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Monday, November 30, 2009

The Great Love With Which He Loved Us

My heart and my mind were spinning. I was sitting in a pub having dinner and a pint with a wise and trusted friend. And no, in case you were wondering, it wasn’t the alcohol that had my heart and mind spinning. We were both involved in a ministry where something had gone wrong. I was confused, disturbed, grieved, and unsettled. It was hard for me determine exactly when things had gone wrong. More than that, it was hard for me to determine the root of what had gone wrong, I only knew that something major was not right. In searching for the root, my mind automatically went to aspects of theology and to practical application—surely something went wrong in one of those things. When I asked my friend what she thought, her answer was love, gospel love--1 Cor 13 love, to be exact. I remember the first thing that popped into my head when she said it, “Isn’t that a little simplistic? I mean, after all, this is a complicated situation.” My proud and foolish first instinct was to dismiss her suggestion—after all, there must be more to it, right? Although I would not have seen through my own thinking at the time, in retrospect the heart behind it was this: “I know the Bible is God-breathed and that all of it is important, but isn’t 1 Cor 13 ‘baby Christianity’? Isn’t it simply the verse that gets thrown out at every wedding?” My friend simply and humbly reminded me:
“If I SPEAK IN THE TONGUES OF MEN AND 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.” 1 Cor 13:1-3

Wow, when I really thought about it, those were some pretty note-worthy, impressive, and even noble talents and achievements that all ended in… NOTHING.

As I pondered what my friend said to me over the next days and months, a light went on in me.  I realized that my heart and mind had wandered from the main thing. The gospel is that God loves! The heart of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is LOVE. The Father and Son love each other by the Spirit of Love. Because of the GREAT LOVE with which He loved us, God paid the ultimate sacrifice of incarnation and the cross (see Ephesians 2:4-10)! Worship is loving God and loving others (see Mark 12:28-34). Love is the marking characteristic of a Christian. John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Without this love, NOTHING else matters.

Jesus is all about love—love for the Father, love for the lost, and love for His Bride. Jesus’ love does not look like the worldly love we find in our own hearts. The worldly love in my heart tells me to love when it is convenient to me—when I receive affirmation, when I don’t have to go too far out of my comfort zone, and when it doesn’t cause me pain. Worldly love tells me that people are a means to an end and when people are no longer useful, it is time to part ways. Worldly love tells me it is all about my feelings—that love is a drug and when the euphoria fades, the commitment should also fade. Worldly love tells me that I am to love the lovely and influential, not the unlovely and nobodies of this world.

Jesus shouts to me in the middle of this, in the middle of my confused heart—“Beloved, this is not love!!!” He tells me instead:

“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… “1 Cor 13: 4-8

Jesus shows me that real love involves loving the unlovely (while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me—the ungodly. Romans 5:6). Jesus shows me that loving someone means being motivated by seeking their good through actions that cost me dearly—it means laying my life and my interests down for them (John 15:13; Philippians 2:1-11) . Jesus shows me that loving someone means persevering with them and for them (Philippians 1:6). Jesus shows me that love involves loving not just the strong, talented, and influential but also the weak, marginalized, and least influential (Samaritan woman, woman caught in adultery, disciples, woman who touched his cloak, etc.) Jesus shows me that love is personal and not abstract (One of the most powerful examples of this to me is the fact that Jesus was making arrangements for his mother’s care even as he was literally hanging on the cross bearing the sins of the world—see John 19:26-27.) Jesus shows me that loving someone means actively loving the person who betrays and abandons me (what Jesus did for me at the cross!). Jesus shows me that love is intentional pursuing devotion, and not something that fades away when it becomes inconvenient (see the whole Bible—God’s pursuit of His people!)

I am grateful that God used my friend to speak to me in such a powerful way. I know that God’s heart for me is to be rooted in His love—to be so aware of his scandalous, beautiful, personal love for me and to be so satisfied by it that it becomes part of my being—who I am, what motivates me, how I interact with others, what I say, and what I do—so that others would be drawn to the same Source and be filled and satisfied by Him as well!

And so I am fervently praying this prayer for me and for you:

Ephesians 3:14-21

“14 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.”

