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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Revelations from Revelation

I’m so excited for our church’s new sermon series on the letters to the churches contained in the book of Revelation! The major theme of our church’s recent retreat was about what it means to be a Biblical church in authentic gospel community. The new sermon series continues this theme by looking at Jesus’ own words in Revelation to the churches through seven letters and how these letters “encompass the heart and the soul of Jesus for His church”. The first sermon on this was preached last Sunday by our pastor Scott Golike, and it was awesome.

Revelation 2:2-7

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

Here are some highlights from the sermon:

*Jesus holds the churches in His hand. He is in control. He rules and protects His church. He is majestic. He judges with the sword of His mouth.

*The seven letters are from Jesus to the churches and they tell us what Jesus likes in churches and what He does not like.

*This message is for churches today, not just for the churches in that time.

*The angels of the churches refer to messengers of the churches.

*The first letter from Jesus is to the church of Ephesus, which was an important city.

*Jesus likes good works, hard work, and patient endurance from churches. Jesus likes it when His people exercise discernment in knowing who is speaking from God and who is not.

*Jesus hates worldliness (like the works of the Nicolaitans)

*It is possible to work hard, to uphold truth, to stand up against worldliness, to be doctrinally correct and to still displease Jesus by abandoning love. This is so serious that Jesus will remove the church’s lampstand if the church refuses to repent of a lack of love! Loving hearts, loving attitudes, and loving behavior are not small things to Jesus. Jesus is saying He will end a church that refuses to address the spirit of un-love.

*To the one who conquers, Jesus will grant to eternal life with Him!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Biblical Wives

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for the gift of my sweet husband. Thank you for saving him and giving him to me. Thank you for the way you have put love in his heart for you and for me. Thank you that he takes care of me, protects me, leads me, teaches me, and provides for me. Thank you for the ways he sacrifices out of love for me. Thank you that I get to enjoy him. Thank you for the man of character that you have made him. Please help me to be a biblical wife to him, out of sincere and pure love for you and for him. Please give me a soft, giving, teachable, humble and servant heart. Help me to submit to you and to him in love. Please help me to work hard and diligently in love to help him in the many ways to which you call me. Please make me trustworthy in working for his gain. Please help me to be faithful to pray for him regularly and to speak to him with wisdom and kindness always on my tongue. Please show me new ways to show him my love for him and your love for him. Please help our marriage to reflect the gospel as we are both image bearers of you. May you get all the glory! In Jesus' Name, Amen

Proverbs 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.

Proverbs 18: 22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.

Proverbs 19: 13 A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife's quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.

Proverbs 19:14 House and wealth are inherited from fathers,but a prudent wife is from the Lord.

Proverbs 25: 24 It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.

Proverbs 27:15-16 A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; 16 to restrain her is to restrain the windor to grasp oil in one's right hand.

Proverbs 31:10-31
10 An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.

11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her householdand portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She dresses herself with strengthand makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her householdand does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,and let her works praise her in the gates.

Song of Solomon 5:18-19
Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth,19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.

1 Cor 7:4-5 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Ephesians 5: 22-24 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Colossians 3: 18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

1 Peter 3:1-6 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening

Titus 2:3-5 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Love, Obedience, and Joy

I had coffee with a sweet friend a few months back. She was telling me about a struggle in her life where a close family member sinned against her in a painfully devastating way. We started talking about forgiveness, and she made a very wise observation. She told me that people often told her that she should forgive because it would allow her to move on, heal, and experience and freedom from bitterness. This advice troubled my friend because she wanted to be in a place where she could sincerely forgive her loved one for his sake, not for hers.

How right her thinking was! I have often heard the same thing--that forgiveness is for the forgiver. Still, I have never unpacked this thought to consider…well, the selfishness of it. One of the benefits of forgiving is that it benefits me, but that motive alone is not coming from love for God or for others.

Scripture tells me that the only thing that counts in my acts of obedience is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6 references this concept in the context of circumcision:

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”

The Lord cares about my heart and motives. I can “obey” God’s commands without a heart of love for God or a love for people--this is what the Pharisees did. This misses the heart of God’s commands which is that: God-honoring obedience flows from sincere love in our hearts for God and others. This is what Jesus meant when He told the lawyer in Matthew 22:34-40 that all the law and all the prophets hang on two commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

