Your Divine Capacity?

This morning I am giving thanks for God’s word and the many copies of it lying around my house.  Not including the digital version I have pulled up on my pc, there are three Bibles scattered around this room, left out from the previous day’s family reading.  I am thankful that I do not rely on any man’s interpretation of this Word; I can read and discern God’s word with the help of His Spirit living in me.

This is so fresh on my mind because, just moments ago, I read a tweet from a prominent women’s Bible study author and speaker (I know you’re probably thinking Beth Moore, but it wasn’t her).  She paraphrased Isaiah 50:4 this way: “The Sovereign Lord has given me THE capacity…”  And she encouraged her followers with these words: “Your divine capacity is always more vast than your natural one. 2day,think bigger”

I think I understand what she means.  Namely, that our capacity for _________ is greater if we rely on the God’s capacity.  And I suppose we can insert whatever we like in the blank.  I think it’s dangerous to use ambiguous language like “divine capacity.”  Popular teaching says that we all have within us a spark of divinity, that little piece of godness in all of us to help us achieve our dreams, God’s wonderful plan for each of us.  But, when I read Isaiah 50 in its entirety, that meaning is not what I find.  Read it for yourself.


Isaiah 50, ESV

Thus says the Lord; ‘Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce, with which I sent her away?  Or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you?  Behold, for your iniquities you were sold, and for your transgressions your mother was sent away.  Why, when I came, was there no man; why, when I called, was there no one to answer?  Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem?  Or have I no power to deliver?  Behold, by my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a desert; their fish stink for lack of water and die of thirst.  I clothe the heavens with blackness and make sackcloth their covering.’

The Lord has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.  Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.  The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward.  I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.

But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.  He who vindicates me is near.  Who will contend with me?  Let us stand up together.  Who is my adversary?  Let him come near to me.  Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty?  Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.

Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant?  Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.  Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches!  Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled!  This you have from my hand; you shall lie down in torment.


What I see in this passage is not a self-help mantra about our divine capacity.  I see a description of a people in debt, sold into slavery, lost in darkness and sin, a people in need of a redeemer and rescuer, in need of light.

Verse 4 begins the description of that man — Jesus — the obedient servant, who answered God’s call in verse 2.  God gave him a tongue of instruction, words to sustain the weary.  He hears and responds to God’s word.  He was not rebellious, he did not turn back from having his back beaten, his beard pulled out, his face disgraced and spat upon.  The Lord is his help and will vindicate him, Isaiah says.  (And the Lord was his help and did vindicate him when he raised him with his mighty power from the grave.  And he will have his vindication again on the last day.)

Verse 10, God says to those who fear the Lord and obey the voice of his servant to “trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.”  To those who do not, those who “kindle a fire, who equip [themselves] with burning torches” (who rely on their own divine capacity, perhaps?), he says, “You shall lie down in torment.”

Here on the blog, I don’t usually take issue with stuff like this.  But this particular one crossed a line for me in belittling Jesus, the Gospel, and the call for His followers to lay down their lives and deny themselves for His glory.

I was up at 3:30 this morning.  As I was reading my Bible, I had an overwhelming urge to pray for Sayed Musso and Asia Bibi.  Both are in prison and facing death sentences in the coming days if the Lord does not change the minds of those who have power over their physical lives.  Are they not thinking big enough?  Are they not accessing their divine capacity?

When I read innane spiritual tripe, such as the contents of that tweet, I think of suffering christians and my Savior who suffered for me, and I can’t not write something about it.

Thanks Giving — Day 19

The company for which my husband works pays big bucks for a box, seats, and tickets at Bryant-Denny Stadium.  (Their sales dept. uses the football to smooze their clients and associates).    Late yesterday afternoon, Karl sent me a message indicating that the company had some football tickets available (because Bama played Georgia State last night) for anyone who wanted them, but there were only 2 left.  This meant that I’d have to find someone to keep my girls (late into the night, I might add) and decide which son would attend the game with me.  The latter was the hard part.