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Great Quote

I am currently reading a book called, "The Cure: The Divine Prescription for the Body of Christ--Life-Changing Love" by Harry Kraus MD.  So far, it is a great read.  This great quote from Dallas Willard was in it:

"At first, what exactly is love?  It is will to good or 'bene-volence'. We love something or someone when we promote its good for its own sake.  Love's contrary is malice, and its absence is indifference.  It's normal accompaniment is delight, but a twisted soul may delight in evil and take no pleasure in good.  Love is not the same thing as desire, for I may desire something without even wishing it well, much less willing its good.  I might desire a chocolate ice cream cone, for example, but I do not wish I well; I wish to eat it.  This is the difference between lust (mere desire) and love, as between a man and woman.  Desire and love are, of course, compatible when desire is ruled by love; but most people today would, unfortunately, not even know the difference between them.  Hence, in our world, love constantly falls prey to lust.  That is a major part of the deep sickness of contemporary life.  By contrast, what characterizes the deepest evidence of God is love--that is, will to good."  Dallas Willard, "Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ pp.130-131.

Friday, November 27, 2009


I just finished a tremendously helpful book by Paul Tripp and Tim Lane called, “Relationships, a Mess Worth Making. I purchased the book years ago at a conference in which Paul Tripp and Tim Lane spoke. I remember visiting the book table and striking up a conversation with a sweet woman who engaged me in conversation. We talked for a good while and she suggested the book to me. I am not exactly sure why it has taken me so long to read. I started it a couple times, and it engaged me. Sometimes though, it was just a reminder of the frustrations I was experiencing in various relationships. I even once (or really more than once) remember thinking (sinfully) “Why should I read a book about the difficulties of relationships? ‘So and So’ is showing no interest in investing in our difficult relationship. What’s the point? Why should it all be on me?”

Fortunately, the Lord did not leave me in that place!

I have since finished the book, and it was excellent. I hope to write a review of it soon. It is a book I would highly recommend, as I found it Scripture-saturated, honest, humble, challenging, convicting, and practical for all sorts of relationships.

One section I found particularly helpful was on forgiveness. The section begins by rooting us in the concept of how we were forgiven by God—how God by His own mercy forgave us our tremendous debt of sin. It goes on to discuss how our debt was absorbed by God—God Himself came to pay the price of it and He no longer holds it against us if Jesus is our Lord. A failure to forgive others is a failure to acknowledge the greatness of what God in Christ has done for us! Our failure to forgive also breeds bitterness that causes death in us and in others.

Tripp and Lane go on to explain how forgiveness for us is an ongoing process. We must continually choose to practice forgiveness in such a way that we are guarded against bitterness that can creep back up even after an offense has been forgiven.

The authors explain how forgiving is not forgetting:

Too often people say that the evidence of having truly forgiven someone is to forget what he has done to you. The passage that is often quoted is Jeremiah 31:34, where God says, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more,” This verse, some say, is how we should forgive.

There are at least two problems with this understanding of forgiveness. First it is not realistic. Our minds don’t function this way, and our ability to remember is powerful. Trying to forget a sin someone has committed against you will only encourage you to remember it. It’s like being told not to think about a pink elephant. What did you do the moment you read that sentence? Completely erasing an offense from your memory is not realistic. Second, it is not biblical. The passage in Jeremiah does not say that God has amnesia when He looks at you. Our omniscient God does not forget anything! The word “remember” is not a “memory” word, but a “promise” word, a covenant word. God is promising that when we confess our sins, “I will not treat you as your sins deserve. Instead, I will forgive you.”
This is why forgiveness is both a past event and an ongoing process into the future. It is a past promise you keep in the future. When this is done, the memory of small offenses usually dissipates. Larger offenses probably will not…..But each individual can still practice Biblical forgiveness. They can make a promise and remain faithful to that promise over time. P. 97
Tripp and Lane suggest that the failure to understand forgiveness as a past event and a promise for the future results in 1) doubts about whether we have actually forgiven someone because we erroneously think forgiving equals forgetting; and 2) we allow bitterness to creep in because we are unguarded about it since we think our forgiveness is over and done with. P.98

Another very helpful aspect of Tripp and Lane’s teaching on forgiveness was the concept that forgiveness has a “vertical” and “horizontal” dimension. They get this from Scripture.

