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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I was reading through the Proverbs today, and this verse struck me in particular.


Proverbs 9:7-9 “Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,
and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.”

I looked up the word “scoffer” on www.blueletterbible.org, and this is what I found:

“to scorn, make mouths at, talk arrogantly a) 1) to boast 2) to scorn b) 1) to mock, deride”

http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H3887&t=ESV

This passage spoke to me in a number of ways. In one way, it spoke to me because I believe I have found myself in positions where I have attempted to correct or reprove a scoffer, and the results have not been good. The result has been injury and inflammation of conflict. This passage convicted me of the error in this. It has also encouraged me to be more discerning about when I am actually called to speak up. I am by nature an activist. While there are some helpful aspects of this nature, there are also some major proclivities toward sin and error too. Sometimes this tendency in me has been nothing more than a lack of faith—a sorry attempt to take things into my own hands rather than quietly and prayerfully trusting the God who is perfectly wise and perfectly in control. It has also sometimes been simply a lack of patient love—a failure to treat others with the same long suffering and grace I have received from God (and from others, for that matter). I hunger to grow in my discernment, in my trust in God, in my prayerful dependence on God, and in my gospel love of others! And this Proverb has shown me new ways in which I am called to grow and mature in this area right now.

I also love the ESV Study Bible notes on this passage: “These verses present three statements about what happens if one corrects a scoffer or the wicked plus three contrasting statements about reproving a wise man. The point is twofold: if a person desires to be wise, he must examine how his heart responds to wise reproof or correction, and in order to be wise with others, he must have the prudence to observe other people’s actions. It is clear that the ‘wise’ or ‘righteous’ person does not rest content with his attainment, nor is he presented as morally ‘perfect’. He becomes still wiser and will increase in learning through correction.” (ESV Study Bible published by Crossway at page 1150).

I particularly love the last part: “It is clear that the ‘wise’ or ‘righteous’ person does not rest content with his attainment, nor is he presented as morally ‘perfect’. He becomes still wiser and will increase in learning through correction.”

I do not want to forget that my own sinful nature is that of a scoffer. All of our hearts have been boastful, arrogant, mocking, and full of derision at times. By God’s grace, I want to have a heart that truly recognizes that I have much to learn and that I am so far from morally perfect (as no doubt this truth is painfully obvious to all of those around me)! I want to have a heart that receives correction well with a humble heart. I want to have a heart that can distinguish between lies and truth. I do not want to slander or mischaracterize as a “critic” or an “enemy” someone who is actually a loving friend who is trying to help me to see an area where I am blinded by ignorance and sin I do not want to misinterpret loving correction as hateful rejection, as my heart is too often quick to do.

Dear Heavenly Father, Please give me a heart that is humble, soft, and discerning, Oh Lord! Help me to speak courageously, boldly, lovingly, and truthfully when you call me to, and help me to know when to love with my prayerful silence.  By your grace, may I not sin against you or against my brother or sister on either end of this spectrum! Help my heart to humbly hear and heed correction and rebuke that comes to me from you through the lips of your people.  Help me not to be a scoffer!  Show me any areas where I might be behaving as a scoffer, and grant me quick and thorough repenetance!  Help me to grow in wisdom and to honor you in all I do.  In Jesus Name, Amen

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Romans 12

Sometimes I am confused, perplexed, and hurt by relationships in the Body of Christ.  The Word puts such an emphasis on love and unity in the Body of Christ--the Bride who Jesus has randsomed and is redeeming.  And yet, the Body of Christ is such a mess in so many ways.  I know that I am a mess too and part of the problem as a sinner who is too often proud, judgmental, lazy, self-interested, selfish, naive and foolishly too quick to react sometimes, etc (there are lots more to add to this list).  I understand why there is conflict in the Body of Christ--as we all sin against each other.  In my head, I know I should not be surprised to see these ugly things in myself and in the Body of Christ, but the damage caused by these messy interactions does cause pain that spins me around sometimes.

I have a hard time understanding why brothers and sisters in Christ would not try to resolve and persevere through conflict, not compromising on Biblical truth, but also not compromising on Biblical love.  I don't understand how there could be burned bridges in the Body of Christ.  I don't understand how friendships could end so easily in the Body of Christ when our lives are built on the hope of eternal life together with God.  In this way, it seems that the Body of Christ does not look so different from the rest of the world who has not encountered Jesus' life changing love. 