As soon as I said, “There are only 2 tickets,” Benjamin quickly responded, “Me and Noah!”  He didn’t care a lick if an adult was with him or not; only I cared about that part.

Seconds later the phone rang.  It was Karl’s cousin MEGA.  She had two tickets available: one that M (Karl’s brother) wanted and one for Karl, if he wanted it.  Well, Karl was about 800 miles away at the time, so it was geographically impossible for him to take advantage.  But M, being the fabulous uncle he is, was happy to take one of his nephews with him.

This meant that I only had to listen to crying and pick-me-pick-me-pick-me for about five seconds.

But tickets aren’t the only reason for this thanks giving post.  I had about 1 hour to feed everyone, drop the girls off with one of my bffs, meet up with M, and pick up my tickets at the company tailgate on The Quad.

The traffic moved at a steady clip (simply amazing in Tuscaloosa before a kickoff), the lights were all greens, we found parking near the stadium for $10…..the whole sequence of events was one blessing after another.  We had perfect, 50-yard line seats.  (Gasp — I sound like Joel Osteen!)  Everything was a total gift from God.  It’s like He said, “SURPRISE!  You guys have fun.”

Roll your eyes at me if you want to, call me shallow, but today I’m giving thanks for free football tickets, a best friend who loves my kids and will take care of them until 11pm, green lights, free food, good parking spaces, and a sweet memory with my boys.

(I took pictures with my phone, but the page for the driver download is unavailable.  Just imagine a handsome boy wearing a huge smile, and a beautiful, crimson-filled stadium for a backdrop.)

Thanks Giving Over the Weekend

Friday night, a few friends and their children joined us at our house for some Bible study and fellowship. I’m so very thankful for these people.

Saturday, Karl did all of the laundry.  Need I say more?

Sunday, we survived a very busy day.  It wasn’t so much the running to-and-fro that threatened to undo me, it was my children’s bickering.  They are beyond the daily napping years, but the fussing became so unbearable to me that I had to send them away.  After lunch I banished them to their beds for some downtime.  My girls fell asleep; Hannah rested with her copy of Anne of Green Gables opened on her cheek. But my sons were anti-rest.  That is, until an hour later when I went into their room and told them it was time to go.  That’s when Noah decided he was ready to take a nap.  Because they didn’t rest at all, the boys were very irritable and rude the rest of the day.  I had to sit between them during church, Noah eventually fell asleep during the sermon, and I had send them to bed early after dinner, which they did not appreciate because they wanted to watch a movie (our usual family thing after church Sunday nights).

Are their dispositions any better today?  My daughters are delightful as ever.  Noah seems to be feeling refreshed this morning.  But Benjamin is ill.  He came out of his room wearing a scowl.  I should have thought about it yesterday, but his allergies must be bothering him.  His nose is stuffy (again). I don’t excuse his behavior because of allergies, but they certainly do not help his attitude.  I hope the rain today washes away whatever is in the air that is bothering him.  He’s not going to appreciate my prescription for what ails him — a nasal rinse and his cocktail of allergy & asthma meds.  Poor kid.

SO, today I am giving thanks for God’s common grace shown in modern-day medicines.  I am thankful that my medicine cabinet is full right now.  And I’ll pray specifically that they’ll work for B today.  A hot cup of tea and honey will likely help him feel better, too.  I’m not yet thankful for asthma.

I’m thankful for the rain.  I’m thankful for my cup of DD Vanilla Nut.

It’s the little things.

Thankful for our homeschool community

Today I am giving thanks for our home school community. These moms are a ready source of encouragement, advice, ideas, and camaraderie.  Not only that, but they always come through when I can’t find a particular book at the local bookstore.  More importantly, I know I can call on them for prayer.   They are an amazing bunch of women.

