| More

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fighting Lies with the Truth

This Saturday, Kristian and I will have been married for 5 years. We are both 32 years old. Despite the fact that we both love and want children, we have no children. We recognize the high value and honor placed on children and families in Scripture. We recognize that childbearing, like marriage, is a blessing and a tool for sanctification and for reflecting the gospel. While marriage and children are not the only blessings in life or the only tools for sanctification and reflecting the gospel in community, most human beings experience these aspects of life.

The older we get, the more difficult it is for us to consider our infertility. When I think about it, I often find myself battling despair. The battle is against my own flesh, worldliness, and lies of the enemy. I fight to take my thoughts captive to Christ through Scripture.

These are the lies I hear from my flesh/worldliness/the enemy:

1. I am less valuable as a woman without a child
2. My husband and I are not a “family” unless we have children
3. God doesn’t love us if He does not bless us with children
4. God is punishing us
5. Our lives will be meaningless without children
6. We will die alone without children
7. Our family and friends will abandon us as they have children and get caught up in the busyness of family life
8. Since I am not working now and I don’t have children my life is a waste
9. We’ll never be able to afford adoption

The above are lies, and Scripture tells me the truth:

1. My value comes from being made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”)

2. Firstly, I belong to the family of the God of the Universe, as His child, regardless of my membership in any earthly family. (Romans 8:15 “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ ”). Secondly, my husband and I are a family. (Genesis 2:24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”)

3. Yes, children are a blessing (Psalm 127:3 “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”). However, God’s love for me is not contingent on children or on anything. Indeed, Jesus Himself lived as a single childless man! Nothing can separate me from God’s love. (Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." The greatest evidence of this love is Jesus’ death for me on the cross. (John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” )

4. God does not punish me for sin because Jesus paid the price for all my sin on the cross. The Lamb of God was a worthy sacrifice to fully absorb the wrath of God for my sins. (Romans 5:6-9 “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” Romans 8:1-4 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” 2 Cor 5:21 “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” )

5. The meaning of my life comes from Christ. Everything in my life has meaning only because of Christ. To make the meaning of my life contingent on anything other than the Lord, is to make that thing an idol. (Phil 3:8-11 “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” God wants me to be rooted in His love and to abide in His love. (John 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” Ephesians 3:14-19 “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”) God is sovereignly working out all things in my life for my good- to conform me to the image of Jesus. (Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”) God wants me to love Him and others. (Matthew 22: 37-40 “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”)

6. God does not leave me alone. As Psalm 139:7 says, "Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” In John 14:18 Jesus told his disciples “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” As Jesus promised, His Spirit is with me. (John 14:26-27 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” )

7. See #6. I am a valued member of the body of Christ. (1 Cor 12:27 “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”) Children or no children, I am part of the community of Christ. As a member of Christ’s body, God has gifted me and wants me to be a blessing to others. I can be a blessing to children and families even if I do not have a child. (1 Cor 12:7 “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”)

8. See #5. Also, as a wife, God wants me to be a helper to my husband. (Gen 2:18 “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” Proverbs 31: 10-12 “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”) In considering whether or not to work outside of the home, I should look to what God and my husband are asking me do rather than what others think of it. (Ephesians 5:22 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Col 3:18 “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.”)

9. If God calls us to have children, He will provide the means whether that is through physical healing for biological birth, financial provision, or adoption opportunities. Nothing is impossible for my God, and nothing will thwart His will. (Isaiah 46:8-11 “Remember this and stand firm,recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old;for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’, calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” Luke 1:37 “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”)

Do you feel despair over your life? Are you believing lies? To borrow Paul’s words in 2 Cor 12:4-6 “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” Paul used these words to describe his ministry, but I do think they have application to the “arguments” and lofty opinions” we listen to in the form of our flesh, worldiness, and the lies of the enemy that are raised against the knowledge of God. Let us take these thoughts captive to Christ through His Word, through prayer, and through calling on the Spirit that lives within us! Let us ask the Spirit to open our eyes to where we are believing lies in our lives. Let us ask the Spirit to replace the lies with the truth found in God’s Word! Join me in praying to God for help to see our lives from the perspective of His Word, which is truth! Let us open His Word and fight! Let us pray for one another and encourage one another in this!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Who is My Neighbor?

Before I decided to take a break from the practice of law, I practiced immigration law at a wonderful nonprofit organization in Seattle. While it was difficult in many ways, I absolutely loved the work, my colleagues, and my clients. My clients were some of the most amazing people I have ever met. Most had fled horrific experiences of torture and trauma. Here is an example:

As you can imagine, there are a number of obstacles for immigrant torture and trauma survivors as they seek to resume their lives after undergoing such experiences. Crippling anxiety, flashbacks, medical problems, physical pain, paranoia, poverty, language barriers, cultural barriers, education, loneliness, shame, guilt over loved ones who did not survive, and the complexity and injustices of the immigration legal system are just some examples of things that can interfere with adjusting to life after trauma. There are some terrific organizations in the Seattle area that serve immigrants and refugees. One problem is that these services are not coordinated. For instance, a refugee may be able to access medical care, but may not know how to access legal services. Or maybe a refugee may be able to access legal services, but may not be able to get a mental health evaluation to support their immigration case. I have a dream of seeing a nonprofit organization in the Seattle area that could coordinate medical, mental health, legal, and social services for our large and growing refugee population. I have a dream of seeing followers of Christ seeking out ways of blessing and serving our immigrant and refugee neighbors. Will you join me in prayer about this?

Here are some relevant Scriptures:

Our Lord Jesus sought refuge in a foreign land:

Matthew 2

13When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." 14So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son."16When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18"A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."The Return to Nazareth 19After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead." 21So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."