When I feel discouraged, hurt, depressed and spun around about this, I love to go to Romans 12 for perspective.  Jesus, help us live and love like this--in this radical way!!  Let us sense the weightiness of the fact that we are one body in you and that we are individually members of one another! Help me to have a humble, servant heart that sincerely loves through conflict and hurt by your Spirit!   Give me a perspective to see beyond the standards of this world, so that I would not be conformed to the standards of the world, but rather that I would be renewed in your way and standards!  Help me to know the difference between your way and worldliness.  Help me not to think of myself more highly than I ought or to be wise in my own eyes!!  Open my eyes to the ways I have hurt others, and grant me quick repentance and a heart that is quick to do all that I need to do to make things right with others.  Give me courage to love in the face of rejection, and give me opportunities to lavishly love those you call me to love, even when I am hurt and confused by them.  Help me to love well and to persevere in love even when it becomes difficult.  Help me to be a peacemaker, and not to inflame conflict.  Thank you that you are my rock and that your love is my identity and source of strength.  Help me to be rooted in your love, so that I can love in difficult situations.  Remind me that the gospel is most prominently displayed through lavish, unmerited love in the face of sin and rejection--as this is the love that you showed to me!  I confess that I am fully incapable of loving like this apart from your grace and your power!  I pray that Romans 12 would speak to any others who are wrestling through these same questions and issues like me.  Thank you, Lord!  We love you. 

Romans 12

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


Gifts of Grace


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

Marks of the True Christian


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

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Love, Love, Love

I just read Alexander Strauch's book, "Love or Die". It was an excellent little book on the necessity of being a people marked by love. I am now reading through Sam Storm's book, "A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ: 100 Meditations on 2 Corinthians". This is from the introduction:




"Who was this man (the apostle Paul)? What made him tick? Why did he make the painful choices we read in the New Testament? People who have tracked his missionary journeys and struggled to comprehend his many letters long to get inside his head and peer ino his heart. What were his motives? How did he perseere in the face of unending hardship and excruciating persecution? What accounts for his unyielding commitment to Christ and his love for the many churches he established? What empowered him to endure hte slander of those he served and to sacrifice himself for people who repaid his devotion with disdain and conempt? One might think such experiences would compel Paul to withdraw within himself, to retreat relationally, to close off his heart and take whatever steps necessary to guard his wounded soul from further damage..." p. 11-12
The same observation, but in greater dimensions, could be made about Jesus--who willingly and knowingly left His throne in perfect fellowship, unity, and love with the Father--to love, serve, and die for His own creation who spat upon Him.

A quote attributed to Mother Theresa is "I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love."

I long to love like this! I know my love is immature because the woundedness and brokenness in my relationships (even when my own sin is the direct cause or a contributing cause of the woundedness and brokenness) still leaves me reeling sometimes, still makes me a little gun-shy to re-engage sometimes, and even still tempts me to bitterness sometimes. But I long to love like Jesus does. I long to love in a way that is truly sacrificial, that truly considers others more significant than myself, and that looks to the interest of others---in marriage, in family, and in friendships. I long to love in such a way that I would truly be rooted in God's love Himself--the love between the Father and Son by the Spirit, the love God has showered on me, and the love that God has for each person I ever encounter. I long to be satisfied in God's love—to be rooted and planted there in the love that does not disappoint and is always bigger than I can imagine, so that I would never need to look for security elsewhere and yet also so that I could receive God's love for me given to me through my husband, family, and friends. I long to love with a heart that is tender--not calloused, not hardened, and not impenetrable. I long to love with a heart that is sincere, genuine, compassionate, and empathetic… with a heart that listens and acts. I long to love with a heart that puts God first—that always seeks to be filled up with God before seeking to pour out to others.

Here is a quote from C.S. Lewis’ book, “The Four Loves”:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
I think this is part of what 1 John is referring to: 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Real love takes risks because we know that we have all we need in Christ’s love for us. Whatever we risk cannot overshadow what we have gained in God’s love for all of us. The more we are rooted in this truth, the less fear we need have, and the more sacrificial risks we may take in loving other sinners like ourselves.

What about you? How do you long to grow in love? Are you rooted in God’s love? Do you know what that means? Do you believe in God’s love (for you, for others?)? How do you root yourself in God’s love? Are you paralyzed or gun-shy, even a little bit, by a broken or damaged heart—by the wounds you have endured by those who have sinned against you or against those you have loved? Do you protect yourself through loving acts of service directed towards others, while erecting impenetrable walls to keep others from hurting (and loving) you? Do you distract yourself with other things (worldly things or not) to keep yourself from getting to close to others or to keep them from getting too close to you? Do you focus more on how others love (or don’t love) you, rather than on how you can love others? How do you love the unlovable, the undesirable, the annoying, the nobodies, the people who can’t give you anything in return, and even your enemies? Do you want to love like this, but don’t know how to conjure up this kind of love? (If so, don’t worry—you CANT conjure this love up—it comes from God, from being filled with His Spirit by seeking Him in prayer, in the Word, in fellowship, in worshipful song, etc.)

If you are in the same position in which I am finding myself (wanting to love like Christ), I’ll end with some verses we could meditate on together:
Ephesians 3:14-21 “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”


1 John 4:7-21 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Insightful Article

Someone forwarded me this article today from the blog of Pastor Dave Kraft of Mars Hill Church.  The post was written by JR Kerr at Park Community Church in Chicago, Illinois.  There were a lot of insightful points in the article about accountability, community, leadership, worldliness in the church, and our own blindness and weaknesses.  I appreciated Pastor Kerr's candor and humility in writing it.  I especially appreciated his points about community being a necessary check against the dangers of our narcissistic propensities.  Definitely a worthwhile read!  Here is the link to the blog:

http://davekraft.squarespace.com/posts/2010/12/12/pastoral-narcissism.html

I've cut and pasted the text below.