This is not to say that God-honoring obedience does not benefit the one who obeys, or that it is wrong to desire or enjoy these benefits. God in His graciousness has ordered the world in such a way that our obedience to his commands does benefit us. These benefits are temporal and eternal. Obedience often results in a better life for the one who obeys--the forgiver receives peace, the one who loves receives joy, the one who does not lust after another man’s wife enjoys intimacy with his wife, the one who respects and obeys her husband enjoys a her husband’s acts of lavish love, etc. The child who obeys his parents, is protected and enjoys his relationship with his parents. However, true God-honoring obedience is not motivated primarily by these types of benefits. Indeed, obedience does not always even result in these types of benefits. Forgiveness is given, but not received and reconciliation does not occur. The one who loves gets their heart broken into pieces. The one who is faithful to his wife is demeaned, degraded, and despised by his wife. The one who respects and obeys her husband is demeaned, degraded, and despised by her husband. The child who obeys his parents has indifferent parents who do not engage with him or protect him. Still, for the one who obeys out of love, there is a benefit that does manifest both in this life and in the next. I think this is what Paul is referring to when he says that we are to live our lives in such a way as to receive a prize:

1 Corinthians 23-25 “I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. 24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”

What is the prize to which Paul is referring? We get a glimpse of the answer in Philippians 3:

12Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

17Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

1 Peter 1 further sheds light on what the prize is:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 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.

The prize is Paul’s unfettered joy in the object of his first love--God Himself! He experiences a taste of this joy in his earthly life, and he anticipates one day when he will experience this joy more fully--free of sin, his earthly body, and all such fetters of this life that restrain his ability to enjoy our Great God! All obedience borne of love also bears the benefit of joy to the one who obeys. Jesus endured the cross out of love for the Father and for us, and for the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:1-2). While our joy in God has its fullness in the life to come, we get to taste this inexpressible glorious joy today as well because we love Him, even though we have not seen Him with our eyes! Our love for God (and His love for us) is inextricably tied to our joy (and His)! This is the joy of being “in love”. This joy, while it benefits ourselves, comes only from looking beyond ourselves!

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your love! Thank you that you delight in us, the objects of your love. Thank you that we delight in you, the object of our love. Thank you for the inexpressible and glorious joy you bring to our lives, here and in heaven, as we consider who you are—Our Mighty God, Compassionate, Gracious, Slow to Anger, Righteous, True and the One from whom we get our definition of Love by your character! Thank you for engaging with us and even conforming us to the image of your Glorious Son! We love you, Father, Son, and Spirit. In Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Radical Friendship

I have been meditating lately on what it means to be a true biblical friend. What I am finding is that authentic biblical friendship is radical friendship. I want to be that kind of friend!

We all love our friends. They are the ones with whom we have the biggest laughs. They are the ones who fill up our fondest memories. They are the ones we are quick to call when we want to talk. They are the ones who meet many of our needs. These things are all true, but they are also true of the way that the world views friendship. What does the Bible say about friendship that is different from the world? I think this verse is a good summary:

Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Proverbs 17:17 is often quoted on all sorts of cheesy Christian paraphernalia, and I think we often trivialize the profound meaning of this verse--that a friend loves at ALL times, even when things are bad. ALL times? Even when:

The good times are a distant memory
Our friends are suffering
We are suffering
We disagree
Our friends are in sin
We are in sin
Our friends betray us
Our friends abandon us

The way we are called to love our friends is always patient, kind, rejoices with truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things (1 Cor 13). The way we are called to love our friends is never envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, irritable, overbearing (insisting on its own way) or resentful (1 Cor 13). We are called to love our friends with sincerity, abhorring evil and clinging to good (Rom 12:9). We are called to love our friends with brotherly affection, outdoing one another in showing honor, not being slothful in our zeal, but fervent in our spirit to serve the Lord (Rom 12:10). We are called to love our friends by obeying God’s commandments (Rom 13:9-10). We are called to love our friends by doing nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility counting others more significant than ourselves (Phil 2). We are to look not only to our interests but also to the interest of our others (Phil 2). We are to love our friends in a way that covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). We are to love our friends in a way that is walking in the light (1 John 2:10). We are to love our friends by laying our life down for them 1 John 3:16). We are to love our friends by sharing with them from our own resources to bless them (1 John 3:17).We are to love our friends not just in words or talk, but in deed and truth (1 John 3:18). We are to love our friends in a way that is rooted in God’s love for us (1 John 4:19). We are called to love our friends by praying for them (there are tons of examples in Paul’s letters, some are: Ephesians 1:15-23; Phil 1:3-11; Col 1:9-14).

These are biblical principles of biblical love. Biblical love for our friends ALWAYS looks like this. This kind of love is engaging, honest, sincere, and sacrificial. This kind of love reminds me of what I heard from one woman at the Grace Fellowship retreat who said that being a good friend means that you know what is going on with your friend because you are involved in doing life together. Having this knowledge, a good friend actively helps their friend through prayer and other acts of service.

The applications of Biblical love may look different by circumstances. My methods of loving a friend depend on their needs. For instances, if my friend is feeling weary, I am called to encourage him or her (1 Thes 5:14). If my friend is in sorrow, I am called to mourn with him or her (Rom 12:15). If my friend is rejoicing, I am called to rejoice with him or her (Rom 12:15). If my friend has a material need, I am called to bless him or her generously with provision as God calls (1 John 3:17). If my friend confesses sin to me, I am called to pray for him or her (James 5:16). If my friend is sick, I am called to pray for him or her (James 5:15).