Mark 11:25 says, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Luke 17:3 says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him”

Tripp and Lane point out that these two Scriptures may appear contradictory. In the one, we are told to forgive regardless of whether our offender is repentant. In other, we are told forgive if our offender is repentant. Tripp and Lane suggest that these two verses are talking about two different aspects of forgiveness:

Mark 11:25 is talking about forgiveness as a heart attitude before God. The context is worship. When I consider someone’s sin as I stand before the Lord, I am called to have an attitude of forgiveness towards that person who sinned against me. This is non-negotiable. I do not have the right to withhold forgiveness and harbor bitterness in my heart. Luke 17:3, on the other hand, is talking about forgiveness as a horizontal transaction between me and the offender. This is often referred to as reconciliation. The point Luke 17:3 makes is that, while I am to have an attitude of forgiveness before the Lord, I can only grant forgiveness to the other person if he repents and admits he has sinned against me. Even if he never does this, I am called to maintain an attitude of forgiveness toward the offender. The vertical aspect of forgiveness is unconditional, but the horizontal aspect depends upon the offender admitting guilt and asking for forgiveness. P. 98-99
This explanation was so helpful to me and helped me see the connection between these two passages of Scripture.

Next, Tripp and Lane explain that forgiveness is not the same as “peace at all costs”. They look at Matthew 18 for this, acknowledging that we are not called to sweep sin under the carpet. To the contrary, there is a time for confrontation with gentleness and humility. They emphasize the facts that “real love demands pursuit” and “life in the kingdom involves radical forgiveness”. Still, Tripp and Lane remind us of Romans 12:18, which says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” They point out that while we “strive for peace, there are limits involves when you pursue someone in love,” and at that point, Tripp and Lane remind us that sometimes confrontation, separation, involving church leaders, and involving the state is a necessary part of loving the offender. I think the key here is that our motive out to be love for the offender, recognizing that sincere love sometimes involves making difficult decisions that may not always be received well.

This was just a small glimpse of what I learned about forgiveness through the book, “Relationships: A Mess Worth Making”. I learned a lot more about relationships, love, how relationships are a tool of sanctification, and how relationships image the gospel and glorify God. This is a book I highly recommend for anyone in any kind of relationship where sin has reared its head (which is basically every significant human relationship).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Unresolved Conflicts with Christians

In recent years, I have found myself in some relationships with other Christians that have involved prolonged unresolved conflict. These situations have left me grieved, confused, and, at times, questioning whether the gospel really works practically in human relationships. I forgave and struggled with what forgiveness was supposed to look like when the other party refused to repent and be reconciled. I confessed my role in these conflicts. I also confessed the sinful patterns that God exposed in me subsequent to these conflicts--as I dealt with other people’s sins against me and against people I love by sinning myself. I have had to confess bitterness and despair as it crept into my wandering heart at various times throughout this process. Incredibly, by God’s free gift of grace, I have also been able to experience real Spirit-wrought release from bitterness and despair through prayer and confession (to God directly and to the Body). Still, I prayed and prayed for resolution of the conflicts and for reconciliation that seemed to never come. I have wondered:
“Lord, how could you possibly be glorified in this?!”

“Lord, isn’t Biblical community supposed to be different than this?”

“Father, aren’t we as Christians supposed to be all about reconciliation—didn’t Jesus reconcile us to you and aren’t you in the process of uniting your people?”

"Father, doesn't it grieve your heart to see disunity among your people?"

"Father, aren't you grieved by the injustices still unexposed and unresolved in this mess?"
In one of the most painful of these conflict situations, God recently brought sweet and humbling reconciliation. What a tremendous gift that was. The other party repented, and we were reconciled to one another. We embraced with tears of deep emotion. The situation is never to be brought up again. God is now re-building trust and relationship between us. What an amazing gift! It truly is the gospel at work among us! I can even see the ways that God taught each one of us lessons that could only have been learned in the trenches of conflict. He exposed sin in all of our hearts, and He gave us a deeper glimpse into the power of the gospel—into what He has done on our behalf! He taught us about His Sovereignty and Goodness in ALL things. He taught us that He is always at work and that He is ALWAYS worthy of our trust, even when situations hurt and do not make sense to us. He has caused thanksgiving and worship to well up in our hearts, as we have seen the miracle He has brought about. He has become bigger to us.