Pastoral Narcissism


Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 06:21PM

Today I have a guest blogger. JR Kerr is one of the pastors at Park Community Church in Chicago, Illinois. This is taken from "Leadership Journal" online, November 8th, 2010




It is a bit longer than my usual posts, but please read it in it's entirety. It is hugely insightful and convicting! James warns us of "Selfish Ambition" in his letter, chapter three verse 14 & Pastor Kerr adds personal experience to James' admonition:



"Pastoral Narcissism"

The shadow side of ambition





It was a silly thing to do, but I couldn't stop myself. During a "get to know you" conversation with a few acquaintances and a man from the church I serve, we were talking about interests, passions, and areas of ministry. I tried to keep the focus on others at the table. But then it happened.



The man from my church made a statement that I interpreted as making light of me. The fuse was lit, and within a few moments I managed to work into the conversation the areas where I was leading and the wide impact of those projects. I subtly reminded everyone what our church had accomplished in the city. I even managed to throw in some attendance figures for good measure. I pushed everyone else out of the conversation's spotlight.



When it was over, I felt like I had binged on junk food. Self-loathing set in: I hate when I do this, and I hate it even more when I do it as a servant of Christ. Why do I keep falling into this temptation?



I've been through this cycle enough to know that when I feel my capacity or identity as a leader isn't sufficiently honored (and when, really, does anyone ever feel that?), I slip into the sin of self-promotion. But how do I stop?



T.S. Eliot wrote, "Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm, but the harm does not interest them … or they do not see it, or they justify it … because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."



Although our mission in Christ is to do good in this world, we will actually do harm if our deeper mission is to feel important and "think well of ourselves." Eliot's words forced me to ask, How much harm do I do to my family, my friends, the people I am supposed to lead, all because I want to think well of myself?



Recently I came home to find my wife researching narcissism on the computer. We have been in counseling for a few years and during a session where we discussed my relentless ambition, the phrase "narcissistic leanings" came up. My wife was researching the concept to see if it fit me and what the implications might be for our marriage.



At first she was embarrassed that I caught her, but I was interested as well, so we read the characteristics of narcissism together on the screen.



My immediate thought was, This isn't a problem for me. Narcissism is the adulation of the self, the diminishment of others, and often expressed as reckless ambition. Nothing could be more inconsistent with the character of Christ—the self-sacrificing servant who sought only to do the will of his Father. How can I be a pastor, a servant of Christ, and struggle with this?



But as we read the definitions online, without saying a word we both knew we were reading an accurate description of me. I am a believer and yet I remain a sinner. I am a pastor and I'm often a self-promoter. I endeavor to serve Jesus and I also have narcissistic tendencies.



What I've come to see since that day, is that I am not alone. Many other church leaders share this struggle to one degree or another. We may not all be full-blown clinical narcissists, but we share that bent toward insecurity and selfishness. Most gatherings of pastors will usually include subtle or overt self-promotion. I'm not the only one who has used attendance numbers or new initiatives or "my vision" as a badge of self-importance.



Although I'm now aware of my tendency and what triggers it, I don't pretend to have it solved. This is simply my effort to be honest about our struggle with ambition and self-promotion as pastors, and how we can address it.



Great things for God

There is a long and celebrated history of church leaders who struggled with narcissistic tendencies—starting with the original disciples. After following Jesus for some time and recognizing his power, these (probably younger) men debated with each other "Who is the greatest?" They jockeyed for power. Who would be closest to Jesus? Who would get positions of honor?



I remember when those kinds of questions were mine. As a young man, I knew Jesus loved me and that I wanted to serve him. My mentor, Bryan, shared with me a quote from D. L. Moody's biography: "The world has yet to see what God can do with one man that is totally committed to him." Apparently when Moody heard this from a preacher, he decided he would be that man. The quote had the same effect on me. It awakened an ambition in me to do great things for God.



Having great ambitions is a good and necessary thing. The problem was how I defined greatness. I was measuring significance as the world does, rather than by the standards of God's kingdom. When Jesus heard his disciples arguing about greatness, he reminded them of the counter-intuitive nature of his kingdom. "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and a servant of all" (Mark 9:35.



Jesus does not say to stop pursuing greatness. Instead he redefines it: The last will be first. The humble exalted. The small will be big. Those who lose their life for the sake of the gospel will gain it.



Yet it is hard to find that perspective today, even within the church. Self-promotion and worldly definitions of significance seem not only to be tolerated among pastors but even expected and encouraged. How many people are following me on Twitter? How's the traffic on my blog? How many Facebook "friends" can I count? How's our church's "brand" value?



The opportunities for self-promotion are proliferating.



Community and calling

But there is an antidote to these temptations. I've come to recognize the good and healthy tension between my personal calling and ambitions and my community. To understand our personal ambitions, we must be clear about both our sense of calling and our commitment to a community. It is the tension between these two that I lose or win the battle with the sin of self-promotion and narcissism.



