Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Catherine Marshall's Heart For God, Vol. 2

Catherine Marshall Lesourd
1914 - 1983

We are studying a book entitled Catherine Marshall, A Closer Walk (1986), published three years after Catherine Marshall's death. A collaborative effort between Catherine's second husband, Len Lesourd, and her longtime friend and editor, Elizabeth Sherrill, the text includes selected entries from a 23-year span of Catherine's journal keeping. The years cover her marriage to Len in 1959 when she was 44, up until her death in 1983 when she was 68. The introduction to my Catherine Marshall series can be found here. Volume 1 can be found here

Catherine Marshall's Heart for God, Vol. 2

Our text for today begins:

As Len and I begin our new life together, I'm enjoying a new way to read the New Testament--undoubtedly a way known to many Christians through the centuries but new to me: during my early morning devotions I'm reading the words as if Jesus were speaking directly to me.
 At the time of my discovery, I was going through the Gospels consecutively, desiring above all else to get a vivid portrait of Jesus. And a portrait emerged all right, not so much of what He looked like, as the characteristics of His person. I discovered in Him one who is totally alive--physically stalwart, emotionally sensitive. Humor, I definitely found. And grief--not for Himself, but for others' hurts and the tragic havoc that sin brings. And love, an amazing love that pours out of Him with never any effort to hide it or dam it up. Yet it is a love with steel in it.
Over and over I have come upon this steel--a note of stringency in Jesus' conversation and His way of dealing with people that, for the most part, seems alien to the teaching in our churches today. Never have I found a trace of coddling or compromising or self-protectiveness in Him.
For example, there was the Pharisee who asked Jesus to lunch at his house. Jesus accepted. But if there was anything pleasant about the conversations about the table, we were not told so in Luke's account. Indeed, centuries later, the words all but blister the page.
 But woe to you Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of love the best seat in the synagogues and salutations in the market are like graves which are not seen, and men walk over them without knowing it. Luke 11: 42-44 RSV
Excerpt from Catherine Marshall, A Closer Walk, pages 3, 4 

What a perfect picture of Catherine's pursuit of Jesus! This sentence, especially, speaks volumes to me: 
I was going through the Gospels consecutively, desiring above all else to get a vivid portrait of Jesus. 
We see here that Catherine didn't read her Bible out of obligation. She read it out of pleasure. She wanted to know Jesus really sit at His feet and enjoy Him and learn of Him.

There is an unexpected dividend from reading the New Testament as if Jesus were speaking to me: when I look away from the problems in my marriage to turn my full attention to Jesus, He proves Himself alive by concerning Himself with my life, family, and friends and talking to me about these matters morning after morning. (page 4)
..........The resurrected Jesus is a continual reality in my life. How can I ever find words to express the joy of His presence? (page 5)

When was the last time you sat down with your Bible out of pleasure? Even if you've been a Christian forever, the Bible still speaks to you anew. The Word of God is alive! The Holy Spirit makes it so as he journeys with us through the words. Never tire of opening your Bible. 

If you're in a slump with your reading, pray specifically that Our Father would renew your joy in His Word. Don't accept that feeling of devotional obligation. Pursue Jesus. Tell your Heavenly Father to make you a pursuer. I don't have a problem wrestling with God on some things, like Jacob did. This would be one of those things. 

Jacob, you remember, wrestled with God on the ground until God blessed Jacob. The actual person was an angel who probably was Jesus Christ, since Jesus is the only member of the Godhead seen in the flesh.  The Bible says of Jesus: "his goings forth were of old". 

His Goings Forth Were of Old
Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

John 8:57-58 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

Jacob Wrestles With God
Genesis 32:24-29 (source here)
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
   But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
   “Jacob,” he answered.
 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[f] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
 29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
   But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. 

Let's take a lesson from Jacob here, and wrestle with God until He blesses us with a devotional time that is pleasurable and intimate. God wants to be pursued!

If you have a hit and miss record with Bible reading, remember this one tip: Open your Bible. That, my friends, is the hardest part. Once you've got it opened, you're home free. You've defeated Satan. He doesn't want you to open it, any more than he wants you to start the first line of your prayers. I can give you the same tip about prayer.......just utter the first line. 

We're going to read through the Gospels consecutively as Catherine did. Yes, that's right. We've got homework this week. Read Matthew 1 through Matthew 14 by next Wednesday, and make notes about the character of Jesus. What is He like? You can just write down adjectives that come to you, or you can actually journal your findings.

Enjoy yourself as you pursue Him! Get ready to fall in love all over again.

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