What happens though when we have a conflict with a friend?

If my friend is in sin, I should pray for him or for her and I should pray about whether the Lord would have me say anything to him or her, holding to Scriptural truths like these:

Proverbs 27:5-6 “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”

Proverbs 19:11 “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

If my friend tells me I am in sin, I should take care to hear the exhortation of my friend recognizing that my heart is deceitful and my sin is deceitful. I should recognize the value of my friend’s counsel and listen. If I do not see truth in my friends counsel, I should pray to God for discernment, I should test it against the Word, I should pray to the Lord for a soft heart, and I should perhaps ask another honest God-fearing friend if they see the same sin in me:

Proverbs 27:9 Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick;who can understand it?”

Hebrews 3:12-13 “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

James 3:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

Hebrews 4:12-13 “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Proverbs 15:22 Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.

We must do all we can to pursue reconciliation a friend with whom we have conflict. Matthew 5:23 says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (It should not be surprising to us that reconciliation is so important to God, since the gospel is the ministry of reconciliation of us to God! See, 2 Cor 5:17-21)

Romans 12:18 tells us “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” As Romans 12:18 suggests, there will be times when we have done all that is possible from our end to seek reconciliation, yet sometimes our friends will not want to be reconciled. At the point when our friends are the ones to abandon our relationship, we must love them from afar--through our prayers and any opportunity that the Lord provides--but we must never cease to love them. I love the image of the parable of the prodigal son. Though his son sinned grievously against him, the father of the prodigal welcomes him with lavish love when his son returns:

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 22But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate." (Luke 15)

The amazing thing about this picture is that the father’s loving response comes even before he hears of his son’s repentance or apology! We see in the heart of this father sincere love--love that sincerely cares for his son. Simply upon seeing his son coming toward him, this father is moved with affection and compassion. This is “no-agenda” kind of love. This father does not put his needs for respect, vindication, honor, affirmation, etc. above his sincere love, interest in, and care for his son. This is sacrificial pursuing love.

Jesus is our perfect friend and our perfect model of what it is to be a good friend. While He lived on earth, He loved, encouraged, admonished, served, and “did life together” with his closest friends, His disciples. Jesus’ love manifested in a variety of ways depending on the circumstances. Sometimes His words were gentle, other times they were extremely forceful, but they were always in love. Sometimes He directly provided for the disciples (like multiplying loaves and fish), and other times He told the disciples where to look to find their provision (like telling them to find a coin in the mouth of a fish). Jesus’ love for his friends did not change even when his friends disappointed him or even betrayed him (He even washed the feet of Judas!).

Despite the fact that I disappoint, wound, and betray Him with my sin, Jesus is my perfect friend who loves me actively. I love what Bible commentator Matthew Henry says about Proverbs 17:17:

“No change of outward circumstances should abate our affection for our friends or relatives. But no friend, except Christ, deserves unlimited confidence. In Him this text did receive, and still receives its most glorious fulfillment.”

His words bring me back to the point of biblical friendship, and that is to know the love of Christ and to image this love to others to the glory of God!

Homemaking Help

I just wanted to post a link to my friend, Keisha's blog post on her cleaning routine. Keisha is a very talented (music, organizing, cleaning, encouraging, story telling, writing, to name a few) and godly woman (loving, tenderhearted, sincere, and she gets grace!). She came up with an amazing cleaning routine (I referred to this in the comments section of my post "Help! Homemaking! Where to Start!"). While my schedule will likely not look exactly like hers, it helped me to read through her schedule as a starting point for figuring out ways that I can organize my own schedule. I love that the Lord gives us much grace, and wants us to live in freedom of His grace, not the bondage of condemnation and fear. While He gives us abiding principles in Scripture, He gives us freedom in application in many ways. The particulars of homemaking will look different for different people depending on their circumstances and gifting. The point is to reflect the beauty and order of our Awesome God, to bless our families and guests in our home, and to live our lives in such a way that we are making the most of our days to glorify our God! Here's my confession: I often default to condemnation, fear, and legalism for myself in this area. When I don't default to these, I often give up. Pray for me! God is working in me with these things though. My new neighbor stopped by out of the blue today with her toddler son, and my house was a mess. I had dishes in the sink, blankets unfolded in the livingroom, papers on my desk, etc. It was humbling (embarassing to be honest), but I am glad she stopped by. I want to get to know her and love my neighbors. This is a good reminder about a key reason for why I want to develop my skills and learn all that I can in the area of homemaking. I want to love well--to love my God, and to love others. I want my home to be an inviting place for my husband firstly, and secondly for others!

