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Monday, March 30, 2009

Steadfast Love

For the past two months, my cousin Emmi (who is like my little brother) has been training me with regard to diet and exercise. Unlike just any kind of physical trainer, Emmi has been praying with and for me, walking me through Scriptures, and challenging me on the sin and heart issues related to my struggle with weight loss. This journey has been up and down for me. In it, I have seen some really ugly parts of my heart (and so has he). Some days, I have experienced new hope and belief that God can and will transform my heart and behavior, and other days I am ashamed to say I have given up in despair and disbelief. Throughout it all however, my brother Emmi has not given up on me. It is remarkable to me actually. I can be whiny, obstinate, proud, and all around impossible. I have high highs and low lows. I keep waiting for the day when Emmi will tire of checking in on me and hearing the same lame excuses. After all, he does have a busy life and there are a lot of people to whom he is ministering and shepherding in this season of life—I am sure that many of these people are growing much more quickly than I am. Still, my brother has stood by me—investing in me, believing in God for me, encouraging me, and boldly and lovingly speaking truth to me about God’s Word and my sin.

Steadfast (persevering) love.

It is a rare thing to see this in this world, where people so often give up on each other and throw each other away when things get difficult or require sacrifice. A wife divorces her husband when she bores of the monotony of everyday life. A friendship quietly fades in response to awkward circumstances. A father gives up on a son who is a constant disappointment. Best of friends are torn apart because they simply do not know what to do with each other’s sins.

Sadly, these scenarios are not just what we see in the secular world. They describe the lives of those of us who live inside the church! When we live like this, the message we are sending to the world is that the gospel doesn’t work.

On the other hand, when I see my brother standing by me in the messiness of my sin and struggle, I see that the gospel does work. I experience the persevering love of Christ for me through my brother. This persevering love is changing my heart and building my faith.

The Bible is a picture of persevering (or steadfast) love unlike any other. From Genesis to Revelation, God has shown forbearing, patient, merciful, loyal, unwavering love to His people. He pursued us, even though we have sinned against Him. He not only forgave us, but He even placed His affection on us, even though our sin tortured and killed Him on the cross! He continues to do these things for us, even though we still struggle against sin. He has not given up on us!

There are a multitude of passages in Scripture that talk about God’s steadfast love. Here are just a few:

Exodus 15:13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.”

1 Chronicles 16:34 “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;for his steadfast love endures forever!”

Nehemiah 9:6-31

Psalm 25:8-10 “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. 10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.”

Psalm 36:5-9 “Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. 6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord. 7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.”

Micah 7: 18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance?He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.19 He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our
sins into the depths of the sea. 20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.

Joel 2:12 “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart,with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful,slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”

God calls us to imitate His steadfast love through the help of His Spirit by prayer and His Word. We bring Him glory by imaging the steadfast love He has shown us. He desires steadfast love from us more than our sacrifices (money, ministry work, acts of service, etc.)!

Hosea 6:6 “6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

In the New Testament, Paul commends the church at Thessalonica for their steadfastness and love:

1 Thessalonians 1: 2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come."

Here are a few other examples of how we are urged toward steadfastness and love and steadfast love:

Proverbs 3:3 “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.”

Proverbs 19:22a “What is desired in a man is steadfast love”

Hosea 10:12 “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love;break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.”

2 Thessalonians 3:5 “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”

1 Timothy 6:11 “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”

Titus 2:2 “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.”

Steadfast love is our witness to the world that the gospel works.

Let me say that again, steadfast love is our witness to the world that the gospel works.

In John 13:35, Jesus tells us, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Let us not forget the context of this statement. Jesus said this after He stooped down to wash the dirty feet of the disciples even though He knew they would abandon and betray Him in His most painful hour. Jesus did this while preparing to die a brutal and shameful death on a cross for His sinful friends. Jesus is not calling us to the kind of love we see in the world or that comes intuitively in our own hearts. He is calling us to is steadfast love. He is calling us to scandalous, amazing, other-worldly love. By this, the world will know we are His. His own love will witness to the world through us. This is the kind of love that changes hearts and draws people to Christ. It did for me!