Others of these other conflict situations in my life still remain unresolved with no end in sight. They still break my heart--especially in the situations where I see people I love wounded and still struggling in the huge wake of these conflicts. But I have hope in God. I still pray for real reconciliation (and would love your prayers for this too!). But even if these situations do not ever get resolved in my lifetime, even if the truth is not exposed in this lifetime, I know that God is at work in His people. I know God is working in me, in them, and in all of us. I know that He is fully in control. I know that He is doing far more than I can imagine in me, in them, and in others, and I know that His work is wonderful.

It is amazing to me that our Gracious God takes the wicked intents of our hearts and the wicked actions that flow from them, and He uses them for good! While God does not author sin in anyway, He uses even my sin(!) for His good purposes! That is humbling. It is also encouraging in the face of unresolved conflict with Christians.

We see this in the story of Joseph--the man who was sold into slavery by his own brothers, taken into a foreign land, falsely accused of seducing his master’s wife, and wrongfully imprisoned for it. My heart gets impatient about 1 or 2 years of unresolved conflict---Joseph had many YEARS of unresolved conflict with the people to whom he was the closest. Yet, God used the sins of Joseph’s brothers in his plan to rescue His people. God was in control ALL ALONG! Joseph trusted God, he was aware of God’s gracious love toward him, and he was therefore filled with God’s gracious love for others. When Joseph’s brothers came to him because they needed help, Joseph graciously extended it and demonstrated his trust in the goodness and sovereignty of his God:

Genesis 50:19-21 “But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”

Oh, Lord, give me a heart like Joseph with his brothers!! Give me a heart of unwavering trust in your Sovereignty and your Unconditional Goodness and your Wise Plan. Give me a heart that is so rooted in the scandalous love that you have shown me that I cannot help but extend that scandalous love to others. While I was your enemy, you demonstrated your love for me by sacrificing your rights as Magestic Ruler of All, your comfort, and your life. You became nothing so that I, a traitor against you, might live! Thank you, Lord. Help me to love likewise. Help me to believe and trust that you are always at work in all things. Give me a heart for what is unseen—the hope of glory! Thank you, God, for the gift of reconciliation you gave to us—reconciling us to yourself and also making reconciliation with our brothers possible! Thank you for the reconciliation you brought about recently in my life in a situation that was dark and painful. May many come to know you and praise you for this great work! I continue to pray for the unresolved conflicts. I pray that you would continually work in my heart—to show me any areas where I may have sinned and failed to repent. I know that my heart and my sin are deceitful. Show me specifically how to love these people in practical ways--I pray that you would provide such opportunities. Also, show me how to demonstrate your love to those who have been wounded in the wake of these conflicts.  Do another marvelous work of reconciliation, I pray, dear Lord!! I pray that you would do it soon too!  But, your will be done!  Even if the resolution for which we long does not come in this life, help us to trust you in the dark times. Help us to stand firm in your unshakeable Sovereignty and relentless Goodness to us. I pray that you would also speak into the situations of anyone who might be reading this blog and going through something similar. We love you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Man, you have got to check out this blog

The writer of this blog is a 21 year old from Brentwood, TN. 

21 years old!! 

She founded her own organization to help the poor and sick in Uganda .  She has adopted 14 children, many of whom were malnourished and sick when she found them. 

For more about her ministry, check out the organizational webpage:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CD Giveaway Contest!

I love contests, so I thought I would put one on my blog. This past weekend, I went to the Tyrone Wells concert with my sister, brother-in-law, cousin, and cousin’s boyfriend and we had a blast. I just love Tyrone’s music. I think he sort of sounds like a mix of the bands Coldplay, Maroon 5, and One Republic . His music has been featured on some television shows like One Tree Hill and Grey’s Anatomy, as well as on commercials and movie trailers (My Sister’s Keeper). My brother-in-law, Luke, grew up with him, so that is how I heard about Tyrone’s music. I especially like the song, “Remain”. There is something about it that I find so comforting. It reminds me of God's steadfast love in this crazy life. 