Monday, September 22, 2008


This weekend, my husband (Kristian) and I attended our church’s annual retreat (Grace Fellowship). As we have only been attending Grace Fellowship for a couple months now, this was our first time attending this retreat. Nestled in the quiet of the woods, the retreat was held at a Christian camp tucked away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It was simply wonderful. If I had to sum up our time there in one word, it would be “community”. I experienced community with my husband, with some old friends, and with lots of new friends--all of whom belong to the Body of Christ. In doing so, I experienced community with our God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, recognizing that our Triune God is a community Himself and our human relationships mirror this community.


*The night we arrived, Kristian and I walked down to the lake and sat on a dock together under the night sky. The water was so calm, and the reflection of the tall evergreens was simply majestic. We were the only ones at the lake, and we sat hand-in-hand taking in the beauty, visiting with one another, and praying to our Great Creator. (I miss you already, Kristian!)

*Getting a chance to talk with people--and seeing Christ in the Body of Christ. I saw Christ in the eyes of the loving mother who cheerfully towed four kids on a ferry. I saw Christ in the heart of a compassionate nurse with a burden to care for sick patients and children. I saw Christ in the hearts of an older couple whose wisdom and gracious living inspire me each time I talk with them. I saw Christ in the chorus of praises sung together by the body. I heard Christ in the prayers of men and women who thirst for Him. I saw Christ in the joy of the children all around who were running, laughing, and playing together. I saw Christ in the hearts of a couple who are eagerly anticipating the blessing of their first child. I saw Christ in men encouraging each other as brothers. I saw Christ in the servant heart of a woman who planned the details of the event for all to enjoy. I saw Christ in the hearts of mothers who rushed together with seemingly lightening speed to respond to the needs of a hurt child. I saw Christ in the humble and bold, trusting and Spirit-empowered vision of our godly elders. I saw Christ in the hearts of women talking theology and Bible. I saw Christ in the hands of the youth and staff that served us meals. I saw Christ in the tender words of a father teaching his little ones about God’s creation and protecting them as they walked together by the lake. I saw Christ in the encouraging words of women as they played a game together. I saw Christ in the heart of a woman who told me about God’s amazing provision on the short term mission trip she went on recently. I saw Christ in the love between a young woman and a young man who were just embarking on the journey of Christian marriage. I saw Christ in the passion of those who yearn for authentic, meaningful, biblical community. I saw Christ in the heart of those with a vision to win, grow, equip and deploy so that many would truly know the deep love, joy, and peace of a life with Jesus. I saw Christ in so many who welcomed us into their church family with sincere love. I could go on and on….

*Hearing the vision for our church for being so much more than a gathering on Sunday morning. The heart is to know and live the gospel, which happens in real and deep community. The heart is to reach out to those who need the gospel, with an emphasis on building God’s Kingdom in a biblical way rather than building a local church or institution in worldly ways. The heart is to make disciples not just converts…lovers of Jesus, not mere fans of Jesus.

*The food was yum!

We have loved being a part of Grace Fellowship for the past couple months. We have been edified by the teaching, worship, love, and hospitality of the folks there. (Just last weekend, the ladies at Grace held an amazingly sweet baby shower for a woman who is also new to Grace.) The retreat helped us partake more deeply of the fellowship at Grace and to get a further glimpse of the vision for Grace to grow in Christlikeness. We so look forward to getting plugged in even more and to doing life with our brothers and sisters at Grace.

Below is a passage that was read at the retreat. Acknowledging that our culture is one that is highly individualistic, our pastor challenged us to read it in the context of community:

Romans 12
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Gifts of Grace
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Marks of the True Christian
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Friday, September 19, 2008

My Husband’s Submission

In reading the title of this post, you might be surprised to hear that I am a Complementarian. In short, Complementarians believe that men and women are created equal in value, but different in roles within the church and family as outlined in Scripture.[1] I firmly believe in the Biblical principle that a wife is called to submit to the authority of her husband who is her God-given head.

Nonetheless, my husband submits. Yes, of course he submits to God, to our pastors, to his employer, to his fellow brothers who hold him accountable, and to many others… but he also submits to me. This might surprise you--especially if you know my husband, as he is most certainly a leader. By submitting to me, he is not shirking his responsibility as my head. To the contrary, he is leading me biblically. I get this from Ephesians 5.

Ephesians 5:1-21

Walk in Love
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,and arise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

When we think of the word submit, we often think of submitting to authority. This is not what Paul is getting at when he calls us to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. We are not called to obey everyone! If we are not called to obey one another, there must be a way of submitting to one another that does not involve submitting to the authority of one another. I went to to look up the meaning of the word “submit” as used in Ephesians 5:21. The Greek word is “Hypotasso”. I found this description there:

This word was a Greek military term meaning "to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader". In non-military use, it was "a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden".

When I read this, I don’t equate submission with weakness as the world often does. To the contrary, I equate submission with strength and a heart that is willing to sacrifice for another. Even from this description, I can see that submitting can manifest in a variety of ways--some of which involve leading and some of which involve obeying--all of which involve willingness, love, humility, and sacrifice.

