto when I read this the other day is the word "as" at the beginning of verse 11. Paul directly connects his hope in God continuing to deliver him from the trial he is facing to the prayers for him offered up by others. As pastor and author J. Hampton Keathley says, "God has chosen to use our prayers to accomplish his purpose." This elevates the need to be faithful in intercessory prayer. It also elevates the need to make sure that we are bringing others into our needs and struggles, so that they can pray for us and appeal to God on our behalf. 

 "God has chosen to use our prayers to accomplish his purpose." ~J. Hampton Keathley

Let me dig into these vereses a bit more and then draw some conclusions from the context of the larger passage they are connected to.

Paul is confident in God's deliverance of whatever trial he is facing because 1.) He has deliverd us. Paul can look back on his faith journey to date and draw deeper faith and encouragement from the times that God has delivered him in the past. 2.) Because Paul knows that God is faithful, he can trust that God will deliver him again now. And 3.) Paul says he has set his hope on God that he will continue to deliver him. Paul is confident that God has, will, and will continue to deliver those who are in Him. Again quoting Keathley, "Paul's perspective of life  is to live with his hope firmly fixed on God alone as his deliverer." Why can Paul have this perspective?

This is where the full context (2 Cor. 1:3-11) of the passage these verses are in come into play. Paul has learned to have a proper biblical perspective on suffering and trials because Paul sees God the Father as "the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort" (1:3). Through faith and the circumstances of a life that is devoted to following God, Paul has learned that suffering and trials have a purpose in the lives of those who are in Christ:
  • The comfort we receive from God in our trails and suffering enables us to comfort others who face affliction. (1:4)
  • Trials and suffering help us to rely on God and not on ourselves. (1:9)
  • Trials and suffering help us set our hope on God, our deliverer, and not on other things in the world or ourselves to deliver us. They train our eyes on hope, so to speak. (1:10)
  • God's deliverance is closely connected with others praying for us. So we must bring others into our suffering and trials to enable them to pray for us and implore God to work on our behalf. (1:11)
  • Thus, prayer binds us together and initiates the comfort of God. We cannot receive comfort as God intends unless we let others know of our needs. God's comfort is for the one who is suffering and for the ones who are praying.
  • Finally, when we share our trails and sufferings with others who then pray for us the result is thanksgiving, praise and glory to God. (1:11)  In all things the ultimate goal is glory to God. 
Let me end with a word picture from the Greek words used in verse 11.  The NASB says "so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf".  The Greek word used here for persons is "prosopon" it literally means face.  So we have the image of many faces lifted up toward God in prayer. What a great picture of intercessory prayer.

I mentioned earlier that sometimes we will see a verse or passage in a different light due to circumstances in our own life.  Currently both my husband and my pastor/boss are facing health issues - these are the two most important men in my life. In light of this and the Russian invasion of Ukraine I am struck by God's deliverance coming "as" we help others by our prayers. May we bring comfort and be comforted as we turn our faces to God in prayer on behalf of others.

I would love to have you to join me in being formed by the Word this year. After reading the above post, do some study on your own. Dig deeper into the verses and passages mentioned and then respond creatively. Share your thoughts and creative responses in the comment section below or on social media with #formedby theword and #wordsartandfaithgroup, and in our private Facebook group for words challenges the Words Art and Faith group.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Formed By the Word Week 9: Virtue


Week 9: Virtue

I came across a quote recently that I have been mulling over.
"The way to get rid of the defects is to cultivate the virtues." ~Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones was a Welsh minister of the Westmintster Chapel in London. He was also an author of  many Bible commentaries, and is one of my pastor's favorite authors. The quote above comes from a larger quote:

"Indeed, as I have already said, you cannot truly deal with the negative unless you are at the same time doing the positive. The way to get rid of the defects is to cultivate the virtues. To use a well-known phrase of Thomas Chambers, what we need is to apply the :Expulsive power of a new affection". I use a simple illustration. The way the dead lives of winter are removed from some trees is not that people go around plucking them off; no, it is the new life, the shoot that comes and pushes off the dead in order to make room for itself. In the same way the Christian gets rid of all such things as bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and evil speaking and all malice. The new qualities develop and the others simply have no room; they are pushed out and they are pushed off."

The trees Dr. Lloyd-Jones mentions are some varieties of Beech and Oak trees. Our neighbors behind us have a huge Oak tree that holds onto its brown, dead leaves all winter. It always seems strange to me to see those leaves still attached to the branches. I like this analogy he uses for spiritual growth. If we simply focus all of our energy on trying hard to eliminate the negative things in our lives, it is simply that, us trying hard in our own strength. This usually does not produce much change. But it does produce much frustration and ultimately leads to feelings of failure and hopelessness.

On the other hand, putting our energy into cultivating the virtues requires that we grow in our knowledge of God, and as we do so, He provides the power in us to develop the virtues He desires. It requires action on our part and Divine power on God's part. We see this throughout the scriptures.