Abraham experienced what it was like to be a foreigner:

Genesis 17

1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. 2 I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers." 3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God."

Genesis 21
22 At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, "God is with you in everything you do. 23 Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you." 24 Abraham said, "I swear it."

Genesis 23:4
"I am an alien and a stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead."

Genesis 28:4 May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien, the land God gave to Abraham."

How God wants us to treat foreigners (they are our neighbors!):

Matthew 22
37Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Mark 12
28One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" 29"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

Luke 10
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 26"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" 27He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" 28"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." 29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 30In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' 36"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" 37The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

Exodus 22:21"Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.”

Exodus 23:9"Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt. “

Leviticus 19:10”Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.”

Leviticus 19:33" 'When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him.

Leviticus 19:34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 23:22 " 'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.' "

Leviticus 24:22 You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the LORD your God.' "

Leviticus 25:35 " 'If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.

Numbers 15:15 The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the LORD :

Deuteronomy 1:16 And I charged your judges at that time: Hear the disputes between your brothers and judge fairly, whether the case is between brother Israelites or between one of them and an alien.

Deuteronomy 10:18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.

Deuteronomy 10:19 And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.

Deuteronomy 14:29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Deuteronomy 16:11 And rejoice before the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name-you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, the Levites in your towns, and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows living among you.

Deuteronomy 24:14 Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns.

Deuteronomy 24:17 Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.

Deuteronomy 24:19 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Deuteronomy 24:20 When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow.

Deuteronomy 26:12 When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.

Deuteronomy 27:19 "Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow." Then all the people shall say, "Amen!"

Deuteronomy 31:12 Assemble the people-men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns-so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law.

Jeremiah 22:3 This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

Ezekiel 47
21 "You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. 22 You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. 23 In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance," declares the Sovereign LORD .

Zechariah 7:10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.'

In the Old Testament, God told of his love for the foreigners and it was a sin for the Israelites to mistreat them.

Malachi 3:5 "So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me," says the LORD Almighty.

Psalm 146:9 The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

Psalm 94

1 O LORD , the God who avenges, O God who avenges, shine forth. 2 Rise up, O Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve. 3 How long will the wicked, O LORD , how long will the wicked be jubilant? 4 They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting. 5 They crush your people, O LORD ; they oppress your inheritance. 6 They slay the widow and the alien; they murder the fatherless.

Isaiah 14:1 The LORD will have compassion on Jacob; once again he will choose Israel and will settle them in their own land. Aliens will join them and unite with the house of Jacob.

Jeremiah 7:6 if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm,
Ezekiel 22:7 Jerusalem's Sins 1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Son of man, will you judge her? Will you judge this city of bloodshed? Then confront her with all her detestable practices 3 and say: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O city that brings on herself doom by shedding blood in her midst and defiles herself by making idols, 4 you have become guilty because of the blood you have shed and have become defiled by the idols you have made. You have brought your days to a close, and the end of your years has come. Therefore I will make you an object of scorn to the nations and a laughingstock to all the countries. 5 Those who are near and those who are far away will mock you, O infamous city, full of turmoil. 6 " 'See how each of the princes of Israel who are in you uses his power to shed blood. 7 In you they have treated father and mother with contempt; in you they have oppressed the alien and mistreated the fatherless and the widow. 8 You have despised my holy things and desecrated my Sabbaths. 9 In you are slanderous men bent on shedding blood; in you are those who eat at the mountain shrines and commit lewd acts. 10 In you are those who dishonor their fathers' bed; in you are those who violate women during their period, when they are ceremonially unclean. 11 In you one man commits a detestable offense with his neighbor's wife, another shamefully defiles his daughter-in-law, and another violates his sister, his own father's daughter. 12 In you men accept bribes to shed blood; you take usury and excessive interest [1] and make unjust gain from your neighbors by extortion. And you have forgotten me, declares the Sovereign LORD .

Ezekiel 22:29 The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the alien, denying them justice.

Christians are “aliens” in this world, our citizenship is in heaven But for Christ, we would be alien to God.

Hebrews 11:13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.
1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

1 Chronicles 29
10 David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, "Praise be to you, O LORD , God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. 11 Yours, O LORD , is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD , is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. 12 Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. 13 Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. 14 "But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. 15 We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. 16 O LORD our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. 17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. 18 O LORD , God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. 19 And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, requirements and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided." 20 Then David said to the whole assembly, "Praise the LORD your God." So they all praised the LORD , the God of their fathers; they bowed low and fell prostrate before the LORD and the king.

Psalm 39
12 "Hear my prayer, O LORD , listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were.

God charges us to love our neighbor. It’s our duty to protect those who cannot protect themselves

Jeremiah 9:24 but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD , who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD .

Isaiah 58:6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Ecclesiastes 5:8 If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still.

Jeremiah 21:12 O house of David, this is what the LORD says: " 'Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done- burn with no one to quench it.

Isaiah 1:17 learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

Proverbs 21:15 When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.

Proverbs 29:7 The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.

Lamentations 3:36 to deprive a man of justice- would not the Lord see such things?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Living Faith

Here’s another great sermon I just had to listen to twice

This sermon was preached by Pastor Matt Bayley who is one of the pastors at our church, Grace Fellowship Puget Sound. It’s about faith. This is a concept I have been wrestling with this year. God has been showing me how much He wants me to grow in faith. Yes, I wholeheartedly believe in the great truths of the faith found in Scripture. Yet, God is revealing to me the many ways in which my faith is weak, and that weakness is often manifested in sin- in fear, despair, and taking matters into my own hands- when hardship and trial come. God is showing me how tremendously faithful He is to meet me in the middle of my sin, weakness, and impossible circumstances. God is strengthening my faith by revealing His character to me where the rubber hits the road in my life. My God IS my Redeemer and my Provider! He IS control and He IS loving, merciful, and kind. He IS my Sustainer when I have no strength. He IS more than enough. He IS worthy of my worship and it IS worth it to lose everything else to gain Him. NOTHING is impossible for Him!