Here is a scandalous thought: God did this for us!! Christ, my Ultimate Head, humbled Himself in love at great cost for my well-being. He willingly submitted His rights, His position, and His privileges in love to “assume the responsibility” and “carry the burden” of my need for a Savior! I cannot even wrap my head around that. Our great God assumed the responsibility for our sin and carried its burden of death by dying in our place on the cross. He left His throne in heaven and came to live as a man, submitting Himself to the authority of earthly parents and earthly government. He stooped down, on His knees, wash-rag in hand, to scrub the dirt off of the feet of His own followers (even the one he knew would betray Him)! We are talking about Lord of the Universe here! He loved us by sacrificing Himself for our joy. His death brought us back to Himself, where our truest deepest joy is found! That is the Gospel!

We get to reflect this great love! In Ephesians, Paul tells us to “be imitators of God, as beloved children” and how to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” by “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”. Philippians 2 sheds light on what this looks like:

Philippians 2:1-11

2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Continuing on in Ephesians 5, Paul tells how walking in love and submitting to one another looks in marriage. As Paul explains, both the husband and the wife get the tremendous honor of imaging the gospel of Christ’s humble and sacrificial love in distinct ways, manifested in servant leadership of the husband and willing obedience of the wife:

Ephesians 5:22-33

Wives and Husbands
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 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. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 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. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

This passage makes it clear that “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” looks differently for husband and for wife in the context of marriage. As John Piper and Wayne Grudem wisely put it:

… this does not mean that husbands and wives should submit to each other in the same way. The key is to remember that the relationship between Christ and the church is the pattern for the relationship between husband and wife. Are Christ and the church mutually submitted? They aren't if submission means Christ yields to the authority of the church. But they are if submission means that Christ submitted Himself to suffering and death for the good of the church. That, however, is not how the church submits to Christ. The church submits to Christ by affirming His authority and following His lead. So mutual submission does not mean submitting to each other in the same ways. Therefore, mutual submission does not compromise Christ's headship over the church and it should not compromise the headship of a godly husband.[2]

For the wife, the concept of “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” in marriage involves submitting to her husband’s authority and headship over her. This is a picture of willing obedience out of love. We see in many other passages in Scripture that this involves being a “helper” to her husband in countless ways that constitute loving acts of sacrificial service. (I hope to write in greater detail about this in some future posts.)

For the husband, the concept of “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” in marriage does not involve submitting to his wife in the sense of authority. Rather, it involves giving himself up for her, loving her as his own body, nourishing her, and cherishing her willingly and out of love. When I said “my husband submits to me”, this is what I meant! He does this in so many ways. He takes responsibility for me and our well-being in all areas of our life. While he seeks counsel from me and delegates to me, he assumes the burden of responsibility for our lives. While we both will have to give account to the Lord for our lives, my husband will also have to give account in relation to the role of leadership that the Lord has given him over me. (We see an example of this when God called out to Adam in Genesis 3 after Eve ate of the forbidden fruit and then gave some to her husband who was there with her.) In the decisions my husband makes, he considers my needs and interests, even if this means sacrificing his dreams, desires, and comforts. One example of this is in provision. Because I am not working right now, finances are very tight for us. My husband has taken on more work at his place of employment. Soon, he will be leaving for four weeks (yes 4!) to work 12 hour days doing tough manual labor on a fishing boat in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. (Please join me in praying for him!) He is making this sacrifice because he wants to take care of me.

It is an amazing thing to realize that we are called to image God and reflect the gospel in marriage! I am ashamed to say that for a long time during our engagement and in our first years of marriage, I had such a selfish understanding of what it meant to submit to my husband. I knew God wanted me to submit to my husband’s authority, and that God wanted my husband to lead me. Because I had a flawed view of what that meant, I believed I got the “short end of the stick”. This led to bitterness in me. I did not understand that a wife’s obedience and a husband’s leadership are about love for each other and love for God. Most importantly, I did not get that the roles of husband and wife are actually a reflection of the sacred love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and God’s love for us! Biblical submission naturally flows from Biblical love because Biblical love sacrifices willingly. My forced acts of submission are worthless if they don’t come from a heart of love for God and love for my husband. While I cannot conjure up this love, I need only ask God for it! He delights to answer my prayers for more of His Spirit in my life and for more of the resulting fruit in my life--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Gal 5:22). Submission is made up of the fruit of the Spirit! The more we learn to walk in the Spirit, the more natural submission becomes, whether it involves the sacrificial leadership of a husband or the sacrificial obedience of a wife. As I stumble in this, God is always faithful to correct me, to receive my repentance, to restore me, and to equip me. I look forward to growing in this. I pray that our marriage would increasingly image God and the gospel. May God be glorified in our marriage as we and others experience the joy of seeing how great He is!