Still, where the rubber hits the road in the messiness of our everyday lives (rejection, abandonment, betrayal, inconvenience, humiliation), we must ask ourselves: Has God’s steadfast love of us made a difference in our lives? Does it matter to us that we are called to image God’s steadfast love? Do we get that this is how we are to proclaim the gospel to the world? How is the Lord is calling us to demonstrate steadfast love in our specific circumstances right now? Does a specific person come to mind? Will we ask Him how He is calling us to this in the specifics of our own lives? Are we listening to Him? Are we willing to obey? Do we believe that He can do the impossible in and through us? Do we believe the gospel works?

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for your steadfast love!!! Your amazing love caused me to love you. Your steadfast love has been my only hope in the midst of my struggles with sin. Your steadfast love has led me from death to life and from defeat to victory. Thank you, Lord, for your patience, long-suffering, forbearance, mercy and grace toward me! Without these things, I could never stand before your presence. Your love gives me hope of redemption! I pray that you would open my eyes to the ways you want me to show steadfast love to the people you have brought into my life. I know the only way that I can image your steadfast love is by your Spirit. Help me to constantly seek to be filled with your Spirit through the Word and prayer and submission to you. I ask that you would fill me with your Spirit so that your out-of-this-world love would flow through me to others. I pray that you would help me to love those whom I sinfully find “unlovable,” “hopeless,” “annoying,” “unforgivable,” “unchangeable,” “ugly,” “too awkward,” and “too much of an inconvenience”. Forgive me for this grievous sin against your own name! When I do this to my brother and sister, I spit on the steadfast love you showed me despite the fact that I am “unlovable,” “hopeless,” “annoying,” “unforgivable,” “unchangeable,” “ugly,” “too awkward,” and “too much of an inconvenience” apart from you! Renew my heart with truth from your Word. Align my heart and will with yours. I pray for anyone who would read this blog too, that you would do this work in their heart too. Thank you that your Spirit gives us supernatural power to love in ways we would otherwise be unable to love. Thank you that your Spirit is available to us through prayer and your Word, through confession and praise. Fill us!! We love you. In Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Getting Dirty

Kristian hates feet. He hates sandals because he thinks feet should be covered up. He thought the worst part of working in an ER was not dealing with blood and guts, but dealing with people’s feet. Maybe that is why he was able to pick up on something I am only now starting to grasp in the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. In my previous post on John 13, I highlighted the humble and sacrificial love of Jesus in washing the feet of the disciples.

Yes, this is absolutely what Jesus is calling us to do. However, there is another aspect we learn about living as the Body of Christ through the story of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. Jesus is calling us to know our brothers and sisters and to be known by them. He is calling us to humbly expose ourselves by revealing our dirty, calloused, unattractive feet (think about it—in Biblical times, feet were especially unappealing—people walked everywhere on dusty muddy roads in footwear far less protective than ours.) More than this, Jesus is telling us what to do when our brother exposes His ugly feet to us. We are not called to turn away in disgust or to shun our brother because of his ugliness. We are called to stoop down to our brother’s feet, pick up that dirty foot, and scrub.

Jesus not only did this for the disciples in John 13, but He did that for me when I came to Him in faith for the first time, recognizing that I have fallen desperately short of the glory of God on so many levels and realizing that I need a Savior. Since that day, He still does this for me everyday, as I realize (everyday) that my heart is far uglier than I ever imagined it was—particularly in contrast to His Righteousness and Beauty which He shows me in greater measure everyday. Still, my Savior continues to make me clean as I confess my sin to Him daily. This is truly is good news (gospel) for me!

We get to participate in displaying this gospel love in the way that we interact with our brothers and sisters. In our humble confession, we get to acknowledge that we are nothing apart from the power of God and we get to receive the help of God through His Body. In the way we respond when our sister reveals her dirty feet to us, we get to show the sacrificial, pursuing, steadfast, loyal, true, and merciful love of Jesus.

Are we humble enough to walk in the light? Do we believe in the unseen (the hope of the glory of God) enough to expose our weakness in this world?

Have we tasted the scandalous love of Christ so that it flows through us in sacrificial, pursuing, steadfast, loyal, true and merciful love for our brother and sister? Are we willing to do the painful, not at all glamourous, hard work of real love?

Are we willing to love Christ in the way that we interact with those in His Body? John 13:20 "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

Do we really believe that the gospel works?

James 5:13-20

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. 19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Does the Gospel Work?

