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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Happy 33rd Birthday Kristian! Here Are 33 Random Reasons Why I Love The Guy...

1) He loves the Lord with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength.

2) He is the simplest and most complicated person I know.

3) He is wicked smart. Watching him debate is both sexy and infuriating at times.

4) He is the most sincere and loyal person I have ever met.

5) He does not hesitate to admit his shortcomings and sin. He does not sugarcoat his sin. He does not sugarcoat anything.

6) He sings in my ear.

7) He loves at great cost to himself

8) He takes responsibility at great cost to himself.

9) He is an introvert who loves to talk.

10) He is the most manly man I know, and he is the most tenderhearted man I know.

11) He makes the best steak I have ever tasted.

12) He plays the guitar by ear and from the heart (what girl can resist that?!).

13) He can be the silliest person ever with me.

14) He is childlike.

15) He works hard.

16) He is intellectually honest.

17) He is adorably predictable.

18) He has a gift of discernment when it comes to people and when it comes to testing things against Scripture.

19) He has a gift for preaching (even though he used to hate and fear public speaking prior to becoming a Christian!)

20) The corners of his eyes crinkle up when he smiles.

21) He has the best belly laugh when he thinks something is very funny. It is loud, body-convulsing, and tear-inducing. And he could be the only one who thinks something is funny, but people generally start laughing anyway because his reaction is so unexpected.

22) He feels deeply and is a passionate person.

23) He is amazing in crisis.

24) He is a protector, and he will fight to protect.

25) He is a great leader.

26) He is not afraid to speak the truth.

27) He wears his heart on his sleeve.

28) He is curious.

29) He is not afraid to go against the grain if it is the right thing to do.

30) I learn from him all the time.

31) He gives the best hugs and I love the feel of my hand in his.

32) He genuinely cares about people, and he lovingly and sacrificially invests in them.

33) He hungers and thirsts for God. He has tasted the gospel and the glory of God, and nothing else satisfies for him. The gospel transformation in his life upon conversion and everyday since is nothing short of breathtaking to me. It is one of the greatest testimonies to me of God’s existence, love, might, and supremacy.

*The photo is of Kristian playing with our sweet niece Shifa.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jesus' Heart for His Bride-- Part 4 (John 15:18-27 and 16:1-4)

John 15:18-27 and 16:1-4 ‘“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ 26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning. 16:1 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.’”

1) Out of compassionate love for His Church, Jesus wants His Bride to be prepared for trials that are to come. Jesus warns His disciples that they will be hated by the world. This will be a difficult and confusing thing to endure. By worldly standards, the disciples will look foolish and hopeless. Their God and Savior will die a painful and humiliating death. Their belief in love, humility, and service will look like weakness to the world. Their theology of being saved through faith in a God who descended into human likeness as a lowly Jewish carpenter will be counterintuitive in a culture where salvation was thought to be gained by birthright or by works. Those who hated Christ for claiming to be God and for living counter-culturally would hate the disciples for heralding and worshipping this same Christ. This hatred would culminate in torture and death for most of the disciples. While most of us do not face torture and death (although some Christians around the world certainly do), following Christ still has its costs. Many in the world still look at Christ followers as weak and foolish. Unfortunately, this reputation is well-earned when Christians stray from Biblical teachings in belief and/or practice. However, even authentic Biblical living as Jesus lived and taught still appears foolish and weak to the world. Blessing people when they treat us poorly, putting the interests of others before our own, seeking to be a humble servant, submitting to authority, believing in one God and one way… these are not principles that are heralded by our world. As Jesus prepared His disciples for being hated by the world, we too ought to be prepared for the same.