[1] Here is a good article with a more detailed description of Complementarianism and its contrasting view, Egalatiranism:


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Love Pursues

My cousin recently told me that I could burn 300 calories just by spending 20 minutes in the sauna! Although I still think there must be a catch, I have been spending 20 minutes in the sauna lately after working out in the city pool. Whether or not it is actually burning calories, it has been helping me breathe and it has been clearing up my skin. It has also been a good place to think.

Just the other day as I made my way from the pool to the sauna, an elderly black man kindly held the door open for me and let me enter first. I remember thinking he reminded me of my father because my dad is about the same age, has similar dark skin and grey-white hair, and is always doing gentlemanly things like holding doors open for people. There were a few others in the sauna already. The group of men and women there were talking about graffiti that had been sprayed on a landmark in the center of town. One man, a white man in his early 40’s, started saying he knew who did it. He went on to say he had seen a Hispanic man in his early 20’s driving around town in a Denali and how a kid “like that” probably couldn’t even speak English and would not be able to afford a Denali except by being involved with drugs and all sorts of trouble. (Ironically, this man’s own use of the English language left much to be desired!) After hearing this, I promptly looked away and rolled my eyes. The elderly black man, however, very calmly and kindly started engaging the offending man in conversation. As I listened to the exchange, I was struck by the kindness and grace with which the elderly black man handled the conversation. I’m sure this wasn’t the first time that the elderly black man encountered racism, yet instead of blowing up, he asked rational, direct, piercing and yet gentle questions.

As I observed this exchange, I was convicted about my own unloving response of rolling my eyes and turning away. I was also reminded of how Jesus interacted with ignorant, slow, and sinful people in the Gospel accounts. I thought of His patience with the disciples who so often missed the point of what Jesus was saying. I thought of the loving way that Jesus engaged with the Samaritan woman even as He exposed her sin and her need of Him. I thought of Jesus’ compassion toward Mary and Martha at the death of their brother, even though He wanted them to trust Him. Then I thought of the way that Jesus pursues me despite the fact that I am ignorant, slow, and sinful! Before I was a Christian, Jesus pursued me until I could finally understand what it meant for Him to die for my sins. Even though I betray Him with my sin and with my unbelief, He still pursues me everyday! He doesn’t roll His eyes and turn away. He doesn’t write me off. He doesn’t lose hope for me. He IS my hope!

Heavenly Father, thank you for your love! Thank you for pursuing me at great cost to Yourself and to Your Precious Son Jesus! Forgive me for my lack of love. Please give me a heart of love for all of those around me--especially for those for whom it is hard for me to love. Please give me a heart to do the work of pursuing others out of Spirit-enabled sincere love. May I never write anyone off. Instead, give me a heart of faith in You--the God who does the impossible, the God who opens eyes and changes hearts. Thank you for your love for me. Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for your perfect example of how to love in a way that pursues and that is sacrificial. Thank you for freely giving me access to Your Spirit, Whom I desperately need in order to love like this. In Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.

Matthew 18:10-14 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Help! Homemaking! Where to Start?!

In this season of life, I am currently not working outside of the home, and I don’t have kids. I would love to make the best of this season by getting our home in excellent order. This area of life is not a natural gifting for me, nor did I take the time to learn these things as I grew up. I’m looking at getting organized as far as daily cleaning routines, meal planning, budgeting, time management, health, hospitality, family traditions, etc.

I’m not sure if anyone reads this blog, but if you do…Do you have any tips on where to start? Do you have helpful resource suggestions (books, websites, classes, etc)? Do you have other advice? Do any of you have any stories to tell about your own successes, struggles, and/or growth in this area? How have your loved ones benefited from your growth in this area? Is this something that was hard for you to start up at first, or are you a natural? Did you start working on this stuff as a single person, or after marriage, before kids or after kids? What has Scripture taught you about this area of life? I’d love to hear from you here. You can post by clicking on “comments” below.

Here’s a little inspiration:

Proverbs 31:10-31
10 An excellent wife who can find?She is far more precious than jewels.

11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises while it is yet nightand provides food for her householdand portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She dresses herself with strengthand makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poorand reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,for all her household are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gateswhen he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,and let her works praise her in the gates.

Stewards of God's Grace

1 Peter 4:7-11 “7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

It had been a discouraging day. I fumbled for my house keys and meandered up our driveway. Taped to our front door was an envelope with our name on it. Not recognizing the handwriting, I opened the envelope. The contents brought me to my knees. Enclosed was a long encouraging note and Scripture verse along with a gift certificate for our wedding anniversary and a generous check. Dear friends, who had financial troubles of their own, believed that the Lord had placed it on their hearts to bless us in such an extravagant, thoughtful, and sacrificial way. Several weeks before that, some other dear friends, who also had financial troubles of their own, wrote us a loving and encouraging note that said they were led by the Lord to write us a large check. In both cases, the gifts were lavish, unexpected, cheerful, at great cost to the givers, and came with no agenda attached and no expectation of repayment. Both came from hearts of love and obedience toward God and love for us.