Great highlights from Pastor Matt’s sermon:

1 Thessalonians 1:2-10- The church at Thessalonica was a “model” church. They were known for things like: their faith, their labor of love, their steadfastness of hope in Jesus, the gospel coming to them in word and power and the Holy Spirit with full conviction, becoming imitators of Jesus and leaders like Paul, receiving the word in much affliction with the joy of the Holy Spirit, being an example to other believers, having the word of the Lord sound forth from them in their region, having their faith in God go forth everywhere, turning from idols to serve the living God, & waiting for Jesus to deliver them.

1 Samuel 13 & 14- This is a great and crazy story about an impossible battle that Jonathan and his armor-bearer fight against all odds in total dependence on God, and God wins it for the Israelites.

Luke 5:17-26- This is about a paralytic man who was carried by his friends to Jesus and lowered through a roof to get to Jesus so that Jesus could heal him.

Luke 7:1-10- This is about a centurion who asks Jesus to just say the word so that his servant will be healed.

“God’s Word does not promise us success. He asks us to obey Him and the chips are going to fall where He wills them to fall.”

Quote from a book called “An Unstoppable Force” by Erwin McManus: “Many times what we want from God is not a mandate that requires our faith, but a guarantee that in reality our faith was never needed.”

Quote from a friend, “If you really want to make sure that you are experiencing God, study and know His Word.”

Quote from Steve McCracken: “God wants us to do the possible, so that by faith, He will do the impossible.”

Pastor Matt tells a wonderful story from his own life about God’s sovereignty and divine orchestration in the midst of obstacles in missions work.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

God's Glory in the Storm

I love this song by Lifehouse:

How long have I been in this storm? So overwhelmed by the ocean's shapeless form. Water's getting harder to tread, with these waves crashing over my head.

If I could just see you, everything would be all right. If I'd see you, this darkness would turn to light.

And I will walk on water. And you will catch me if I fall. And I will get lost into your eyes. I know everything will be alright. I know everything is alright.

I know you didn't bring me out here to drown. So why am I ten feet under and upside down? Barely surviving has become my purpose, cause I'm so used to living underneath the surface.

If I could just see you, everything would be all right. If I'd see you, this darkness would turn to light.

And I will walk on water, and you will catch me if I fall. And I will get lost into your eyes, and everything will be alright. And I will walk on water. You will catch me if I fall. And I will get lost into your eyes. I know everything will be alright. I know everything is alright. Everything is alright. Everything is alright.

I have been known to play this song on "repeat" over and over and over again. People around me often think it is depressing. While the tune is hauntingly somber, the words are humbly honest yet filled with hope. This song is about faith in the midst of darkness. Hebrews 11:1 tells us: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Jesus calls us to faith that is more than just a “head knowledge” of and assent to who He is. He wants us to trust Him and to live like we do no matter what the circumstance! The book of James goes into great detail about how true faith is evidenced by our actions, and even goes as far as saying, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19).

I am ashamed to say that my daily actions too often demonstrate a greater faith in gravity than in Jesus. Like the hope of glory, gravity is also “unseen”. Yet, my confidence in gravity is evidenced in many things I do and don’t do everyday, such as stepping out of bed with every expectation of hitting the floor, or not stepping off of a balcony because I have every expectation of plummeting to the ground below, etc. I “trust” gravity without giving it much thought because I have experienced many instances where it has worked. In my life as a Christian, I have experienced many instances of God’s faithfulness to me and many others. In Scripture I read countless accounts of God’s character and His faithfulness. Yet, I often fail to live like I trust Him- especially when my loved ones suffer, my dreams are crushed, my friends betray me, my health fails, my finances crumble, etc. Instead of running to God in faith in the midst of these circumstances, I often find myself running away from God and drowning in my emotions and circumstances.

There are so many characters in Scripture with whom I can relate. Most of them have faced circumstances far more bleak than I have, but they too struggled with trusting God in the darkness. I think of John the Baptist sitting in prison, soon to be beheaded. He sends a message to Jesus asking, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” This is the same John the Baptist who baptized Jesus himself and witnessed the Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove and the Father speak from heaven saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." I think of Peter who drew his sword to cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest who came to lead Jesus away to His execution, not understanding why the Messiah who was supposed to save the world would instead willingly submit to his arrest and certain death without putting up a fight. I think of all of the disciples who watched the arrest and death and seeming failure of the Lord Jesus- the One for whom they sacrificed time, treasure, relationships, reputation, and everything they had. I think of Mary and Martha when they consider that Jesus showed up too late to save their dear brother. I think of Peter who stepped out of the boat in faith to walk on the water toward Jesus, only to find himself soon sinking in the midst of the wind and waves. I think of Abraham and Sarah who took matters into their own hands when they found themselves old and beyond hope of bearing a child even though they were promised a child from the Lord.

Scripture tells us that there is something that God does in Christians by getting them to (and through) the place where their circumstances are seemingly beyond hope. God actively brings Christians to the darkness because He wants us to believe! That is a funny thing to say since we are only Christians by our belief! We see this in the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11. Jesus actually goes out of His way to not be there when Lazarus dies! John 11:5-6 tells us “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” Lazarus’ sister Martha knew that Jesus could have saved her brother as in verse 21 she said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." Yet Jesus did not keep Lazarus from dying.