Rooting my calling and ambitions in my community helps keep me from slipping into a self-centered focus. Without the community, it becomes all about me, my ministry, my dreams, my achievements. Community is used by God as a guard against this tendency to self-promote.



First, in community, we learn to "tell on myself" in a consistent way to the right people. Just as with other kinds of sin, confessing our struggle with self-promotion opens the way for help and healing. Community keeps us accountable.



Writing this article has served that purpose for me. I debated with Leadership's editors whether or not to put my name on this article. I worried it would be seen as yet another form of self-promotion and therefore distract from the message. We decided to include my name as a way of "telling on myself" and openly confessing. This brings a better accountability. Hiding our sin only gives it more power and control over us.



Second, keeping our calling anchored to a community also reminds us of the imago Dei in others. God has blessed and gifted others in significant ways for the benefit of the whole church and his mission. When we pursue only our own ambitions, we lose sight of this and add fuel to our narcissistic tendencies.



Yes, sometimes things would get accomplished faster and even better if we did them alone, but the inefficiencies of community honors God and keeps our selfishness in check.



Inherent in God's design for people is that we do life together. We see this dynamic in marriage, in family, and in our local congregations.



Third, rooting ourselves in community prevents us from the relentless pursuit of personal platforms. I was recently part of a conversation where a number of Christian leaders were talking about their "personal brands." A brand is the (emotional) experience someone has when they hear your name, see your image, or think of your ministry. As the language of branding seeps into the church, more pastors are thinking about how they are perceived. It puts the emphasis on individual leaders rather than communities of believers. It elevates image and impressions above the always messier reality.



The drive to build my personal brand tempts me to seek platforms to use my gifts rather than serve my community, perhaps in ways that will never be recognized. I try to counter this temptation with a circle of friends and mentors who have access to my schedule. If no one else knows where you are on a regular basis, you face the danger of isolating yourself and therefore exalting yourself. By opening my calendar to others, I am forced to consult with them before committing to another event, meeting, or trip. They help me to keep merely personal ambitions from ruling.



Without the help of my community, I would not have the tools or strength to resist another opportunity for me to "do something great of God."



Temptations within community

While rooting my calling and ambition in my community has helped curb temptations of self-promotion, it is not a silver bullet. This is because pleasing our community can slip into another kind of narcissism—people pleasing.



Sometimes being a faithful leader means doing things and making decisions that will make us unpopular in that community. When we avoid these harder parts of our calling in order to please the congregation, we may still be serving our narcissism and need for approval. It is another way of "thinking well of ourselves."



Ultimately people pleasing fails to honor God. Placing the community's desires ahead of God's calling is a way of making God secondary to people's opinion.



So there is a tension between being committed to our community (which keeps our calling within healthy boundaries) and being committed to God's calling upon me (which keeps our community from having too much power over our leadership).



So now I recognize the twin temptations: pleasing people and pursuing personal platforms. Both extremes are disastrous.



So I confess: I am a pastor and a narcissist. There, it feels good to get it out. I'm still struggling, and I know others are as well. But together we can flee these temptations and pursue humility and faithfulness. I pray that a generation of "recovering self-promoters" can resist our narcissism and help our churches do the same.







Monday, December 6, 2010

Shutterfly Promotion

Attention all bloggers, Shutterfly is running a promotion where bloggers who write a two hundred word blog about Shutterfly can get 50 free photo cards. Shutterfly is an online company where you can create cards and photo gifts and have them delivered to your home.  Shutterfly has a great variety of photo cards.  You can take a look here:  http://www.shutterfly.com/cards-stationery/christmas-photo-cards   You can also make personalized photo related Christmas gifts there as well, like a desk calendar:  http://www.shutterfly.com/calendars/desk-calendars  or a gift mug: http://www.shutterfly.com/photo-gifts/photo-mugs .  I have always loved to receive photo cards each Christmas, and I can never bring myself to throw any of them away.  I love seeing the smiling faces of friends and family each day in my kitchen when I look at my refrigerator.  While I love receiving these cards, I have never ordered photo cards myself. Our friend, Sid, took some shots of Kristian and me so that we could do our first photo cards.  Kristian and I will have been married for 8 years in August.  I think we always felt funny about sending photo cards because we don’t have kids.  But this year we decided to anyway because, after all, we are still a family. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lisa's wedding

I have been meaning to post this for months now!! This was an exciting summer for our family. Our baby sister (a cousin who is more like a sister than a cousin), Lisa, got married!

Our extremely talented friend, Mandev Sidhu, photographed the wedding. Mandev (we call him "Sid") is one of the nicest people I know.  He even learned to play the dhol (Indian drums) for Lisa's wedding.  It was awesome.  All of us in the wedding party walked out to Sid playing the dhol.  The picture above is one my favorites from that day. If you know Lisa, you know by the look on her face just how happy she is. He captured that so beautifully!