1 Corinthians 1:1-31 tells us: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

2) Jesus wants us to persevere through trial by remembering what is unseen. In this section of John, we get an image of Jesus underscoring our need to abide in Him so that we are not sidetracked by the trials that are to come and by what looks like failure and weakness to the world. Jesus knows these things will have the potential to tempt us to doubt Him instead of trusting in Him. Jesus reminds us that things are not as they seem. We are reminded of this elsewhere in Scripture as well:

2 Cor 4:16-18 “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Hebrews 11:1-3 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

Jude 1:17-21 “But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”

3) Jesus wants us to have our identity in Him. Even as Jesus is warning the disciples that they will be hated by the world, Jesus Himself experienced that same hatred in His ministry and would experience the apex of that hatred through a bloody and unjust crucifixion. When we do not fit into this world and when we are despised by this world, we are identifying with the cross of Christ. Just as Jesus’ identity was in the Father, our identity is in Christ. Just as Jesus recognized that those who hated Him really hated His Father with whom He was one, those who hate us for living and believing Biblical Christianity really hate Christ. It is our privilege to identify with our Lord in this way. It is also our comfort. It is the way that we will persevere.

Ephesians 1: 3-23 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. 15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

Philippians 3: 8-21 “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 9 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— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not 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. 13 Brothers, 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, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For 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. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

Hebrews 4:14-16 “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

What is even more profound is how Jesus identifies with us. He considers us His Body! Sometimes I fail to recognize the weight of that. A helpful illustration for me is marriage. When someone does something good to me, my husband feels as if they did it to him. When someone does something bad to me, my husband feels as if they did it to him. I have seen this play out firsthand in his reactions to other people’s kindness toward me and other people’s maltreatment of me. As much as my husband and I are one, even more so am I one with my Creator God because Jesus has fought to make me His own!

Matthew 25 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Ephesians 5: 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.”
Acts 9:1-5 "But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.'"

4) Jesus wants His Church to know that we are not alone. The Helper, the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity helps us to remember what is unseen and He opens the eyes of unbelievers to see what is unseen.

Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

Ephesians 1:11-14 “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Titus 3: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Romans 8 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 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, 4 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. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.12 So then, brothers, 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 all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 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!” 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 fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing 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 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 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. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 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.”

Thursday, February 19, 2009

"I Don't Like Wimpy Women!"

I have to confess that I pretty much hate working out (even though I am committed to it, as God has convicted me in recent years of my sin in not stewarding my health well). Today though, I actually ended up jogging longer on the treadmill than I ever have (don't ask me how long that was... it wasn't very long, but it was long for me). I credit God and John Piper for this accomplishment. I was so engrossed in listening on my iPod to an awesome sermon by John Piper that was delivered at the True Woman 2008 conference. In it, John Piper says among other things, "I don't like wimpy women!" (Uhh, I think I just confessed to being a wimp on the treadmill!)

His point is that Christian women ought to be strong in our theology, and consequently in our faith, in our love, in our endurance through trial, and in imaging the gospel of God's glorious grace!

His message inspired me in remembering the sacred meaning behind Christian womanhood and Christian marriage. But my favorite part was when Piper talked about the names that were "written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain" that is mentioned in Revelation 13. Moved by this Scripture, Piper went on to say:

"Before anything existed but God, Christ was crucified for sin that didn't exist anywhere in the universe--that's amazing...that's not wimpy and it doesn't produce wimpy women. It is staggering to think that God was planning the death and slaughter--that's the word "slain"--the slaughter of His Son before the universe was made! Why? Here's the other text--this Ephesians 1:5-6: 'In love, He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto the praise of the glory of His grace"... and there isn't anything on the other side of that that's a means to anything, it isn't! When you arrive at the praise of the glory of the grace of God, you're home--that's it. There isn't anything beyond that. That is what the universe was made to do, to be. God was planning it such that the appex, the climax, the supreme expression of that grace would be the Son's purchase--at the cost of His life--of His wife, you and me."

Piper then beautifully connected (through Scripture) the gospel to marriage and to singlehood-- or rather, he connected marriage and singlehood to the gospel. This message left me freshly inspired and empowered to endeavor (by God's grace and through the Holy Spirit) to display the gospel to the world through Biblical Womanhood.