You can sample Tyrone’s music on his website:

Here is the contest:

First, become a follower of this blog if you aren't yet (just click on the button "follow on the left hand side of this blog).  Then, post in a comment on this post about one of the following:

1) a Scripture verse that the Lord has laid on your heart to cling to in this season of your life; OR

2) ideas for upcoming an blog topic(s); OR

3) what you like to read about on this blog; OR

4) a song that comforts you

I will put the names of all who enter into a drawing and draw one winner on Saturday morning. The winner of the drawing will receive a copy of Tyrone Wells’ CD “Remain”.

If only one person enters, it will be really easy to win!:)

Here are the lyrics to the title song “Remain”:

You feel the earth shake
You've never felt safe
Nothing stays the same at all

I will remain
When everything changes
And you think of the faces
That all slipped away
I will remain

Afraid of the let down
You say I won't stick around
You say people are made of
Glass and dust

But I will
I will remain
I will remain
I will remain
Feel my hands on your face

Look to the North Star
See where the canyons are
Rest your head on my heart
I will remain

When everything changes
This truth will stay ageless
I'll carve my name

I will remain
I will remain
I will remain

Feel my hands on your face

I will remain
I will remain
I will remain

Feel my hands on your face(x3)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Lord, Help Me Fight!

I am in the midst of a battle. I can chose to fill my head and heart with God’s Word and the things He has taught me in the posts I have written below. Or, I can ignore His truth and believe lies---lies like:

“You are obsolete, irrelevant, hopeless….”

“Children are a blessing. You haven’t received this blessing because you are not good enough.”

“You gave up a fulfilling career to serve your family. This was the wrong decision, and it is confirmed by the fact that you still don’t have children. You are wasting your life.”

“Your family and friends will leave. They always do—this is especially true once everyone else starts having kids. They will move on with their busy lives. You will be forgotten.”

“You will never change. You face the same battles over and over and you never win. What is wrong with you?!”

“You are a mess. You don’t have what it takes to be loved, and you just don’t fit in. Why bother with people?”

“You are missing out.”

At the moment, these lies are truly tempting me. Rather than seeking to be filled with the TRUTH in the past couple days, I have given in to these lies. I use these lies to justify APATHY, INDULGENCE, and SELFISHNESS. They are distracting me from the beauty of Jesus and the unbelievable hope, peace, and fulfillment I have experienced with Him.

It is funny how Satan just recycles his old tricks.

In Genesis 3, he says to Eve, “You’re missing out! God doesn’t love you--He has withheld goodness from you. He is not for you—He is against you! You can’t trust His instructions.”

He says to David in 1 Chronicles 21, “You can’t trust God. You are competent and powerful—you can do this… in fact, you must do this. You have got to take matters into your own hands. We all know that success is all about the numbers.”

He says to Joshua in Zechariah 3, “You are beyond anyone’s hope…even God’s. God couldn’t love you—no one could. Just look yourself! Look at the things you have done! You are a failure. You’re a mess.”

He says to Jesus, “You don’t have to suffer! Why should you give yourself up for this disloyal and ungrateful people? Stick with the ones who make you feel good about yourself, because that’s what it is all about—feeling good.” (Matthew 16:23)… “Come on, indulge yourself—you deserve it and it will satisfy you!” Matthew 4:3)….”Flex your power—assert your rights! Show them who is boss.” (Matthew 4:5)…. “Righteousness is just not worth the cost….give it up and I’ll give you everything you ever dreamed of.” (Matthew 4:9)

To echo the words of Jesus, ““Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (!!!!)

I need to fight!

1 Timothy 6:12 “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

Philippians 4:8-9 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

1) First of all, it is not all about me, it is all about Him!

Romans 11:36 “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

2) God loves me and is for me.

Romans 8:31-39 “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.”

3) God’s love truly satisfies and I have all I need in Him! He is more than enough.

Isaiah 55

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

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6 when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

4) Out of His satisfying love, God calls me and empowers me to love Him and others. This is the most important thing for me to do.

Matthew 22:35-40 "And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'”

5) One of the ways I love God is by loving others. He calls me to love others as He has loved me…sacrificially, sincerely, whole-heartedly, graciously, mercifully, compassionately, prayerfully, scandalously, and with pursuit.