To see more of his pictures from Lisa’s wedding: http://www.mandevsidhu.com/search/label/Lisa

To check out the rest of Mandev’s work, go here:

http://www.mandevsidhu.com/.

I still remember waking up on December 12, 1984… it was snowing and my dad had gone over to my aunt and uncle’s house to watch Lisa’s two older brothers while my aunt and uncle were at the hospital delivering Lisa Baby. I was 8 years old. I remember getting to hold her when she got home from the hospital. I remember how we all used fight over who got to hold her and we loved to play with her. Then she grew up a little and we grew up a little. She used to follow us around, wanted to be included in the games we played, and wanted to be like us. And then she became a teenager. We would try to talk to her about life and she would just give us one word answers. We were not cool enough for her then. :) And then at some point, the age gap seemed to get smaller. We became more like friends—hanging out regularly, laughing together, and talking about the deep things of life. We have always had a bond like sisters do. Sisters know us like no other. Whenever my sister Nisha, Lisa and I play the board game Taboo with the guys in our family, the guys just hate the fact that we can guess what the other is thinking with just a one word clue. Our husbands roll their eyes at how silly and loud we can all be when the three of us get together—they don’t always get our inside jokes. We have also had our share of fights and disagreements, and some of those have lasted longer than others of those. No matter what though, we will always have a bond. I will always want the highest good for my little sister. I have learned so much about love and faith from her and through our relationship.

Nisha and I gave a speech at her wedding. This is an excerpt from what I said:

Owen, in Lisa you have found a rare soul. Lisa can be quiet, calm and easy going, and she can be silly, and passionate, and a barrel of laughs. Lisa is intelligent and witty. She is a deep thinker. She is not afraid to ask tough questions about the deep things of life. She is beautiful writer. She has an amazing way with children. Lisa feels deeply about the people she loves. I have seen Lisa in some of her most painful days—she is real, asks tough questions, and wrestles with God. And yet she acknowledges God’s goodness and glory in the midst. I have also seen Lisa in some of her most joyous times—radiating joy & peace, and having a generous spirit that wants those she loves to experience that joy too. Owen, yes, you might have to eat eggo waffles and potstickers for the rest of your life, but with Lisa you will laugh till your stomach hurts, you will experience your heart swell with love for her beyond what you could believe (because that is her effect on people), and you will see in increasing measure how good, and loving, and sovereign our God is to have a blessed you with a woman who is so uniquely equipped to help you grow in the grace and love of Jesus.
This is the video put together by the talented videographer/DG Craig Nisperos http://vimeo.com/cnisperos


Lisa & Owen - Let's Do This from Craig Nisperos on Vimeo.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Trinity, Edwards, and Kristian's sermon

Kristian preached last Sunday on 1 John.  The message was entitled, "Fellowship of the Holy Spirit".  It was some pretty heavy but valuable material.  Here is the sermon:

http://www.gracepugetsound.com/sermons/Ellefsen11-7-10.mp3

Below is a repost of something I wrote in April this year.  It contains a great article from Piper unpacking Jonathan Edwards' explanation of the Trinity:

Wrestling with the Trinity


Billy Graham saved my life. Well, more accurately, God saved my life through Billy Graham. I was 14 years old. My dad and uncle took my cousins and my sister and I to hear Billy Graham’s 1991 Seattle Crusade in the old Kingdome. I remember we were sitting way in the back. I remember the bright lights. The funny thing is that I don’t even remember much about Billy Graham---what he sounded like, what the program was like, what he looked like, or what he was wearing. What I do remember is the experience of God turning a light on in my soul as I heard Billy Graham speak the words I had heard many times before and even committed to memory:

“John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

When these words rang out in the Kingdome, they pierced my heart. I finally saw that I could be with God Almighty forever (starting right then!) because Jesus made a way for me. I finally understood that my sin separated me from the Perfect God of the Universe and that I could never repay that debt. I understood that Jesus, God in flesh, lived a perfect sinless life and was worthy to repay my debt. I understood that Jesus did in fact repay my debt by dying on the cross and enduring separation from God the Father. I understood that Jesus is Lord of All and King of Kings and that I needed to submit to Him as Lord and King of my life—and that I wanted to as I saw His character and His worthiness! I understood that life with Him was mine through faith--and faith was not just head knowledge, but it entailed a trusting, following, willing submission to him kind of belief. I understood the treasure I gained in this transaction--through no merit of my own--was relationship with the Living God Himself and that nothing else in my life mattered more than this. During the alter call that night, I felt God's compelling call to trek down the many flights of stairs and onto the field below. When I did, Billy Graham led the huge crowd of us in prayer. After he prayed, there were volunteers who prayed with us and talked with us. The volunteer who found me was a young woman who was probably in her 20’s. She gave me some literature and her address and told me I could write to her if I had questions. I stayed up all night that night reading. I read all the literature and the book of John, and God met me that night. I corresponded with the young volunteer for a while as well. I was so encouraged by the words God gave to her to encourage and teach me. I remember writing to her about my many questions—most of them were about the Trinity.