You can listen to or watch Piper's message here:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Jesus' Heart for His Bride (Part 3--John 15:1-17)

I Am the True Vine
15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

As I have been meditating on this passage of Scripture, here are a few things I can see as part of the heart of Jesus for His Church:

1) Jesus wants us to abide in Him. Jesus wants relationship with us. He not only wants us to believe in Him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life and the only way to the Father as He told us in John 14, but He also wants to be our everything—our treasure, our motivation, our strength, our power, our goal, our provider, our source of hope and joy, and our perfect model. If Jesus is not our everything, we simply are not saved. This is not to say that we will not struggle with doubt, sin, and seasons of dryness at times in our relationship with Him. However, if we do not have a desire to know Him and pursue Him above everything else--like the man in the parable of the hidden treasure (Matthew 13:45) or the man in the parable of the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:46-47)-- then He is not our Lord and we do not have eternal life. John 17:3 tells us, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Once we believe in Jesus and submit to Him as Lord over our lives, we abide in Jesus through sincere relationship with Him. Think of the human relationships you want to invest in. How do you do that? You spend time with this person. If you truly love this person, you want to do this. Being with this person is not a chore or something you have to force yourself to do, but rather you find it an honor and a joy to spend time with this person. If this is a person who you admire and want to learn from, you listen a lot to this person. You engage with this person by asking questions and asking them for advice. You tell this person how you feel about them. The way we listen to Jesus is through His Word. We learn about His character, His purpose, His ways, His will, and His love through His Word. We engage with Him through prayer. We tell him how we feel about Him through words of worship. We ask Him for guidance about how to live our lives and how to be more like Him. We ask Him to help us where we are struggling. We ask Him to produce fruit in us. If we abide in Him, and His words abide in us, we ask Him for help with our struggles with sin and we ask Him to help us bear fruit, and He will do this for us-- He promises this! If we are struggling with the very desire to meet with Him, He is so faithful even to answer our prayers to produce an appetite in us for Him.

2) Jesus wants us to bear fruit. The Father is glorified in our bearing fruit and proving to be disciples of Jesus. What is this fruit? Here's a big hint--notice how this passage speaks a lot about love? It talks about Jesus' love for us and His command that we love one another. Love is THE fruit (or legacy) that Jesus wants for His Bride. This is supported elsewhere in Scripture, where we are told that none of our accomplishments and grand gestures mean anything apart from love. 1 Cor 13:1-3, tells us “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” Galatians 5:6 tells us what counts is “faith working through love”. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love”. There is no fruit apart from real Biblical love. Biblical love is different from the love that comes naturally to us or the love we see in the world around us. We are told in 1 Corinthians 13 what real love is: Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never ends.” Real love is befriended by attitudes of the heart such as peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self control, compassion, humility, and meekness. Galatians 5:22-23 tell us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Notice that these are attitudes of the heart, not behaviors. Yes, behaviors naturally flow out of these loving attitudes of the heart. However, you can have the behaviors without the loving attitudes of the heart and the behaviors in themselves are not fruit when they do not flow from the right attitude of love from the heart. Notice also that fruit is “of the Spirit”, not of ourselves--which leads me to the next point.