Throughout the story, Jesus gives us some clues as to why He did not save Lazarus from death and why He did not spare His loved ones from heartbreak. In verse 4, Jesus explains why by saying, “It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." In verse 13, Jesus tells the disciples, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." It is strange that Jesus would tell his disciples that they needed to believe. Surely they already believed in Him, as they were the ones who left everything to follow Him in faith. Yet we see this theme continued in Jesus’ dialogue with Martha in verses 23-27: Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" 27She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world." In verse 40, Jesus again reveals His purpose behind allowing Lazarus to die and allowing his loved ones to suffer the heartache of that loss. When Martha protests against the removal of the stone that would reveal her brother’s dead and decaying body, Jesus says to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" He then proceeds to pray to the Father in verses 41 and 42: "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me." After this, we see Jesus, the Living God, simply command Lazarus to “come out.” At His word, the once dead Lazarus obeys!

In this story, we see that Jesus actively orchestrates heartache for His loved ones so that they would “believe” and that God the Father and God the Son would be glorified. We see that belief is not just something we experience at justification so that we might be saved from eternal damnation, but it is also an ongoing process for Christians in our sanctification as we learn to grow in our assurance of the gospel and our joy in the glory of God. In the story of Lazarus, we see that Jesus’ loved ones are better off for the heartache they endured because their belief was fortified and they saw a glimpse of the glory of God! We know this brought them great joy, as evidenced by other Scriptures as well. For instance, Romans 5:2 links the hope of the glory of God to rejoicing. 1 Peter 1:6-9 also makes this link between suffering, glory, and joy: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

There is purpose in the darkness for Christians! That purpose is God’s glory and our joy in God’s glory! When my loved ones suffer, my dreams are crushed, my friends betray me, my health fails, and my finances crumble there is purpose in each bit of pain these things cause me. God is still in control. He is leading me to and through the darkness to accomplish my tested belief so that He might be glorified and I might have inexpressible joy in Him!

Oh, Dear Father, I pray that my suffering would lead to endurance, and that endurance would lead to character and that character would lead to hope in your glory! (Romans 5:1-5). I know that my hope will not put me to shame, as your love is poured into my heart through the Holy Spirit! Help me to live this! Help me to remember that my trials are only “light and momentary” compared to the “eternal weight of glory” that lies ahead! God as you wept with those who suffered the heartbreak of losing Lazarus, I know you weep with me as I stumble through hardship in this life. I thank you for your tremendous love. I thank you that you love me enough to bring me to and through suffering for the surpassing joy that is ahead! Help me to have hope and joy even in the midst of suffering, as I have tasted your glory and I know you will bring me to greater assurance in the hope of glory. Help me to suffer well. Forgive me as I know there are many ways in which I do not suffer well. Help me not to keep my eyes on my troubles, or on myself, but help me to keep my eyes on You! I need your help with this, as I often find myself sinking in the water like Peter because of my lack of faith! May the supernatural scandalous love that you have poured into my heart through the Spirit flow out of me to others always, whether or not I am suffering! You are worthy of my suffering, sacrifice, joy, and praise! May You be glorified in all of my life! I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

292,000,000 Breaths

I’ll be 32 years old on Monday the 18th. It’s kind of funny to me that, on my birthday, I often get surprises, cards, presents, cake and other treats. Being born wasn’t my doing (but you can still keep the surprises, cards, presents, cake, and other treats coming). I read somewhere that we take approximately 25,000 breaths in one day. If I did the math correctly, that means 292,000,000 breaths for me on Monday! A friend of mine who is a doctor told me that concentrating on her breathing makes her more aware of God because she knows what a miracle even one breath is. Psalm 150:6 says, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” My 32 years of breath have given me many, many, reasons to praise the Lord. Here is some of my testimony to that:

For as long as I can remember, I loved Jesus. However, for my early life, I had more of a “religious” understanding of Christianity. My understanding of faith was more about doing than believing, and my concept of the Christian walk was more about refraining from “bad behavior” rather than living in a relationship with Jesus. My belief about God (doctrine) was not sound in that it did not come from Scripture. Instead, much of what I believed about God came from the world around me, my culture, my upbringing, my desires and my own opinions.

Mostly, my “relationship” with God was based on escaping pain. I would pray and read the Bible when I experienced hardship as a child. God often met me in these times and comforted me in His grace. When my interaction with God wasn’t based on escaping pain, it was based on fear- not fear as in respect for or adoration for God- but fear of the consequences of not being good enough for others and for God. I cared a lot about what people thought of me. I wanted to be well liked by everyone, which meant cool enough, pretty enough, smart enough, fun enough, etc. I also wanted to “win the approval” of God. I can even remember as a child thinking, “If I do this and this and don’t do this and this, God will like me more”. On the whole, I thought I was doing a pretty good job at pleasing God. I even thought I was in the running for being the “best little girl” in God’s eyes. Looking back, I can see how I had such sinful and wretched pride, even as a small child!

Right after 8th grade, we moved from Everett to Edmonds. One of the neighbor girls invited me to her youth group. The youth pastor asked us to close our eyes and to raise our hands if we knew that we were going to heaven after we died. I found that question to be so offensive. How could I know if God would decide to let me into heaven?! It sounded so presumptuous to me. Yet, that question also nagged at my heart. I felt that I had somehow let God down by not raising my hand. A couple weeks later, I attended a Billy Graham Crusade with my family. Rev. Graham preached the gospel. He read John 3:16 and all of a sudden, I got it: “For God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him, will not perish but will have eternal life.” I had memorized the verse in Sunday school as a young child, but I did not understand what it meant until the Holy Spirit opened my eyes that night. God loved me, He sent Jesus to die for me, and I believed in Him, therefore I would live eternally with Him! Nothing else mattered! I went down to the front floor of the Kingdome during the alter call. A woman prayed with me and gave me some literature to read. I stayed up all night reading the material and reading the book of John. I confessed that I was a sinner. I acknowledged God’s perfect holiness and righteousness. I realized I could never be acceptable in God’s perfect presence because of my sin, except that Jesus took my sin and paid the price with it so that I could have fellowship with God. This was such a liberating and freeing time in life. I read the Bible and God taught me through it.