I've been thinking of this night. This past Sunday night, Kristian and I had dinner with a delightful family in our church. They had also invited a friend over who is struggling with whether the God of the Bible is real and can be trusted. One of this man’s main questions about Christianity is with the Trinity. I can certainly understand why he has questions. The Trinity is such a marvelous, mysterious concept. How can there be One God in three Persons? Almost 20 years after becoming a Christian, I still find this to be such a mystery. Yet, I also love to plumb the depths of Scripture for insight into this mystery. God has met me in His Word. What I find there is solid, profound, and transformational. Still, I know what I see now is a dim reflection of what I will see next year, which will still be an even dimmer reflection of what I will see one day when I am face to face with the Savior. But as I walk with God and seek Him out in prayer, Bible reading, study, and by listening to faithful teaching from gifted teachers, God has opened my eyes in increasing measure to His character as Triune God, and also to what that means for my relationships as an image bearer of God. Two resources that I have been particularly helpful to me are: 1) Jonathan Edwards, “An Unpublished Essay on the Trinity”; and 2) Bruce Ware’s book, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Roles, Relationships, and Relevance”.

Edwards’ essay is available here:

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/trinity/files/trinity.html.

Here is a short article by John Piper that summarizes Edwards’ essay well and so eloquently hits on the beautiful mystery of the Trinity:


http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TopicIndex/117_The_Trinity/3179_Love_Seeking_Understanding/




Love Seeking Understanding


A Meditation on the Trinity


________________________________________


By John Piper February 6, 1984






Human language is never wholly adequate to communicate personal life. How I feel when I look at four sons leaving their childhood behind cannot be wholly carried by words. But we still try. We stammer. We use metaphors (it’s like throwing things overboard on a voyage). We write poems and songs. The inadequacy of language is only surpassed by its indispensability. What else have we got? Inadequate does not mean useless. Language may not carry all there is, but what it carries can be true and valuable.










So with talk about the Trinity. No doubt it will always exceed our full comprehension. No doubt our language is inadequate to carry this deep reality. But the depth and value of the Trinity is precisely why we must speak. You don’t throw out the love poem because it falls short of the love. It is precious nonetheless. So is the doctrine of the Trinity.






In a nutshell (following Jonathan Edwards), I would describe the Trinity like this: The Father is God existing in the primal, unoriginated, most absolute manner. The Son is God eternally generated by the Father’s having a clear and distinct idea or image of himself, so much so that his image or reflection of himself is God—the Son. The Holy Spirit is God existing as the infinite Spirit of love and delight flowing eternally between the Son and the Father.






The Father has always existed. And there never was a time when he did not have a perfectly exact and full Idea or Image of himself. This is the Son who therefore is equally eternal with the Father. “God’s idea of himself is absolutely perfect and therefore is an express and perfect image of him, exactly like him in every respect; there is nothing in the pattern but what is in the representation—substance, life, power nor anything else…But that which is the express, perfect image of God in and in every respect like him is God to all intents and purposes…” (Jonathan Edwards, An Essay on the Trinity, p. 101). Biblical passages that point to this understanding of God the Son are 2 Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3.






When God is said to “be love” (1 John 4:7, 16), we must think that there has always been two Persons in God between whom love could flow. And the Scriptures teach plainly that the Father loves the Son (Matthew 3:17; Ephesians 1:6; John 5:20; 17:26) and the Son loves the Father (John 14:31). God’s infinite love for his own glory (Isaiah 48:11) was satisfied from eternity in his beholding and enjoying his own glorious Image in the person of his Son.






Therefore, the Father and the Son never existed without an infinite delight and love flowing between them. It was not possible they could be indifferent to each other’s glory. 1 John 4:12-13 shows that the love that God is (v. 7) is the Holy Spirit: “If we love one another God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him…because he has given us of his Spirit.”






The Spirit of God is the river of love and delight flowing between God the Father and God the Son. The Holy Spirit is the esprit de corps of the Godhead. In responding to each other’s infinite glory, the Father and Son put all that they are into the act of love. And therefore the Spirit is all that they are and exists as a Person in his own right, yet one with the Father and the Son.






We grope. We stammer. We reach for ways to say the mystery. Why? Because something has gone before. Falling in love always precedes the love poems (no matter how bad they are).






Claritas quaerens intellectum,
Pastor John


Dear Father, Thank you for giving me life and breath and for inviting me into your precious and mysterious fellowship between Father, Son, and Spirit. Thank you, Jesus, for paying the price for me to enjoy fellowship with you, the Triune God. Thank you, Spirit, for walking with me daily and revealing truth to my heart. God, I pray that you would continue to open my eyes to the glories of your character and to your relationship with Yourself—Father, Son and Spirit. I pray that you would show me how you are calling me to image you in relationships and how the Trinity plays into that. Show us how to love like you do—with delight, affection, sacrifice, headship and submission. I pray this for your Church—that we would know you in increasing measure and that we would worshipfully reflect you in our lives so that you would be exalted and many would come to have joyous fellowship with you. In Jesus Name, Amen


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Do you know you are a sinner?