3) The only way we can bear fruit is through abiding in Jesus. Biblical love cannot be conjured up by our efforts or willed through our mind. Romans 5 tells us that “God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us”. As we pursue being rooted in Christ’s love through relationship with Him, He will continue to pour His love into our hearts by His Spirit. Indeed, if we abide in Him, we will not need to try to bear fruit but rather we will do so naturally in relationship with Him as He transforms and equips us. Jesus loves us out of the overflow of the love He receives from the Father, and likewise, He wants us to love others with this same love. While Jesus is praying to the Father in John 17:26, He says, "I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” Abiding in Jesus is abiding in His love—the love between the Father and Son that has overflowed to us and that ought to overflow to our brothers and sisters. Jesus has remained in the Father’s love and has obeyed His command to love others. Jesus wants us to remain rooted in His love. This is concept is also discussed in Ephesians 3:14-21: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Being rooted in Christ’s love is the only way that we can obey His command to truly love others as He has loved us. It is the way that we are filled with all the fullness of God, and so out of this we can pour love into others. He loved us first and that is why we can love others in the way in which He calls us. 1 John 4:7-12 tells us, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” Jesus tells us what real love looks like—it looks like the cross. Love lays down its life for its friends. Jesus wants us to love each other sacrificially, humbly and actively.

3) Jesus wants us to have His joy! He wants us to have the joy that comes from being loved by God! He wants us to have the kind of joy that He knows through His loving relationship with the Father. Jesus enjoys the Father and the Father enjoys Jesus. Our God even has joy in us! Zephaniah 17:3 says: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” In Zechariah 2, the people of God are called the “apple of His eye”. God delights in us with joyful affection. Affectionate love produces joy and this is what Jesus wants for us to experience, both in being loved by God and in loving others.

4) Jesus desire for us to bear fruit is worth the painfulness of pruning. Accordingly, our Heavenly Father makes us more fruitful through painful pruning that is worth the result of abundant fruit. He brings circumstances into our lives that transform us by gradually cutting away at our sinful character so that our character is increasingly aligned with Jesus’ character instead, for our good and for His glory.

5) We know God’s will for us through His word. If we abide in Jesus, His words abide in us. If we pray in accordance with His word, we can trust that He is faithful to answer. For example, if I abide in Christ and in His Word and I ask to bear more fruit, I know this is His will and He will be faithful to do that in me.

This section of Scripture is really about abiding in Jesus and His love (the love between the Father and Son by the Spirit and our Triune God’s love for us). When abide in Christ, we supernaturally (in other words “by the Spirit”) bear fruit, which is love.

Our God’s defining characteristic is love.[1] It is no wonder that when the Vinedresser is the Father of love, and the Vine is the Son of love, and the sap[2] is the Spirit of love, that the fruit of the branch would be love. In this passage of Scripture, we see our Heavenly Father is glorified in love. We know this because God the Father is most supremely glorified in Jesus, whose most glorious act of going to the cross was the most supremely loving act. Jesus went to the cross out of obedient love for the Father and redeeming love for us. This is Jesus’ heart for His Bride—that we know and partake in His love for us in relationship with Him, and that we image this love by truly loving others.

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for your Word which reveals to us more and more about who you are! Thank you that who you are is beautiful and awe-inspiring. Thank you that your Word transforms us. As we behold who you are, we are both inspired and empowered by your Spirit to be conformed to the image of your Perfect Son! Thank you! Please help us to abide in you, Jesus, and abide in us through your Spirit. Please fill us, Spirit. Increase our appetite for you! Produce sincere and Biblical love in our hearts, that we might glorify you and image the love that you have shown us. Help us to abide in you and to love sacrifically, lavishly, and scandalously as you do! Speak to each of us about what this means practically in our life today. We ask this in Jesus Mighty Name, Amen.

[1] Saying that God is love is not the same as saying love is God. What I am saying is that the most prominent characteristic of the God of the Bible is love. Furthermore, I am saying that true love is defined by the Bible, and it does not look like what we frequently call love based on what comes natural to us or on what we see in the world.
[2] I hope I am not going out on a limb—pardon my pun—in calling the Holy Spirit the sap, but I do think it is consistent with the vine analogy and the rest of Scripture that discusses the role of the Spirit.

More Wedding Stuff... Couldn't Resist

Here's the link to the AMAZING music video of Joey and Katie's wedding put together by Mind Castle Studios:

Katie + Joseph || SDE || 02.07.09 from Casey Warren on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What is on Your Heart? I Would Love to Hear From You!