John 15:12-13 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

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

1 Cor 13:4-7 “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.”

6) Relationship with the Living God is worth losing everything else.  The successes and pleasures of this world are nothing without Him.

Matthew 10:39 “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

2 Cor 4:7-18 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies…16 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.”

Dear Heavenly Father, Forgive me for ignoring you and your truth. Forgive me for sinking into despair and lies and for indulging my sinful desires. Thank you for fighting for my heart. Even as I sat in church yesterday, I could hear you speaking to me through a simple phrase—“At the foot of the cross we are on a level playing field”. We all come as sinners in need of your grace. Though I want to be successful and productive, not one of my actions can make you love me more or less. Forgive me for buying what the world wants to sell me—that success and happiness could be in anything but you. Forgive me for seeking my own glory. Glorious God, please don’t leave me to myself. I need you. I need your strength. I need you to give me the power to will and to do what you have asked of me. I need your love to fill me so that I might pour it out on others. Help me to love like you do—as a servant, sacrificially, sincerely, scandalously. I am embarrassed by the places my heart takes me—thank you that you take away my shame. Please let me hear your voice and know your presence again. May the truths articulated in the Scriptures above penetrate my heart and soul by your Spirit with you power. In Jesus Name, Amen

Psalm 84
My Soul Longs for the Courts of the Lord

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise! Selah
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion.
8 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9 Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed!
10 For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12 O Lord of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Divine and Supernatural Light

This morning I read Jonathan Edwards' sermon entitled, "A Divine and Supernatural Light, Immediately Imparted to the Soul by the Spirit of God, Shown to be Both Scriptural and Rational Doctrine."  Seriously, it is really called that!:)  You can read it here:

Edwards' point in the sermon is that true, saving, life-transforming, experiential knowledge of God is supernatural--it does not come from mere observation and study, but rather it comes by the gift and power of God. 

Matthew 16:13-17 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

2 Cor 4:6 "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

The thought that God is the one who gives us the gift of truly seeing Him for who He is, actually is... encouraging!  It means that we do not need to be rocket scientists to know God in a true, saving, life-transforming, powerful way.  Even a child can know God in this powerful way.  Edwards gives us an analogy for how this supernatural knowledge of God differs from a natural or exclusively "head knowledge" of God.  He compares it to knowing that honey is sweet.  We can be told that honey is sweet, but it is something else entirely to taste with our own senses that honey is sweet.  Likewise, we can in a sense "know" in our minds that God is good by reading that God is good or by being told that God is good, but these things do not compare to the heart experience of tasting God's goodness.  This latter type of knowledge engages our head, heart, and soul--it is tasting.  This tasting comes by gift of God. 

Have you tasted? 

Psalm 34:8 "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!"

If you have not tasted, or if you are not confident that you have tasted...ASK Him for the gift of seeing and tasting Him.  SEEK Him with your WHOLE heart.  Be PERSISTENT in seeking Him in His Word and in fellowship with His people and be persistent in asking Him through prayer to reveal to you the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Christ!

If you seek Him persistently and sincerely with your whole heart, and you ask Him to show Himself to you, you will not be disappointed:

Luke 11: 5-12 And he said to them, "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

This passage is not about a God who wants us to beg.  This passage is not about a God who capriciously hides himself and laughs as the poor, naked, wretched, and blind creature hopelessly seeks him.  This passage is not about how our actions or persistence earn God's favor.  This passage is about God delighting in the sincerity of a heart that truly wants Him!  Of course He will answer our prayers to know and taste Him with a resounding "YES"!  Just as it pleased Him to speak light out of darkness, it pleases Him to shine the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Christ into our hearts! 

Accordingly, Edwards rightly bids us to seek after this light!  Here are the last few paragraphs of Edwards' beautiful sermon: 

Thirdly, All may hence be exhorted earnestly to seek this spiritual light. To influence and move to it, the following things may be considered.

1. This is the most excellent and divine wisdom that any creature is capable of. It is more excellent than any human learning; it is far more excellent than all the knowledge of the greatest philosophers or statesmen. Yea, the least glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Christ doth more exalt and ennoble the soul, than all the knowledge of those that have the greatest speculative understanding in divinity without grace. This knowledge has the most noble object that is or can be, viz., the divine glory or excellency of God and Christ. The knowledge of these objects is that wherein consists the most excellent knowledge of the angels, yea, of God himself.