This immediately changed my life in so many ways. First of all, I had a relationship with God! I actually conversed with Him through Scripture and prayer regularly. I actually wanted to have these conversations all the time- not just to escape pain or out of fear. I actually began to treasure God as an end in Himself. I enjoyed Him! This also had practical effects in how I lived my life. I became much less shy, as I was learning to be less self obsessed. I became more outgoing because I knew I was free. My heart was changing on so many things. Some changes were instantaneous, and other changes were slow to come, and many are still coming.

When I started high school, I became more outgoing as I grew in my faith. I was active in school and church activities, and I was learning more and more about God everyday. However, I still never felt comfortable in church. Church as I had experienced it so far had a fake element to it- others seemed fake & I felt fake- like I could not be myself or be honest about my struggles in church and with Christians. I felt more comfortable around non-Christians.

I started college at UW in 1994. My parents allowed me to stay in the dorms. This was a pretty big change for me, since my parents were very protective of us. I was not allowed to stay out past 9 pm in high school. All of a sudden, I was going to have a lot of freedom. My “randomly” selected freshman roommate happened to be a solid Christian girl, Rebecca, with whom I soon became best friends. We lived on a co-ed dorm floor with men’s and women’s clusters. Our entire dorm floor was filled with really nice people, mostly non-Christians. Despite my fears, I quickly made a lot of friends- many of whom were all the people who lived on our floor.

This boy, Kristian, lived on our floor too. He was an interesting guy. I met him through a mutual friend when a group of us got into a debate about one of the endless topics we talked about together. From that day on, Kristian and I talked (okay, usually argued) about everything. In fact, if it weren’t for our mutual interest in debating various topics, I doubt we ever would have become friends. We were about as different as could be. I was a Christian; he was a very passionate atheist who hated Christianity and Christians. I grew up sheltered; he grew up with quite a bit of freedom. I hung out with the smart kids in high school; he hung out with the party crowd. He was kind of aloof, I loved being around people. I went home on the weekends in college; he spent most of his time partying, getting drunk, and meeting girls.

Ironically, this “bad boy atheist” had a huge impact on my faith. He always wanted to talk about God and rarely wanted to talk about anything else. He hated God, yet he constantly asked me questions asked me difficult questions about what I believed. As a result, I began to question, study, and grow in my faith. Sometime around my sophomore or junior year, I started occasionally attended young hip church called “Mars Hill Church” in the evenings with Rebecca after returning from my weekends at home. It was the first church I had been to without my family. Throughout college, Rebecca and I prayed for Kristian, but I am not sure how much I believed that he would become a Christian. He was probably the last person I could imagine who would ever become a Christian. Rebecca used to say that if Kristian ever became a Christian, he would be a pastor- just because it would be such a radical transformation and because he was such a passionate person.

Throughout college, Kristian and I talked for hours at a time on a daily basis- in person and on the phone. Our friends used to joke with Kristian and me about how we were going to get married someday since we spent so much time talking with each other. I knew I would never date him because I knew it was wrong to date a non-Christian, but I was attracted to him. There was something about him- he was a person of great depth in thought and in love for those he chose to love. As I got to know him, I gradually became attracted to him for many good things- for his intelligence, for how articulate he was, for how much he loved his family and his close friends, for his fierce loyalty, for his passion, and even for how he handled crisis moments. I remember one time in college when a friend of ours had come back from partying (with Kristian and others). She was very depressed and suicidal. Although he was drunk at the time, Kristian de-escalated the situation and calmly talked her through the crisis. Looking back, I can also recognize that I was attracted to him for many worldly things- his image, his charm, his looks, etc. Internally, I constantly battled my attraction to him versus my desire to honor God and be with a man who loved Jesus. Unfortunately, I lost this battle many times, which dishonored God and compromised my witness to Kristian and others.

At the end of college, I didn’t know what to do with my life. I was a philosophy major. My parents expected me to continue on in school and to have some sort of career. In theory, I wanted to get married and have kids someday, but I didn’t give it much thought since I had never even had a boyfriend. I decided I wanted to do something that would be intellectually challenging and that would allow me to serve God by helping people. I chose law. I knew I didn’t want to work in the corporate world. I was really interested in international human rights law. Yet, looking back, I know there was something in this decision that reflected my desire to be “somebody,”and my evaluation of what that meant came from the world and not from God.

In 1998, I moved to Washington, D.C. to attend American University for law school. Kristian and I kept in touch a little bit in law school. During Christmas break 2000, I came home to Seattle. Kristian and I went to a New Year’s party at the house of one of our friends. We ended up getting into a huge fight- mostly because the “friends who want more than friends but can’t” thing was not working. We decided it was best if we did not talk anymore. Also, as someone who struggles with people pleasing, this was hard. I hate broken relationships. Kristian and I didn’t speak for a year and a half.

However, this time apart was God’s mercy to me. The Lord worked in my heart to convict me of my sin in all of this and He used this time to grow me closer to Him. I sinned by putting my fleshly desires above loving God and loving people. I sinned in making romantic relationships in general and Kristian in specific, an idol that displaced my love and loyalty to God. I sinned in my witness to non-Christians, including Kristian and all of our friends, by showing them that God was not my treasure. I sinned against my friend Rebecca who tried to lovingly point out my sin and discourage me from my foolishness. I had a warped and sinful view of the purpose of the romantic relationship between a man and a woman as God had designed it- in that I viewed it as only for my comfort and pleasure rather than as a means to glorify God by reflecting His image and growing in sanctification. I had a warped and sinful view of what to look for in a man, as my desires were shaped by pop culture and my flesh, not by Scripture. I behaved sinfully in my dress and my behavior toward boys in general, and toward Kristian specifically. My conviction and repentance in these areas really started in law school, although God is still revealing to me the depth of my depraved heart and behavior.