I have a couple of blog posts in the works right now. They are a continuation of my series on Jesus' Heart for His Bride. The next in the series is John 15: 1-17 (from which the title of my blog "A Branch in the Vine" comes). Not surprisingly, love is a huge theme in it. The blog posts are coming along slowly. I am trying to write just a little everyday, so that I can actually live out "love" and not just write about it (like getting our house in order out of love to bless my sweet husband and the people who come through our door).

If anyone feels like it, I would love to hear a bit about what the Lord is doing in your life right now. For instance...
How is He revealing Himself to you these days? What Scriptures are speaking to you lately? Are you struggling with your walk with God right now? How can you use prayer and other help from the Body of Christ in these struggles? What questions are you sorting through right now (whether you are a non-Christian, or you are not sure whether you are a Christian, or you are a new Christian, or you are someone who has been a Christian for a while now) ?

Feel free to post in the comments section-- you can even post anonymously.

More photos from Craig

More Wedding Pictures

These professional looking pictures of the wedding were taken by Joey's childhood friend, Craig.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Congratulations Joey and Katie

This weekend we celebrated the wedding of my little brother Joey and his beautiful bride, Katie. The ceremony was so Christ exalting. The wedding was breathtaking. We look forward to doing life with them, encouraging them and being encouraged by them as they enter into a sacred covenant designed by God to display His Glorious Gospel!

Ephesians 5: 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.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Daddy's Love

I loved this letter from Pastor Matt Chandler of the Village Church to his 6 year old daughter on her birthday:


Happy 6th Birthday Boo! What a great year we were given. Mom and I were talking about how it seems like yesterday that we were driving you home from Arlington Medical Center. You were so small and fragile. It’s hard to believe that that baby is the same energetic, beautiful, front tooth missing little girl that now roams our home. I continue to be overwhelmed with gratitude to the great God of heaven and earth for the gift you are to me and our family. I love how you question everything. I love how much you like to laugh and dance and sing and play. I love the quick mind and generous heart Jesus has given you. You have a tremendous sense of humor and your mom’s gentle beauty. I love that you want to travel with daddy and like that I am a preacher. That you are and that you have been given to me for a season by God to love and protect is one of the greatest joys of my 34 years of life.
I wanted to let you know again what my deepest hope is for you. They have not changed. I don’t know that they ever will. This paragraph will probably be in all of your birthday letters. My hope is not built around your safety or even your well-being, although I do beg God for those things. Instead my deep and abiding hope for you is that Jesus would reveal His infinite worth to you. You and I and everyone else have something broken deep inside of us. We are rebellious and wicked in the sight of God and no matter how hard we try we can’t fix that, trying to fix it just makes it worse. Here’s the good news Boo…God fixed it for us for His glory. Jesus (God in the flesh) came and died on the cross taking our wickedness and rebellion and giving to those who believe and repent His perfection. How amazing is that! I want you to see this, know this, walk in this, that you would marvel at His glory and be captivated by His beauty. That you might say like King David in Psalm 27 “One thing I ask and all that I desire is to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and inquire in His temple”. I pray that God would spare you from a thousand shallow trivialities, the air of the modern world, and allow you to breathe the deep waters of knowing and walking with Him. This is my prayer to Jesus. He will need to help you with this. I cannot. I will love you and teach you, but Jesus has to open your eyes and ears. I am confident and hopeful that He will.
I know that you might not understand parts of this letter today but one day you will. Know that your Daddy loves you very, very much, that he cries out to God on your behalf daily and sometimes more often than that. My ears and heart are always here for you.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Jesus' Heart for His Bride Part 2 (John 14)

The other day, I drove by a business with a sign that said something to the effect of:

“People don’t love you for who you are, they love you for how you make them feel.”