Becoming a Christian necessarily requires that we acknowledge our sinfulness and recognize our need for saving from our sin and the consequences of our sin, which is death.


What does it mean to sin?

It means that we fall short of the glory of God. We fall short of His beauty, pristine holiness, pure righteousness, and perfect love.

The Bible tells us all have sinned. (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:9)

We are saved from the consequences of our sin (death) through faith in Jesus who is Sovereign God and worthy of our worship and obedience. After we become Christians, we are continually being saved from our sinfulness. This process is called sanctification. God gradually reveals our sin to us and roots it out of us—through the Word, through prayer, through fellowship, through trials, etc. The Bible tells us we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another.


Why is it important for us to understand all of the doctrine of sin and to have a grasp of our own sinfulness? Here are a few reasons:

1) Only the sick need a doctor. Only the lost need saving. Seeing our sinfulness reveals to us our need for saving.

2) Recognizing our sinfulness reminds us of our utter and continual need for God for everything good.

3) Recognizing our sinfulness causes us to give thanks to the God who died for us.

4) Recognizing our sinfulness causes us to have compassion and mercy on those around us.

5) Recognizing our sinfulness allows us to acknowledge that God deserves all the glory in our life, not us.

6) Recognizing our sinfulness and acknowledging it to others enables us to walk in the light—in sincerity and truth, not in shame and guilt.

7) As we confess our sins to others, we can receive help from the Body of Christ.

8) As we confess our sins to others, others will feel more comfortable to do the same.

9) Acknowledging our sinfulness shines a spotlight on the goodness of God.


Our failure to recognize the fact that we are sinners is caused by either: 1) our blindness or unwillingness to soberly assess ourselves; or 2) our failure to see just how good, beautiful, magnificent, holy, and righteous God.

Paul calls himself the foremost of sinners. This is the Paul who dedicated his whole life to God and ministering to God’s people. This is the same Paul who wrote much of the New Testament. Paul acknowledges his pre-Christian past where he persecuted Christians. But in calling himself the foremost of sinners, Paul uses the present tense. I don’t think this is because Paul has committed the most heinous sin than anyone in the world. On the contrary, I think it is because Paul has gotten to know God well. God is big and glorious to Paul. The more he knows God, the more he knows he is not like God.

1 Timothy 1:15-17 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

There are at least two harmful ways of dealing with the fact of our sinfulness.
One of these ways is by becoming obsessed with our sinfulness and our sin. We nitpick ourselves and others. We are excessively introspective or judgmental towards others. We experience condemnation. We over-analyze everything so that we see a sin angle to everything we do. We become so sorrowful over our sin that we miss the joy in the fact that Jesus saved us!
The other harmful way of dealing with our sinfulness is apathy. We may know we are sinful, but God saved us so we are fine. We may know we are not perfect, but we think “I’m not THAT bad.” We may not have thought about it much. We may not want to think about it because sin is a depressing topic. We may think we are sinners so what’s the point in seeking to obey anyways. We avoid God because we don’t want to deal with our sin. We love our sin too much that we don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we would have to give it up.

Where do you fall in this spectrum?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Random Thoughts on the Worthiness of God in Light of Suffering

I do firmly believe with all that I am that Jesus is worth it.  He is worth every suffering this world has to offer.  I know He is good.  I really, really believe that.  The more I see of His character in the Word, the more I believe that.  Accordingly, I know He would not have subjected this world to the type of suffering that it has if it was not worth it.  And His Word tells me that.  I believe the joy that awaits us more than outweighs the deepest heartache and the ugliest sin.  It is still heartbreaking to hear about torture.  It is still heartbreaking to hear about starving and neglected and abused children.  It is still heartbreaking to hear about illness or death of a dearly loved one.   It is still heartbreaking to hear of divorce and rejection and “love” that doesn’t last.  It is still heartbreaking to hear about children sick or lost or never had.  It is still heartbreaking to hear about aging, ill, suffering and lonely parents and grandparents. It’s heartbreaking to think of the Proverbs 31 woman who never finds a husband. Life still hurts.  And Jesus has compassion on us.  He hasn’t asked us to endure anything He hasn’t endured Himself—and He is the only one in the World who is innocent.  He is our example of how to endure.    But it still hurts.  This life hurt Him too.  Our pain hurts Him.  He remembers that we are but dust.  He wept with Mary and Martha, even though He knew the outcome was going to be better than they could have dreamed.  This is why we weep too—at the suffering we experience and at the suffering of those around us.  We are real with Him and with others, and He heals us and grows us in this realness (Bible calls walking in the light).  We don’t have to pretend with Him or others and He doesn’t want us to.  And He wants us to go to Him… and not simply seek every kind of distraction from the pain. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Groaning