2. This knowledge is that which is above all others sweet and joyful. Men have a great deal of pleasure in human knowledge, in studies of natural things; but this is nothing to that joy which arises from this divine light shining into the soul. This light gives a view of those things that are immensely the most exquisitely beautiful, and capable of delighting the eye of the understanding. This spiritual light is the dawning of the light of glory in the heart. There is nothing so powerful as this to support persons in affliction, and to give the mind peace and brightness in this stormy and dark world.

3. This light is such as effectually influences the inclination, and changes the nature of the soul. It assimilates the nature to the divine nature, and changes the soul into an image of the same glory that is beheld. 2 Cor. 3:18, "But we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." This knowledge will wean from the world, and raise the inclination to heavenly things. It will turn the heart to God as the fountain of good, and to choose him for the only portion. This light, and this only, will bring the soul to a saving close with Christ. It conforms the heart to the gospel, mortifies its enmity and opposition against the scheme of salvation therein revealed: it causes the heart to embrace the joyful tidings, and entirely to adhere to, and acquiesce in the revelation of Christ as our Saviour: it causes the whole soul to accord and symphonize with it, admitting it with entire credit and respect cleaving to it with full inclination and affection; and it effectually disposes the soul to give up itself entirely to Christ.

4. This light, and this only, has its fruit in a universal holiness of life. No merely notional or speculative understanding of the doctrines of religion will ever bring to this. But this light, as it reaches the bottom of the heart, and changes the nature, so it will effectually dispose to a universal obedience. It shows God's worthiness to be obeyed and served. It draws forth the heart in a sincere love to God, which is the only principle of a true, gracious, and universal obedience; and it convinces of the reality of those glorious rewards that God has promised to them that obey him.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

My Journey Through the Book "The Marriage Builder" Part 4: Ministry or Manipulation?

After establishing that human beings have real personal needs for things like security and significance and showing us that these needs are met fully in Christ, Crabb invites us to examine our motives in marriage---are we motivated to manipulate our spouse into meeting our own perceived unmet needs or are we motivated by love to minister to our spouse’s needs so that our spouse may experience the reality of the fact that his needs are met fully in Christ? (I think this same question could be asked of any friendship.)
The motives behind our actions can be subtle, mixed, and not always something of which we are even aware:
As we attempt to specify the motivation that should characterize our interactions with our mates, we should remember that we will fail to see the point clearly and to make needed personal application without the Holy Spirit’s help. The deceitfulness of our hearts renders us incapable of accurately identifying our real goals without supernatural help. In its fallen state the human consciousness is a marvelous instrument of self deception. It is capable of selectively attending to only those motives that preserve our cherished image of ourselves as good and kind and of disowning or at least disguising the ugly, self-centered objectives to which we are really committed. Only the Spirit of God unfolding His truth as revealed in Scripture can cut through our lying hearts to expose our selfish motivation. P. 52
I love this observation of what marriage ought to be:

Husbands and wives are to regard marriage as an opportunity to minister in a unique and special way to another human being, to be used of God to bring their spouses into a more satisfying appreciation of their worth as persons who are secure and significant in Jesus Christ. P. 55
He goes on to further explain:
Notice an essential point in this principle: It is Christ who provides us with security and significance. My love for my wife does not in the slightest degree add to the reality that she is thoroughly and eternally secure in Christ’s love. Nor does my failure to love her as I should diminish the fact of her security. But my tangible, touchable, physically present love can bring to my wife a deeper experienced awareness of what it means to be loved. I cannot add to the fact of her security, but I can add to her feelings of security. P.55
On page 60, Crabb lays out three important elements to help us turn from manipulating our spouses for ourselves to ministering to our spouse out of love and concern for his welfare:
Element 1. A decisive and continuous willingness to adopt the commitment to minister.

Element 2. A substantial awareness of your partner’s needs.

Element 3. A conviction that you are God’s instrument to touch those needs.