The effect on us was phenomenal. Although these gifts were miraculous provision in the face of recent financial blows, the biggest effect on us had nothing to do with finances. We were deeply humbled before our friends and before our God who consistently shows us how much we need Him and how much He provides. We felt as if God Himself wrote the encouraging words to us, picked out the gift, and wrote the checks.

The experience truly shed light on 1 Peter 4:10 for me (written out in context above). In the NIV, 1 Peter 4:10 is translated: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.” Our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ stewarded or administered God’s grace to us. The grace and love we experienced did come to us from God Himself through the hands of His children! These thoughtful actions by our friends were life giving and redemptive in a season of life where we could see death in operation in the world around us. For us, it was a clear and much-needed reminder that God does love us in the midst of what He brings into our life by suffering. These friends were the hands and the feet of Christ Himself to us! What an honor for them to be the vessel for the Lord’s boundless love and grace!

In a great sermon I listened to several months back, Pastor Bill Clem of Mars Hill Church called the body of Christ a “delivery system for grace”. That phrase stuck with me. Several weeks ago, I heard another great sermon by Pastor Mike Vederoff of Hope Bible Fellowship (guest preaching at Grace Fellowship Puget Sound) on 1 Peter 4 on the body of Christ as stewards of God’s grace. The Lord further etched these two wonderful teachings into my heart through the practical acts of kindness of our friends.

Dear Father, Thank you for your extravagant grace and love. Thank you for the loving friends you have placed in our lives! Thank you that you have shown yourself to be so glorious to them that they willingly and cheerfully sacrifice out of what you have given them. Thank you for the tremendous faith you have given them. I know You will bless them for their faith and obedience to you. Thank you for their witness to us and to all who hear this story. The witness is of you- of a God who is worthy of all of our worship, and worthy of sacrificing all. Thank you that the body of Christ is a delivery system for grace. Make me a delivery system for your grace as well! Make me a good steward of your grace in any gifting or resource you have given me. May my thoughts, words, and deeds be about You and not me, so that others see You in me and that they may experience your love through me. Grow in me sincere love for others that follows Jesus’ example as in Philippians 2. Help me to seek out ways of putting the interests of others above my own- out of sincere Holy Spirit produced love- for your glory! In Jesus name, Amen.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Impactful Teaching on Words from Paul Tripp

These short clips (pasted below) are profoundly insightful and quite relevant to me (see my Sept 3 post “Dirty Words” which should really be titled, “My Dirty Heart”). I actually met Paul Tripp briefly a year or two ago. He was speaking at an event, and I got a chance to talk with him for a little bit. The thing that struck me in our short conversation was his humility and kindness in demeanor. He is a PhD, an author of many popular books, and was a keynote speaker at the event, yet he was unpretentious and genuine in taking the time to speak kindly to me- a nobody among a lot of somebodys. Although I can hardly remember the subject of our conversation, our small interaction spoke as much to me as the wonderful teaching he gave during the event because of the way I saw him live the message.

Paul Tripp on the Importance of Speaking the Bible (September 2, 2008)

Paul Tripp on Speaking the Truth in Love (August 26, 2008)

Paul Tripp on How Sin Affects the Transparent Use of Words (August 12, 2008)

Paul Tripp on the Life and Death Power of Words (August 7, 2008)

Paul Tripp on Owning Our Words (July 29, 2008)

Paul Tripp on God's Role in the Words We Speak (July 14, 2008)

Paul Tripp: Does God Care About Every Word We Speak? (July 7, 2008)

Paul Tripp: What is the War of Words?

Paul Tripp on the Need for Silence (August 19, 2008)

Paul Tripp: What Makes Bad Language Bad? (July 23, 2008)

THE point

Phil 2:1-11
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The message (the gospel) and mission of Jesus is scandalous, sacrificial, and sincere love. Jesus loves the Father, and so He obeys Him to the point of death (Phil 2:8 & John 14:31). The Father loves Jesus and so He has given all things into His hand (John 3:35). The Father loves us so that He sent His beloved Son Jesus to pay the steep penalty of our sin so that we could be reconciled to our perfect God and so that we could be redeemed from our sinful state (John 3:16). Jesus loves us so He willingly lays down His life for us, His friends. (1 John 3:16) Jonathan Edwards even makes an argument from Scripture that the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is the very love and joy between the Father and Son personified. (“Unpublished Essay on the Trinity”

This past Sunday, Pastor Matt Bayley at our church, Grace Fellowship Puget Sound, preached an awesome sermon called “A Church’s Labor of Love”. This was the third in a series on faith, hope, and love in the church, as exhibited through the book of Thessalonians. His point was that we can have a lot of things “right” in the church, but if we are lacking love, we have missed the point. 1 Corinthians 13 makes this point clearly. It tells us we can speak in the tongues of men and angels, have prophetic powers, understand all mysteries and all knowledge, have faith that can remove mountains, give up away all we have, and even deliver our bodies to be burned, but have gained NOTHING without love. The Message puts it this way:

“1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. 3-7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.”