Despite my sin, God was so faithful in granting me repentance and restoration, and in causing me to grow in the knowledge of Him. In law school, I began to grow in my faith through studying the Bible, attending a gospel preaching church, and having Christian fellowship marked by praying together, confessing to one another, spurring each other on in Christ. I also attended a women’s Bible Study through my church. One day, about a year and a half since I had last talked with Kristian, I was at this women’s Bible Study and I realized it was Kristian’s birthday. I had the women in the group pray for him- for his salvation and protection. I had no idea what was going on in his life. I sent him a birthday card with a Bible verse in it. After putting it in the mail, I did not give it much thought. I had made peace about not ever seeing Kristian again. I was very shocked to come home one day soon afterwards to hear a voicemail message from Kristian. I was afraid to call him back because I did not want to open up those wounds and make myself vulnerable to entering into sin with him again. After praying about it, I did decide to call him back. It was strange to talk with him. We caught up on each other’s lives, but we had never been good at small talk. The conversation got deep quickly. Kristian sounded worse than I had ever heard him. He had finally hit rock bottom, which wasn’t too surprising given that he constantly pondered life’s questions without believing in God. From that point, we started talking regularly and e-mailing. I continued to pray for him.

As law school graduation was on the horizon, I took a trip to London with a friend to celebrate. I was in an internet café in London, when I got an e-mail from Kristian that said that he wanted to go to church. I literally almost fell off the barstool upon which I was sitting! Mars Hill Church was the only church I felt comfortable in suggesting to him. He did not end up going, but when I was home in Seattle for Easter vacation, he decided to go to Good Friday service with me at Mars Hill. The service was held in the old Earl building and was very dark. Pastor Mark sat up at the front reading the crucifixion story in a deep husky voice. The music was dark. It was the first time Kristian had been in a church since he was a kid. It was hard to tell what he thought about it. He didn’t say much. As we walked out, I told him that Good Friday was not the end of the story. Even that night, I could tell that something had changed about him. There was a brokenness about him. There was a lessening of his pride and arrogance, and his heart was soft and humble. That night, I gave him the Message translation of the Bible and a few other books.

A couple weeks later when I was back in D.C., I received a phone call from Kristian. He had read some of the Message, and he was moved by it. We continued to talk. I prayed for a Christian man to come into his life to walk beside him and to mentor him. I knew that we had a complicated history and I did not want to fall back into that mess. God was very gracious in guarding my heart at this time. Kristian met a guy at work named Drew, and they became friends. Drew was a Christian and he going through some transition in his life as well. He agreed to go with Kristian to Mars Hill. The two of them started attending Mars Hill together and, Kristian heard the story of Jesus washing Judas’ feet. Hearing about the radical love that would allow Jesus to wash the feet of the “friend” who Jesus knew would betray Him changed Kristian’s life. Krisitan’s heart was captured by Jesus. It was amazing to experience the change in him. From then on, he devoured Scripture- reading books of it at a time. His desires and demeanor changed dramatically. It was like witnessing Jesus turn water into wine- to me I was no less miraculous. Jesus had really performed a miracle in Kristian.

When I moved back to Seattle in May 2001, Kristian and I and some other friends started attending Mars Hill. Another one of our college friends began attending Mars Hill and he was saved as well. A group of us friends spent that summer studying the Bible together. Kristian and I spent a lot of time reading at the waterfront or in a café. He loved to read Scripture, even as he actively struggled with doubt. He was in love with the person of Jesus. It was so liberating for him. By the end of the summer, we both knew that we were best friends and that we had feelings for each other. This time it was very different. God had redeemed our relationship. Kristian was the only guy with whom I had ever felt comfortable- the only guy I had ever kissed, and now He loved Jesus! He loved Jesus so passionately! We dated for about 8 months before we got engaged. He was my first “boyfriend”.

Marriage has been good, but not so easy- especially for the first couple years. I have no doubts that God brought Kristian and me together. But, as Pastor Mark said when he married us- “There is only one problem with marriage- the man and the woman.” That was such a prophetic statement! Marriage has given us both a greater glimpse of how truly sinful we are and how much we need Jesus.

Looking back on my life, from childhood, to my relationship with Kristian in college, to law school, to dating and being engaged to Kristian, to marriage, and to this season of our lives of struggling with next steps, I can see areas of sin and foolishness in my heart back then that I did not recognize at the time. Many of these were manifestations of the sins I named earlier. I regret my sin because it was a hurdle to the richness of walking with God. But, the nice thing about looking back is that I see God’s grace so clearly in it. He has continued to reveal to me in greater detail how sinful I am, and how gracious He is to forgive me- which makes me recognize His goodness, and which makes me love Him more and more. It also gives me hope, as I see how He has delivered me from sin and I know He will continue to convict me of sin I have in my life now and He will continue to deliver me from it!