Regarding the decision to minister, Crabb says:

All of us face various character-molding decisions every day. To speak with my spouse, I must consciously and deliberately think: “My purpose right now must be to help my wife realize her value as a person. What can I do that will accomplish this?” My insides may urgently scream with a compelling desire to defend myself, criticize her, or make a decision to do what will help her feel loved. As I make the choice, the Spirit of God provides the power to make it real—but I must make the choice. The natural resistance to truly giving ourselves to the other is rooted in our stubborn fear that if we really give, with no manipulative purpose, we will be shortchanged. Our needs will nto be met. At best we’ll be disappointed; at worst, we’ll be destroyed. P. 60
And yet, Crabb reminds us of this essential point:

But God is faithful. We are to trust His perfect love to cast out fear, believing that as we give to our spouses in His name, He will supernaturally bless us with an awareness of His presence. And He will. But it may take time—perhaps months—before we sense His work in us. The willingness to give unconditionally does not come by simply deciding to be selfless. The stain of self-centeredness requires many washings before it no longer controls our motivation. Many commitments to minister and much time spent with God will transpire before we know what it means to give. Our job is to learn faithfulness and to press on in obedience, not giving into discouragement or weariness, believing that God will always honor the conscious and persevering motivation to serve Him. When a spouse becomes more critical, drinks more heavily, or rejects efforts of ministry, we are to continue in our obedience, believing that our responsibility before God is to obey and to trust Him for the outcome. P. 61
In addressing the awareness of our partner’s needs, Crabb actually calls us to vulnerability. This might sound counter-intuitive. Why would we be called to vulnerability regarding our own self while our focus is ministering to our spouse’s needs? Perhaps this is because one of the goals of marriage and one of the ways that we minister to our spouse’s needs is by fostering real intimacy and oneness.

Crabb says:

I am convinced that most husbands and wives have little awareness of the intense yearnings crying from their partners’ hearts. Too often, one of the protective layers people hide behind is the layer of “apparent togetherness” of “I can handle things” or “I’m OK and I assume you’re OK.” Confident smiles coupled with spiritual platitudes about “all things working for good” often mask a deep longing to be accepted. We fervently desire someone to know us as we are—worried, shattered, scared, angry, lustful—and to accept us anyway. Therefore I regard an honest sharing of who I am with my spouse as consistent with the principle of ministry. I am not to complain about how bad I feel; rather I am to remind myself that my needs are met in Christ and to share with my spouse how I feel in our relationship. My goal in sharing is to vulnerably reveal myself, legitimately desiring, but never demanding, a loving response. P. 61
Crabb points out that we frequently avoid being vulnerable and drawing our spouses out because we either try to protect ourselves or we think our spouse is fine:
Because many husbands and wives see no evidence that their ministry can be meaningful to their partners, it is essential that they develop an awareness of their spouse’s deepest needs. We can create a climate of non-critical acceptance to encourage our spouses to risk becoming vulnerable. If our partners will no open up, we must realize that because they are made in God’s image, deep needs do exist, even if they are well hidden. We must pray for wisdom to know what to do to touch those needs. P. 62
 Crabb’s point here is that just as God is a God of intimate community—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God has created us in His image to experience community with Him and with each other. God wants us to experience oneness with Him firstly. He also wants us to experience oneness with His people—especially and uniquely with our spouse. As we experience oneness with our spouse, we in turn reflect God’s image to others and we glorify God. This cannot be experienced with out vulnerability so that we can know and be known. Even the most seemingly self sufficient person is designed in this way.

From here, Crabb calls us to reflect upon the fact that:

Christians are called upon to believe that in spite of our confusion and incompetence, our sovereign God has made no mistake in assigning us the ministry of touching our spouses’ deepest needs. Regardless of the circumstances under which people were married, God affords each married partner a unique opportunity to minister in a special way to his or her mate. P. 63

Wow. How many times do I actually consider the fact that God uniquely created me to minister to Kristian’s needs in a way that no other human being is actually called to do? Instead, more often, I reflect upon the thought that Kristian and I are so different--surely God could have given him a wife with a personality different than mine and gifts different than mine that are better suited to minister to his needs. But, as Crabb rightly reminds us:

….the condition for effective ministry is utter reliance on God that grows out of a sense of our inadequacy for the task. Admitted weakness makes it possible for us to abide in Christ, trusting Him for fruit (John 15:1-8). P. 63
John 15:1-8 “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.