This is a profound truth that we often overlook in the interest of what we all too often find “more important” and “more spectacular” things. Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23 are sobering:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

It is interesting that Jesus is saying these to people who claim to do a lot for Jesus. There is a way for us to do many things, many good things even, in Jesus’ name and to still miss the point without sincere, Holy Spirit-produced, action-evidenced love in our hearts.

This is true not only in the church, but in our everyday lives. This is true in how I listen to a friend who is going through a rough time. This is true in how I let a car into traffic ahead of me. This is true in how I play with a child in need of attention. This is true in how I fold laundry. This is true in how eat right and exercise to steward my body. This is true in how I let my husband pick the movie we are going to watch. Jesus wants me to do these things in love for Him and love for others. If I don’t do them in love, then they are pointless.

This is a very convicting thought. I love the way that Pastor Matt talked about sincere love having no agenda. How many times do I do things with an agenda? How many times do I do things with an expectation of getting something in return? How many times do I do things out of duty and even bitterness?

For me, one of the hardest areas for this has been in marriage. This was especially true before I realized that headship and submission has a profound connection to the gospel itself (perhaps I will write a post on that sometime). Ultimately though, my deficiencies in this area come from a lack of love. I would do things like submit and serve out of duty because I knew I was supposed to do these things for my husband. All the while, I often had bitterness in my heart because I did not feel like my needs were being met. My view of marriage was based on selfishness and how I could get my needs met. This is the complete opposite of what I read in Philippians 2. I still struggle with living this! Now though, the beauty is that there is grace for me! God has graciously (though painfully) revealed to me that I have this sin in my heart. The Father has given me access to Him through Jesus to seek forgiveness from Him. I confess to Him and He forgives me freely out of love for me. I confess to my husband, and he forgives me freely out of love for me. Not only do I have forgiveness of sin, but God the Holy Spirit is graciously growing love in my heart too. Now, when I struggle in this area (and I do), I can recognize it for what it is and I can seek forgiveness and restoration. I have hope because I see what the Spirit is doing to change my heart daily.

Oh, Father. Thank you for your grace!! Thank you for the beauty of your love for Yourself in the Trinity- Father, Son, and Spirit. Thank you for sharing that love with us- -so that we can both receive your love for us and give your love to others as you supply it. Thank you for doing the supernatural work of producing love in our hearts! Thank you for producing sincere, scandalous love in us so that we can love each other with true zeal in ways that are sacrificial and put the needs of others above our own. Thank you for your perfect example in Jesus. Thank you for not leaving us alone but giving us your Spirit. Thank you that even when we fail, You are available to us and always faithful to restore us as we confess our sin to you. Make us mindful of our hearts in our actions. May we not settle for doing things without love (without knowing your love for us and without having love for you or others). Open our eyes to show us the areas of our life where we are deficient in this. As you reveal our sin to us, may it not produce despair but instead make us hopeful- as you love to answer our prayer to grant us repentance and reconciliation to You and to our brothers and sisters. Thank you, Our Redeemer! In Jesus' Mighty name, Amen

Below is Colossians 3. I find it helpful to read every sentence in this passage with love in mind (God’s love for Himself, God’s love for me, my love for God, and my love for others- recognizing that I can only have sincere love for God and for others by God’s grace with the example that He provides in Scripture, especially through the life of Jesus):

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Dirty Words

Luke 6:44-45 “Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”

Sometimes my words and tone shock me. They are anchored to dark things unseen and deep within my heart. They bite and cut in a flash. Before I can blink, they wound those I love… usually those I love most. They reveal roots that do not belong in the new heart given to me by my Savior. These roots- -bitterness, selfishness, hatred- -do not belong in a temple for the Holy Spirit. Because they lurk in the deceitful soil of my heart and sin, their fruits blindside me as they burst forth. I mourn the damage they inflict, particularly the damage to others. Still I am grateful for their revelation to me. They slap me out of my deluded slumber of self sufficiency and self righteousness. They show me what I need to take to the feet of my Savior. I need Him today as much as I have ever needed Him. I need His forgiveness today. I need Him to take my sin- both the diseased roots and bad fruit. I need Him to weed out my rebellious roots so that they do not continue to yield rotten fruit. I need Him to sanctify me and redeem the relationships that have been poisoned by the rotten fruit of my lips. I need Him to reconcile me to Him and to others (most often to Kristian, my husband... I'm sorry Kristian).

I John 1:5:-10 “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 2:1-6 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”