In the past 6 months, I feel like I have been waking up to seeing God’s truth in Scripture about His vision of Christian community. In many ways, I feel like I have been living with a false sense of community. Some of the relationships I thought were the most important in my life have turned out to be more superficial than I thought. I have looked back on my own treatment of friendships, and realize I have been reluctant to go to deep places, reluctant to reveal my heart and my mess, reluctant to pursue friends when things got awkward or difficult, reluctant to go through the inconvenience of re-ordering my life to make room for real friendship, and generally terrible about remaining in good contact with people who mean a lot to me. I also have felt the sting of feeling abandoned, ignored, misunderstood, cut off, and feeling like a source of shame by people whom I had considered to be my community.

Through Scripture, prayer, deep conversations with Kristian and other friends, and awesome teaching from our church (Grace Fellowship Puget Sound), I am realizing that real community is more than belonging to a common club, sharing similar beliefs, doing things together, or sharing pieces of our heart. It is easy to be in relationship with people when we always agree on the big things, or when we don’t allow them to see our sin and struggles, or when they have never hurt us. What happens when we disagree? What happens when our brother sees our sin? What happens when we see our brother’s sin? What happens when we are hurt or mistreated? What happens when we hurt and mistreat others?

In short, does the gospel work?
(to be continued)
P.S. If anyone else is thinking about these things or asking the same questions, I'd love to hear your thoughts, questions, comments, etc. in the comments section.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Remembering God's Faithfulness

My friend Dwayne is blogging through the book “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” along with Mark Tubbs from I am following along with the blog and reading the book. You can follow the blog here:

You can read the free PDF of the book here:

I read this in chapter 1 of the book today (which was written by John Piper):

“Commending Biblical truth involves more than saying, ‘Do it because the Bible
says so.’ That sort of commendation may result in a kind of obedience that is so
begrudging and so empty of delight and hearty affirmation that the Lord is not pleased
with it at all.

So there is a second task needed in winning people over to a vision of manhood and
womanhood. Not only must there be thorough exegesis, there must also be a portrayal of
the vision that satisfies the heart as well as the head. Or to put it another way: we must
commend the beauty as well as the truth of the vision. We must show that something is
not only right but also good. It is not only valid but also valuable, not only accurate but
also admirable.

This chapter is meant to fit mainly into the second category. Not merely, but mainly.
It is designed to show that our vision of manhood and womanhood is a deeply satisfying
gift of grace from a loving God who has the best interests of his creatures at heart. The
vision is not onerous or oppressive. It does not promote pride or self-exaltation. It
conforms to who we are by God’s good design. Therefore it is fulfilling in the deepest
sense of that word.”

This fittingly describes the process that has gone on in my heart in recent years. I went from believing that what the Bible said about headship and submission was an irrelevant and outdated cultural construct to seeing the plain text of Scripture and begrudgingly “obeying” it. I sought out every opportunity to learn the practical aspects of what it meant to be a Biblical wife. As learned these characteristics and practical methods, I attempted to will myself to do these things--not understanding their rooting in the gospel. This resulted in a begrudged obedience. I was conceeding that I ought to do these things because the Bible told me I should, but I did not understand their purpose or relevance to the gospel. I was essentially living as a legalist. Since then, I have learned that “begrudging obedience” is no obedience at all. In other words, it did not honor God or bless my husband when I submitted to my husband with bitterness or when I served him with resentfulness. The fruit of this type of “obedience” was despair. The Holy Spirit had to do a work in my heart to weed out the deep rooted bitterness and to give me eyes to see the beauty of God’s design and to give me faith in God’s goodness in it.

Praise God, the Holy Spirit did this very work in me. This work utterly transformed my marriage. Our first couple years of marriage were very hard. They were mostly characterized by a battle of the wills rather than by loving, humble, sacrificial service. My husband and I both battled despair on so many levels. The book, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Roles, Relationships, and Relevance” by Bruce Ware was one of the tools that the Lord used to open my eyes to what was in Scripture all along. I got to see that my God loves submission. I got to see that my God submits! Jesus Christ submits to the Father eternally. The Holy Spirit submits to the Father and the Son. The Father is the head of the Trinity. This is perfection! Headship and submission is not a result of the fall! The beauty of it all is that there is no bitterness or resentment within the Trinity—only perfect love. Something about this glorious truth clicked for me when I looked at marriage. I got to see that what we were privileged to live out in marriage was actually imaging God! The words of Ephesians 5 started to really hit me. Christ is the head of the church and He gave Himself up for her—that is the gospel. Marriage is a means of imaging the gospel! I began to see that not only marriage but Biblical manhood and womanhood are means of imaging God and the gospel as we live in the roles God created for through humble, loving, and sacrificial service to one another. I saw how loving and incredible it was that God would allow us to participate in His work like that and how He would allow us to image Him like that. This brought sacred meaning to both my marriage and to my femininity, and it enabled joyful obedience. I delight to participate in the work of my Father. I delight in His profound love that lives within the Trinity, overflows to me, and overflows from me.