Isn’t that true? My default is to love (or not love) people for how they make me feel. (By loving someone, I mean having/growing in affection for them, pursuing them, desiring to serve them or bless them and seeking their good in all things, even if it costs me). My default mode of love is that if someone makes me feel good about myself or makes me feel pleasure, I love them. Conversely, if someone makes me feel unsure of myself or hurts me, I tend not to love them. This is the way of worldly love, where love is used as a reward or a punishment based on variable feelings, and consequently, love does not endure because everyone disappoints and sins against one another; or love simply gets messy and requires too much of a sacrifice or inconvenience to persist, so instead it fizzles out. The ultimate purpose of this kind of “love” is self-serving.

As I continue to mediate on John 13-17, I see that Christ’s love is so different from this! It is so different from the default mode of my own heart and from the “love” I see in pop culture and the world around me. Look at how He loves His Father who has asked Him to make the ultimate sacrifice in obedience. Look at how He loves His disciples who just don’t get it and who disappoint and even betray him.

John 14“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 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. 27 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. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

Jesus loves perfectly. He loves the Father in perfect obedience to the Father’s perfect will. He loves His people affectionately and sacrificially. Despite the fact that Jesus is anticipating carrying the weight of the world’s sins on His shoulders and bearing the wrath against those sins through a painful and torturous death and separation from His beloved Father, Jesus is sincerely and tenderly comforting His disciples. He tells them not to be afraid. He tells them to trust Him. He tells them that He is not leaving them as orphans. He is doing all of this with the full knowledge that His disciples still don’t fully understand that He is God Almighty in their midst. He even knows that His disciples—His closest earthly friends--will abandon and betray Him in His biggest hour of need. Indeed, His friends are the very reason why He has to suffer and die—to cover the cost of their sin! Yet, despite the failings of His disciples, Jesus’ tender affection and compassionate love for His disciples is unfailing.

So, what does all this have to do with Jesus’ heart for His Bride? In this passage, we see that:

1) Jesus loves us scandalously! He loves us despite our sin and failings. He loves us despite the cost to Himself. He loves us efficaciously, challenging us to flee sin and pursue righteousness. He loves us with tender affection, caring about our pain and fears.

2) Jesus wants us to be with the Father. He died so that we could have relationship with the Father. He died so that we (the imperfect) could dwell with Our Perfect Father God, Creator of the World and Judge over all. He is preparing a place for us with God the Father, where we will dwell with Him unhindered by Satan, sin, or death!

3) Jesus wants us to believe in Him. Jesus is our only way to eternal life with the Father. Apart from Jesus, we have no hope.

4) Whether or not we truly believe in Jesus is shown in our obedience to His commandments--which are to love God and to love others. Do we love? Does the way we love look more like the way that Jesus loves rather than the way the world loves? If we don’t love, we don’t really believe in Him or belong to Him. If our love is not increasingly conforming to the way that Jesus loves rather than the way that the world loves, we don’t really believe in Him or belong to Him.

5) If we sincerely believe in Jesus (see above), we have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us to guide us and to reveal to us more of who Jesus is, so that we can worship Him and so that we can be conformed to His image. The Holy Spirit teaches us, helps us, and reminds us of God’s Word. The Holy Spirit is the way that our default modes change so that they conform instead to the heart and actions of Jesus. Our default understanding of love is worldly, but by the Holy Spirit, our understanding of love is changing (if we are believers) so that our understanding and practice of love is more and more conformed to how Jesus lived and taught love.

6) Satan has nothing on Jesus. Jesus has already won. Things will look dark to us for a little while in this life. We will experience and witness pain and injustice. We will see worldly philosophies heralded all around us that directly contradict what we are taught in Scripture. It might even look to us like evil is triumphing and Jesus has been defeated. Jesus is telling us to hold on to Him and His ways. He is telling us to trust Him and to believe Him when He says we are not alone, He has won the battle, and He is preparing a place for us with Him. Jesus is telling us to pursue and not quench the Holy Spirit who dwells inside us to remind us that there is something more than what we see all around us--because there is.