"His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 1:3-11

Here in 2 Peter is the "formula" to living out the virtues of God. God has given us "His divine power". For what purpose? To live a godly life. How do we live this godly life? Through our knowledge of God, "him who called us by his own glory and goodness". Through God's glory and goodness he has given us great and precious promises which enable us to participate with God through his Holy Spirit. Therefore, we are called to make every effort - work to participate with God - to grow or cultivate the virtues that please God: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love. Why? Because growing in these virtues leads us to growing in Christlikeness and living a godly life.

Some other passages to ponder:

"So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.: Galatians 5:16-17

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8-9

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."  Ephesians 4:22-24

This is not about just using "positive thinking". A line from an old Bing Crosby song comes to mind here, "You got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative...". Positive thinking alone will not take us very far in removing our vices and negative thinking. We need to act in conjunction with the power of God that comes to us through our union with Jesus Christ. Without that Divine power, it is simply positvie thinking. Eventually the negative creeps back in and no true change in behavior and lifestyle results. To cultivate virtues we need to grow in our knowledge of jnjnGod through His Word, which in turn enables us to partner with His Holy Spirit in getting rid of the defects (vices) and living a godly life.

I would love to have you to join me in being formed by the Word this year. After reading the above post, do some study on your own. Dig deeper into the verses and passages mentioned and then respond creatively. Share your thoughts and creative responses in the comment section below or on social media with #formedby theword and #wordsartandfaithgroup, and in our private Facebook group for words challenges the Words Art and Faith group.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

February Art Journaling

 February Art Journaling

This year for The 100 Day Project I am making #100daysofminicollage. Here are days 1-15:

These mini collage pieces are being made in the corners or along the page edge in my daily art journal or in my Spiritual Formation journal. This way they adorn my pages for other projects.

Other projects I am working on or participating in are: Making pages for the Rhythm of My Daily Life (my weekly or monthly pages of life stuff), my weekly Formed By the Word project each Friday on my blog, documenting my word of the year (formed), and I joined Hope Wallace in her Patreon group where we get prompts for each month connected to personal growth and creativity.

I post the pages I make for Formed By the Word each Friday, but here is one of the pages where I used my mini collage from the 100 Day Project along the page edge and then one in the corner for Ash Wednesday.

I hope you had a creative February!

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Formed By the Word Week 8: Ashes ~ Ash Wednesday 2022


Week 8: Ashes - Ash Wednesday 2022

Formed By the Word is being published today instead of Friday because today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lent Season, and I wanted my word this week to reflect that. Today we begin a journey of reflection and sacrifice, mourning and celebration, abstinence and engagement. Today we begin a journey that leads us to Good Friday and Easter. We set aside this season of Lent as a time of remembering the sacrifice of Christ, and in turn committing to sacrifice ourselves as well, following in His steps. We practice spiritual disciplines, not as a way to gain God's favor and holiness, but as a way to mourn our sinfulness, lest we take for granted the gift of grace through salvation in Christ. Today, if we participate in an Ash Wednesday service, we will receive ashes on our foreheads in the shape of a cross to remind us that there, on the cross, Jesus paid the price for our sin to redeem us.

"For you are dust and to dust you will return." Genesis 3:19

Throughout the Bible ashes or dust are used symbolically of mourning, death and repentance. 2 Samuel 3:19, Esther 4:1-3, Job 42:6, Ezekiel 27:30-31, Matthew 11:21 are just a few examples of how ashes/dust are used. Author Ruth Haley Barton explains the significance of Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent:

"Ash Wednesday initiates a season of acknowledging our sinfulness. In very intentional ways, we invite God to search us and know us and (eventually) to lead us into resurrection life. The ashes marking our foreheads carry the same meaning contained in the Old Testament practice of covering oneself with ashes: they are an outward sign of an inward repentance and mourning as we become aware of our sin. This, too, is good for us because we live in so much denial. Facing our sin in the shadow of Christ’s cross and impending resurrection is the healthiest way to deal with our sin."

Ashes are a sign of repentance and humility. Ashes remind us that we are dust, we are mortal, and we are not God.  The journey begins with and is sustained by repentance. 

"From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4:17

Martin Luther said in the first of his 95 Theses, "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent," He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."

The journey of Lent also reminds us that the way to life is death. 

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."  Galatians 6:14

The movement of the Ash Wednesday service moves from repentance to ashes and, finally, to communion. In this movement the ashes remind us of our own mortality, and communion reminds us to celebrate the grace of God, who through faith in Jesus Christ grants eternal life to sinners.

I haven't done a Lent Words Challenge in a few years as I found this time of year to be too busy for me to keep up with a challenge. But if you are interested in a guide through the Lent season, I have a link to the outline of Lent Words and Scripture passages that we used in 2018. You will also find devotions written by myself and some guest contributors. If you make art during the Lent season please share in the Words Art & Faith Challenge Group on Facebook or on social media with #LentWords2022.

Lent Words and devotions here.