Thanksgiving Day 11

I am in the thick of Brian Hedges book, Christ Formed in You.  I’ve reached the second section of the book in which he teaches and encourages the believer to mortify her sin.  He writes,

“Lots of us think we can tame sin, but like a tiger, sin turns and masters us at the first opportunity. You cannot get the wild out of sin simply by caging it. We may think we have evil under control, that we have tamed sin, rendering it harmless enough to share a peaceful, mutual coexistence. But sin will never be domesticated. It is wolf, not dog; piranha, not goldfish. Evil is untamable. It is our enemy – opposed to us in every way. At every moment, sin is wired to destroy.

The analogy with wild animals breaks down, however, for sin can be far more subtle in its destructive intentions than a slashing claw or crushing jaws. Sin regularly assaults us, though we often fail to notice. Sin knows us well and quietly gnaws away our faith and affections.

We can therefore never be tolerant or open-minded about our sin. We are called to aggressively hate our sin—to despise it, reject it, deplore it, starve it, and make every effort to kill it. As the seventeenth century pastor and theologian John Owen said, ‘Be killing sin or it will be killing you.'”

It’s very important to keep in mind the context.  Hedges has just spent about 60 pages explaining the gospel in full detail.  The reader will understand that pleasing God is not dependent on her “work”.   Also, keep in mind the intended audience.   This book is written for the born again Christian; the person who is fully persuaded that the gospel is true, who knows that her righteousness is imputed to her, declared by God, and not something she must achieve through moralism or legalism.  Without the gospel, this chapter would be discouraging, frustrating, and a hopeless to-do list. With an understanding of the gospel, however, this chapter is encouraging and hopeful.

The battle with sin is not simply changing one’s behavior.  The battle with sin is a battle of our hearts.  Hedges: “To mortify sin will bring about behavioral change, but mortification is more than behavioral modification.”

Hedges offers 10 ways to kill sin:

1. Yield yourself to God.
2. Accept that the battle never ends.
3. Take God’s side against your sin.
4. Make no provision for the flesh.
5. Use your spiritual sword.
6. Aim at the heart.
7. Replace sin with grace.
8. Stay in community.
9. Look at the cross.
10. Depend on the Spirit.
(Sorry, you’ll have to read the book to get all the details about each one).

One reason I like this list so much is because each item is a positive command.  Only #4 is has a negative word.  “Make no provision for the flesh,” could say, Make ample provision for the Spirit, but that doesn’t carry the same connotation (so, nevermind).  Also, they aren’t separate steps; they must be taken as a whole.  They all emphasize dependence on God and His means of grace in our life (the list itself makes no provision for the flesh – no room for pride).  I also appreciate #8.  The church, sometimes, is de-emphasized in the process of our sanctification.  God does not intend that we go it alone; the process isn’t “just me and God.”  I’ve read a few books about growing in holiness, and this may be the first one that includes God’s role for the church to help us grow in Christlikeness.

He closes the chapter with these encouraging words:

The battle is not against our joy and happiness, but for our maximum pleasure, pleasure in God. The fight may be painful. It will involve giving up evil things that are presently dear to us. But when the battle is finished and the sin is mortified, God brings life – new, transforming, unexpectedly wonderful, joyful life –out of death. The old and tired is put off, the fresh and new is put on. God changes weakness into strength. He transforms our broken desires into something larger, more beautiful, and more powerful than we could ever have imagined. And in the power and goodness of those desires, God takes us places we didn’t think we could go.

When I consider my battle against sin as a battle for my maximum pleasure in God, then I’m more eager to put up a fight so that I might know Jesus more intimately, have a greater taste and appetite for God, that I might enjoy what pleases Him.  I know it’s possible because a similar exchange has occurred in my marriage.  I enjoy things today that I didn’t before I married Karl.  Loving him has helped me to love some of the things he loves.  It isn’t a perfect analogy (because not everything Karl loves is good for me), but you get my drift.  I’m not all God wants me to be nor do I expect to be so until I see Him face-to-face.  But I’m not who I was.  And in ten more years, Lord willing, I won’t be the same person I am today.  And for that I’m thankful.