I am so blessed to be my husband’s wife. Some things about Kristian have not changed. He is still passionate, intelligent, fiercely loyal, and still hates “small talk”. However, in most ways, I can hardly imagine that he is the same Kristian I knew in college. I know it can only be a result of God’s tremendous power and grace. It did not take long for me to see that Kristian was called to be a pastor. It is so obvious. So many others have also confirmed that call in his life as well. Kristian’s passion is the gospel. He lives that out through loving me and through preaching. He has an extraordinary love for scripture and an amazing gift for understanding scripture and teaching it. He has taught me so much about the Bible and what it means to be a Christian. He used to hate public speaking, yet now he speaks with ease and passion when preaching the gospel to a crowd of people. That is simply God’s work in Kristian. There is no other explanation for it. Kristian also has a pastor’s heart for loving the people in his care. He is deeply invested in the spiritual health and the lives of the people who are under his care. I definitely see this in our relationship.

We have so many dreams about ministry and family. There have been a lot of seeming “dead ends” and heartaches along this path. It would be a lie if I said I was not nervous about the future. Yet, even looking back at my life as I have just done, I can see God’s hand guiding us every step of the way. I know all the steps along the path He has led us down have had the purpose of showing us more of Him, of enthralling us more with Him, and of causing us to reflect more of Him. This gives me great hope for what lies ahead. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36

Friday, August 15, 2008

Blessed are the Losers

God doesn’t call us “losers,” but the world and our enemy often does. I love the teaching on the Beatitudes from Jesus. The term “beatitude” comes from the Latin word for “blessed”. Jesus calls “blessed” what so many would call “loser”. I have to constantly remind myself of this radical truth.

Matthew 5: 1-12 (the Message)
When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said: 3"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. 4"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. 5"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought. 6"You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat. 7"You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for. 8"You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. 9"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family. 10"You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom. 11-12"Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Matthew 5:1-12 (ESV) Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Thank You Note to God

Thank you, God, for the gift of suffering. It is not a gift I would have chosen for myself, as I am a weak and fearful person by nature. Thank you for loving me enough to choose it for me. Thank you for the glorious purpose it serves in my life- to build me in perseverance, character and hope, which brings me more joy as the object of my hope is your glory! Thank you that suffering brings me nearer to you as it solidifies my joy in the hope of your glory as I learn to stand more firmly in your grace through suffering. Thank you that I have tasted this grace and glory, as you pardoned me from my guilty verdict through the suffering of Jesus. Thank you, Jesus, for suffering perfectly and being my guide in this. Thank you, Jesus, for reconciling me to the Father, so that I might share in your sacred fellowship! Thank you that I am ever learning that the hope of your glory does not disappoint me as the love you pour into my heart by the Spirit is a seal, a promise, a guarantee and an evidence that YOU are faithful even when I am not! Yes, I am suffering now. No, I did not and probably would not ever voluntarily choose this gift for myself. No, I do not delight in it for its own sake. Still, I cannot thank you enough for it because of the perseverance, character, and joy in the hope of your glory it always brings! I know that the suffering now is not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us!

Romans 5:1-5 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Romans 8:12-30 “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”


I can’t sing well, and I don’t know much about music. I can’t even clap and sing at the same time unless I have someone to follow. However, I can look back on my life (both in significant moments and more generally), and I can remember ways that God has ministered to me in song or ways that song has helped me express my heart to God.

“More Love, More Power” comes to my heart today. The words and the music speak to me and help me speak to God today.

More Love, More Power, More of you in my life.
More Love, More Power, More of you in my life.
I will worship You with all my heart.
I will worship You with all my mind.
I will worship You with all my strength.
For you are my Lord.
More Love, More Power,
More of you in my life.

You can listen to it here:
From Michael W. Smith’s album, “Worship” track 11.

I want to know God for who He is in truth. I want more of God’s true love in me. I want to abide in His Trinitarian love for Himself (John 15:9). I want to rest in His love for me (Ephesians 3:14-21). I want to be filled with His love for others (John 15:12). I want this love to be sincere, Spirit-enabled, truth-rooted, affections-engaged, and sacrificial action-producing love. I want this love to “abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment” so that I “may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,” being “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil 1). I want “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” so that I “may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19). I want more of His power, which is His Spirit- God Himself. I want to be filled with His Spirit- Himself- in increasing measure. I want the same power that raised Jesus from the dead to birth supernatural love in me- more love for God and more love for all of the people He puts in my path. In all this, I want to worship the One who alone is worthy of my worship.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

August 12, 2001

Today is the seventh anniversary of my husband’s and my first date. We met seven years before that. Although it did not feel like it at the time, we were just kids- only 18 years old. I was visiting a new friend who lived down the hall on the same freshman dorm floor as I did. Kristian was there. It did not take long for us to strike up a conversation, and before we knew it we were deep into conversation. In fact, the group of friends who had gathered with us eventually left us one by one because they were probably bored by us. (I can’t even tell you how many times that happened that year!) I won’t tell you what we were arguing about- let’s just say he finally came around to see things from my point of view years later (don’t tell him I told you). We could not have been more different at the time. We still are pretty different, although we have both changed tremendously since then. I know it sounds cliché to say that I love him more today than I ever have in the past, but it is true. Over the years, he has increasingly seen me at my worst as he has gotten to know me better and better, and yet he has only loved me more with more grace. When I look at him, I feel like I am witnessing a miracle- no short of Jesus turning water into wine- as I watch the ways that God has grown and gifted him. He loves God passionately and stands on the Word. He is a man who loves with loyalty, sacrifice, strength, truth, integrity, and tenderness. Protecting, providing, and teaching are very much part of who he is. He is quirky and he makes me laugh. I love so many little details about him, and I love that I know him so well. He is not perfect, but I love that he knows that- he is humble, is familiar with his weaknesses, is quick to repent, and is the first to initiate reconciliation 99% of the time we get into a fight. I have so much to learn from him.