By no means am I saying that I now have the perfect marriage or that I am now the perfect wife or woman—far from it. However, my foundation in these areas is now one of hope and joy rather than resentment and despair! God is moving in these areas of my life, and He is bearing fruit. When my husband and I have the opportunity to counsel couples, we are careful to remember that we must preach the gospel to them. It is not enough to tell them that a Biblical husband behaves in such and such ways. It is not enough to tell them that a Biblical wife behaves in such and such ways. We must show them how being a man, woman, husband, and wife relates to imaging God and the gospel. When Kristian and I hit a rough patch in marriage, we must preach the gospel to ourselves. God doesn’t want our begrudging obedience. He doesn’t want our superficial behaviors to change. He wants loving obedience to flow from changed hearts. How do we get changed hearts? We ask Him! We sit at His feet. We saturate ourselves with the gospel.

2 Cor 3:16-18 “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Jesus Met Me ("I Need Jesus part 2)

Thank you for your prayers. Not surprisingly, God met me when I went to Him--confessing my sin and struggle and asking Him to reveal Himself to me again. After praying, I read and prayed through Psalms 1 and 2. The Psalms and the Gospels are some of my favorite places to see God's character. The Psalms are where I often go when I am battling despair. I begin with prayer (acknowledging God, confessing, repenting, asking God for understanding). I often read a Psalm all the way through first to get the big picture. Then, I go back through it, specifically asking God to show Himself to me. I read the Psalm again looking for the character of God in it. I pray conversationally as I do this--I ask God when I don't understand something; I thank Him when He reveals something beautiful about Himself in it; I ask God how He wants His truth to affect my life. I talk to God as my loving Father here. It is a space to be honest and real before my Heavenly Father to whom I have access because Jesus won that for me! For me, this process builds intimacy with God for me. He answers my prayer--He shows me His truth and stirs my passion for Him. This is how it looks like for me:
Psalm 1 says:

1:1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,nor stands in the way of sinners,nor sits in the seat of scoffers;2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a treeplanted by streams of waterthat yields its fruit in its season,and its leaf does not wither.In all that he does, he prospers.4 The wicked are not so,but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,but the way of the wicked will perish.

Here is how my converstion with God through this Psalm might go:

I might start with...

"Lord, I come before you in worship--acknowledging you as the Holy One, Creator God Almighty, Supreme over all creation, Supreme over my life! I confess that I have taken my eyes off of you. I have attempted to live my life in my own strength. Like you said, it is not working. I need you. Please forgive me and reveal yourself to me. Please fill me with your Spirit. Please meet with me as I read your Word. Open the eyes of my heart to see You and Your Truth in your Word and help me to live by it. Amen"

After reading through the whole Psalm, I will read through it again more prayerfully like this...

"Thank you, God, that we live for what is unseen! Thanks for reminding me not to be distracted by worldly philosophies and worldly definitions of sucesss. Help me to live in this way. I confess that I get distracted and start looking to worldly methods and strivings to gain success. I confess that I get seduced by worldly success and fall into discontentment or despair when I see how following you doesn't necessarily bring worldly success. Forgive me for not always readily opening up your Word, where real truth, joy, and love awaits me! Thank you that your very words delight us and bring us joy! That is amazing. You are loving in everything you do and say. Thank you for sustaining me in the way that water sustains a tree! Like what streams are for a tree, your Holy Spirit is for me. Thank you that you want to fill me. Thank you that as I meditate on your Word, I am being filled with your Holy Spirit and you refresh me and sustain me, Holy Spirit! I see that this filling of the Holy Spirit is what makes me fruitful. I see that I cannot strive my way to fruitfulness. Your Spirit yields fruit in me in your time! Give me patience for this timing and give me endurance in seeking to be filled by you more and more. Thank you that what your Spirit does lasts, unlike what our flesh does. Our fleshly strivings and achievements are chaff that gets blown away eventually. Thank you God, that we are known by you and that is more important to me than being known by anyone else. I desperately want to live for what is unseen--the hope of your glory!"

The way that you might meet with God in His Word may look totally different from the way that I do. We all communicate (listen, learn, process, express) differently. However it looks, I pray that we would earnestly seek Him and that God, in His grace, would deepen our intimacy with Him daily through all the varied methods.

What does it mean Biblically to be the Body of Christ?

Two resources that have challenged me on this question recently:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I Need Jesus

This week, I have been struggling with faith. I have seen a mountain of obstacles (things I want to change about myself), and I have meditated on that mountain instead of meditating on my God. I have been filled with discouragement and despair because the simple truth is I cannot become holy apart from Him! Rather than wrestling with God in prayer about these things and meditating on what His Word says about His character, I have attempted to commandeer the vessel of my life again--striving, planning, manipulating my circumstances, and consequently plunging headlong into despair. God in His grace led me to this post by John Piper this morning:

Good News! Relying on Grace Gives God Glory
March 10, 2009 By:
John Piper Category: Commentary

It is very good news that God designs his glory to be magnified through the exercise of his grace.

To be sure, God is glorified through the power of his wrath (
Romans 9:22), but repeatedly the New Testament (and OT, e.g. Isaiah 30:18) says that we should experience God’s grace so that God gets glory.

Ponder how this works in the prayer of
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul prays that God would fulfill our good resolves.

How? He prays that they would be done “by [God’s] power.” That is, that they be “works of faith.”

Why? So that Jesus would be glorified in us.

That means the giver gets the glory. If we fulfill a good resolve “by his power” he gets the glory.

We have faith; he gives power. We get the help; he gets the glory. That’s the deal that keeps us humble and happy and keeps him supreme and glorious.

Then Paul says that this glorification of Christ is “according to the grace of God and the Lord Jesus.”

God’s answer to Paul’s prayer that we rely on God’s power to do good works is grace. God’s power to enable you to do what you resolve to do is grace.

That’s the way it works in the New Testament over and over. Trust God for gracious enabling and he gets the glory when the help comes.

We get the help. He gets the glory.

That’s why Christian living, not just Christian conversion, is good news.

“[Serve] in the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (
1 Peter 4:11)

“[May you be] filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (
Philippians 1:11)

“It is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” (
2 Corinthians 4:15)

“We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (
John 1:14)

“And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will.” (
2 Corinthians 8:19).

“…to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (
Ephesians 1:6)

Ok, I am going to go wrestle with God now because I need Him. John 15:5 "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." (You would think I would remember this great truth since the title of this blog comes from this verse!) Please pray for me!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

He Remembers that We are Dust

It is astounding to me that the same God who created the world from the largest mountain to the tiniest speck of dust is also actively and profoundly loving and gracious to me in each moment of my life. I read Psalm 103, and I am amazed at God’s goodness and patient love toward stubborn, sinful, slow, and weak people like me. For those of us who are far from who we ought to be, this Psalm is comforting and hopeful and is filled with reasons to praise our God!

Psalm 103
Bless the Lord, O my soul,and all that is within me,bless his holy name!

2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,and forget not all his benefits,

3 who forgives all your iniquity,who heals all your diseases,

4 who redeems your life from the pit,who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.

8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

9 He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.

10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

13 As a father shows compassion to his children,so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;he flourishes like a flower of the field;

16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,and its place knows it no more.

17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children,18 to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,you mighty ones who do his word,obeying the voice of his word!

21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!

22 Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"What a Deal!"

“Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper is probably my favorite book outside of the Bible. This is true for many reasons, but one thing God revealed to me in this book was how loving it is for God to seek His own glory and praise. This is not true for the rest of us. It is not loving or good of me to seek my own glory and praise. This is because of what I am not—unlike God Almighty, I am not the epitome of righteousness; I am not the epitome of justice; I am not the epitome of love; I am not the epitome of grace; I am not the epitome of kindness; I am not the epitome of goodness; I am not the epitome of faithfulness; I am not the epitome of wisdom, etc. I fail in each of these areas in major ways. My own glory and my own praise is not about loving others and bringing them joy, but rather it is about my own selfishness--my comfort, my happiness, my ego, etc. God’s glory and God’s own praise is the most loving thing ever and it brings the greatest joy ever.

I was reading Ephesians 1:3-14 this morning, and it struck me how, even in this small passage of scripture, it is abundantly clear how God’s glory and praise is tied to our good.