Of all of these things though, I am most grateful for Kristian in my because of how he (and marriage in general) helps me see God. I love that marriage and spouses are not a thing to be idolized, but they are (like many things in this life) a window to see more of God. I love that marriage has a deep and important purpose that is far greater than even all the things we get to enjoy with each other. I love that in marriage we are learning who God is and how to reflect Him and His gospel. As we have walked through difficult times and conflicts together, increasingly seeing this truth has been marriage altering for us. Looking at marriage as a reflection of the gospel gives sacred meaning to practical concepts in marriage like headship, submission, love, and sacrifice. Kristian images God to me by the Holy Spirit in the way that he sacrificially loves, protects, leads me, etc. I get to do the same by the Holy Spirit in the way that I submit (sacrificially love), respect, help him, etc.

This passage of Scripture was read at our wedding, and it just gets more and more glorious to me with each passing year:

Ephesians 5:22-33 “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

How to Answer the Devil

1. Be prepared. Know the Word of God and be saturated in it.

2. Seek the Lord in prayer and fasting- asking for protection.

3. Recognize the lies of the devil by comparing them to the truth of God's Word.

4. Recognize that the lies of the devil are most often delivered through indirect means- through things we hear from the world around us from believers and unbelievers alike, and through self talk that is based on lies we have come to believe.

5. Recognize that the devil's lies often have the appearance of wisdom, while still being straight from the pit of hell. (i.e. Col. 2:23; 2 Timothy 3:5; James 3)

6. Guard our words through the above, so that we are not a vessel for the devil's lies to others.

7. Command the devil to leave in the name of Jesus, recognizing His authority- every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:10)

Matthew 4:1-11 "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’


“‘On their hands they will bear you up,lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your Godand him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Isaiah 55: The Compassion of the Lord

1 "Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.

3Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. 4 Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. 5 Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

6 "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 12 "For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace;the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, nd all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."

Friday, August 8, 2008

Costly Love

As you can probably tell by my posts below, the Lord has really been teaching me lately that there are two kinds of “wisdom”. One often has the appearance of godly wisdom, but is really earthly and demonic. I often find myself deceived by the messages I hear in the desires of my own flesh and in the world around me. I constantly find myself needing to check this against the truth I see in Scripture. Godly wisdom is counter-intuitive and counter-cultural. It is scandalous to my flesh and to our culture, both of which are about the god of “me”. Once we have fallen in love with the Savior, there is a process of transformation for Christians from one degree of glory to the next that involves head, heart, and action. So that I am not conformed to this worldly wisdom, I need to be transformed by the renewal of my mind. I need to study and meditate and ask God for understanding of His truth by His Word. I have to grow in understanding of this truth by His Spirit. I have to believe in my heart these truths by His Spirit, which manifests itself in the outflow or fruit of my life. This fruit ought to be summed up by love for God, for His body, and for those who do not yet know Him. I have to soberly assess myself by the fruit that is coming out of my life, being careful to measure fruit by Scriptural standards, not worldly standards.

As Christians, there are areas in all of our lives where this process does not flow right- we are not yet in glory. For me, one of these areas is fear- which is only a reflection of my sin or inadequate trust in the truths of God. I often see this sin through the bad fruit it produces in my life- worry, anxiety, selfishness, self-obsession, etc. My Gracious God has brought much trial into my life this year, to do the work of rooting out sins like this in me. I am in this process and it is hard and lonely. It has been one of the most painful years of my life, and yet it has been the sweetest in seeing a greater glimpse into the glory of God and walking close to my Savior. In the midst of the heartaches and disappointments, this has by far been the sweetest year of our 5 years of marriage by God’s grace, as God has been rooting out sin in both me and my husband and He is teaching us what it means to live grace in our marriage- something I wish I had learned long ago. I am so grateful to the God who never gives up on me and who promises to be with me moment by moment in this life. As He draws me closer and closer to Him, he transforms me, often most effectively in seasons of trial and discipline. But in this process, He gives me real joy- not conjured- in knowing Him and His nearness now, and in the hope of knowing that I get to spend eternity in His glorious presence!

In times when I am feeling particularly crushed by trials, I am especially amazed to look at the model of Jesus’ life on earth. He suffered immensely in His life, yet none of His suffering was discipline for sin. He was sinless! He was tested by trials, and He passed with perfect obedience to the Father. In addition to being betrayed, abused, misunderstood, slandered, falsely accused, abandoned by loved ones, financially unstable, deliberately tempted, brutally tortured, and publicly mocked (to name a few), there are things about His sufferings that are even more scandalous! He was God who willingly demoted Himself to live a life like us, while being fully God and fully man! He was in perfect relationship with the Father by the Spirit. There is no closer relationship that has ever been. Yet in becoming sin for us, He underwent the wrath of the Father against sin and experienced separation from His Father! He even had to suffer in advance with the knowledge that all of this was coming! Why would He do such a thing? It was love. It was love for the Father, and it was love for His church. It was love for you, if you are a Christian, and it was His love for me. He did all of this by the Spirit, and in it the Father was glorified and He was glorified- because sacrificial love and perfect justice met in perfection. Jesus willingly suffered the Father’s wrath. The Father willingly gave the Son He loved- the perfect image of Himself. This is love- undeserved, costly mercy toward us. This costly love show by both the Father and the Son, is life changing for us. As the Spirit opens my heart to this truth more and more, as I am rooted and grounded in this love, He is transforming me to sacrificially love too. As we grow in our sacrificial love, we get to glorify Him!

Isaiah 53 "Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,and no beauty that we should desire him.He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,and with his stripes we are healed.All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on himthe iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living,stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wickedand with a rich man in his death,although he had done no violence,and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt,he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to deathand was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors."

John 3:16-21 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God." 1 John 3:1-3 “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

Romans 5:1-11 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Okay, I better stop now before I post the entire Bible on this post.