Ephesians 1:3-14 “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.”

In just this passage I see that God is glorified in:

Blessing us in Christ with every spiritual blessing

Making us holy and blameless


Lovingly choosing and adopting us to be His children


Jesus’ work of redeeming us by dying for us

Forgiving us

Making known to us the mystery of His will, which is all wise and insightful

Uniting all things in Him

Giving us an inheritance

Giving us hope

Enabling us to hear the gospel and believe

Giving us Himself via the Holy Spirit to guard, guide, teach, protect, inspire, convict, empower, and preserve us

Notice how all of these things have to do with grace (unmerited kindness). God gives us with these things, not because we deserve them, it but because He is lavishly kind and loving. Not only do we not deserve God’s goodness, we deserve God’s wrath. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s perfect goodness—all of us. According to justice, we stand condemned—we deserve punishment. Even in our imperfect earthly justice system, crime begets consequences. As a society, we welcome that. Without such consequences, evil prevails and chaos ensues. Because we are criminals—trespassers against God’s perfect goodness—we deserved judgment. We were stained by our trespass and we could not stand before our pure God. The impure and pure do not co-exist. I cannot walk into a sanitized operating room with mud on my hands and expect the room to still be sanitized. I cannot add polluted water to a canteen full of clean water and expect to drink clean water from that canteen. Even still these analogies breakdown as our Mighty God cannot be corrupted. Rather the impure is simply annihilated by the power of His purity. It is more like how light and dark cannot co-exist. Light annihilates darkness. We being impure simply cannot stand in the presence of a Holy God. Yet our God who is glorified in grace, unmerited kindness, and who is glorified in sacrificial love, paid the ultimate sacrifice to enable us to be in relationship with Him forever. He did not let sin thrive without consequence, but rather He killed its power in Jesus--our perfect Lord Jesus left His throne, entered our mess, paid our death sentence and His resurrection victory enabled our transformation by the Holy Spirit so that we could be gradually conformed to the image of Jesus. This side of heaven, I will never properly grasp how much that cost God, and yet it also glorified Him supremely because God is glorified in grace (unmerited kindness) and in love (affectionate, costly, sacrificial, and pursuing love). I am the beneficiary of God's grace, love, kindness, mercy, and help, to the praise of His glorious grace! As John Piper frequently remarks, “What a deal!” This God IS worthy of my praise! Praising this God is what comes out of me when I contemplate His character. Praising this God brings me matchless joy as I consider the best news of my life, “I get to be with Him forever”!!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Church Planting

Today, our pastor, Scott Golike, preached about church planting.

The vision was both radical and Biblical. It was about building THE Church rather than A church. It was about being in authentic community rather than attending a program or an event. It was about going out into our world with the gospel message of love, rather than waiting for our world to come to our church. It was about humbly equipping and empowering our brothers and sisters in Christ rather than competing with them in advancing the kingdom of God. It was about taking the risk of doing life together with authenticity, humility, and enduring commitment rather than merely hiding within the safe and comfortable confines of our autonomous, individualistic, and private existence. It was about re-ordering our life in such a way so that we no longer live for idols such as comfort, worldly accolades, pride, selfishness, and greed, but rather that we can truly say "to live is Christ and to die is gain".

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for our pastors who have such a heart for your people and your kingdom! Thank you that this vision is from you and is all about you and your kingdom. Thank you for their perseverance in serving us sacrificially and lovingly. Bless them abundantly. Encourage them. Help us to know how to bless and encourage them. Guide them by your Spirit and your Word. Keep them on the path of truth. Enable them to speak your truth with all boldness. Give your people a heart for your heart. Give us a burden to share with others what you have given to us--unfathomable love and grace, inexpressible joy, and abundant hope. Help us to see you more clearly and to love you more and more. Pour your Spirit into us and may it overflow out of us in the form of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. May we live in a radical way within the Body so that those outside of the Body would see you in us, so that they would want you, and so that they would know this same love, grace, joy and hope. Show us how to live in radical ways as your Body--loving each other, sacrificing for one another, taking care of one another, pursuing one another, and not giving up on one another. Raise up leaders in your church so that churches would multiply into other churches. Give us hearts that are sensitive to every prompting of your Spirit, that we may act in all things through and in obedience to your Spirit. May Jesus be exalted in us and through us for your glory, our Great Father. In Jesus' Mighty Name, Amen.