I think I have been feeling stuck lately, unable to reconcile the glorious picture I see in the Word of how the Body of Christ is supposed to be and what I actually see in the Body of Christ, including myself. Because of this, I have been feeling disillusionment—reluctance to engage with other Christians and even a reluctance to engage with God because the Biblical standard of love and relationship in the Body just does not compute with what I see in myself or others. In fact, my worst experiences in relationships have been with Christians. Somehow this inconsistency made me doubt on some level how what I am seeing in Scripture could even be true! Sometimes it has caused me to "ask" (read: “sinfully accuse God”), “does the gospel really work?!” Today, in conversation with a dear friend, it occurred to me that maybe I am asking the wrong question. The presence of sin does not negate the truth or effectiveness of the gospel. The gospel ASSUMES the presence of sin. The reason it is good news that Jesus died for my sins is because I am sinful and I needed Him to save me—it was/is my only hope! God’s sanctification of me (process of making me holy) is not finished yet. Although I am justified (i.e. forgiven and saved because God the Father looks at Jesus’ perfect work of obedience and His perfect payment of the punishment for my sin), God is doing a work in me and in all of His people today, but He is also not finished! My brothers and sisters in Christ and I still have plenty of sin! We still need gospel application TODAY in our lives because we still sin! And yes, it is true that what I see in myself and what I see around me does not measure up to the beautiful picture and calling I see in God’s Word. Part of the pain of that is the groaning of living in the already (already justified, already seeing in part God’s beauty, already seeing in part how things are supposed to be, already experiencing in part sanctification and redemption) and the not yet (not yet seeing the whole picture of who God is and what His plan is and all the areas where I am not yet in conformity, not experiencing the fullness and completion of His sanctification and redemption, etc.). Living in the already and not yet, produces groaning in us.


It’s all right here in one of my most favorite chapters of Scripture and I never made this connection before:

Romans 8:18-25 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

Part of the pain of not being able to reconcile what we see in Scripture and what we see in our lives is that we do have first fruits of the Spirit. The Spirit has done a work in us… but there is much more He is going to do in us. And so we must rest on faith---hope in what is unseen, which includes the promise of God that He is working all things out for our good--which is conforming us to the image of Christ.

Does this make sense?...because this is a raw, rough, unpolished post that is little more than an attempt for me to process and remember what God is teaching me right now.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Date Night Deal

This is a great deal!  I have always wanted to check this place out!  For $180 through the link below, you get one night in a Deluxe Studio King Room, 1 bottle chilled Domaine Ste Michelle Blanc de Noir Sparkling Wine and 6 Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, In-room breakfast for 2, 2 ($25) vouchers for Glade Spring Spa, complimentary covered Valet Parking for 1 vehicle.  It's a daily special, so I believe you only have 1 day to book.  You can use the certificate up to a year (with some blackout dates).

http://livingsocial.com/deals/9643?ref=personalized-link-box-1623299&rpi=1623299


Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Gospel

I love my husband.  I love how I see God's grace in his life.  God is so good.

I absolutely loved the sermon that Kristian preached this morning.  Hearing the Gospel fills my soul with joy, peace, and hope--it never fails.  Thank you Jesus!

http://www.gracepugetsound.com/sermons/Ellefsen9-19-10.mp3

The Usual Suspects

“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist” is a famous line from the 1995 film, “The Usual Suspects”. While I am not sure this was the Devil’s greatest trick, I agree that it is a big one. In John 8, Jesus calls Satan the “father of lies”. I was just thinking about this. Below are just some examples of Satan’s LIES:



1) God does not exist.

2) It doesn’t matter whether God exists.

3) God is not good.

4) God does not care about the day to day concerns of your life—He is too busy and important for that.

5) God only cares about the day to day of your life and is waiting on standby like a genie in a bottle until you need Him next.

6) You don’t need God.

7) You really only need God for the big things.

8) Whether or not you get to heaven depends on whether you are a good person.

9) If you don’t kill or rape or commit any “big sins” then you are a good person.

10) You are a good person.

11) You are too bad for God to ever want you or to ever be able to save you.

12) Going to heaven is about avoiding hell.

13) You will have time to settle things with God later.

14) The primary objective of life is to fall in love, reproduce, amass wealth (at least enough to be comfortable), build a home, do something by which to be remembered, seek pleasure in any form and avoid pain.

15) God needs you.

16) God needs.

17) The Bible is for academics.

18) God is whoever you want him to be.

19) The Gospel is for unbelievers, not mature Christians.

20) Christians do not sin.

21) Fruit is about numbers and fame.

22) The Christian life is just about you and Jesus.

23) The Christian life is just about you and your Christian friends.

24) You are only called to love the people you like.

25) God is not in control and He is surprised by the direction of the world today.

26) God is scratching his head trying to figure out how to “fix” things now.

27) God doesn’t care about your un-reconciled relationships with other Christians.

28) When it comes to serving God, the ends justify the means.

29) You can’t forgive.

30) You can’t persevere with that person in genuine love.

31) 1 Cor 13 love is just a pretty poem that has nothing to do with the Gospel and how we live out the Gospel.

32) You will never be able to do what God is calling you to do.

33) Sometimes you have to use people to accomplish a greater good.

34) Some people don’t matter as much.

35) You are alone.

36) God doesn’t care about you.

37) God has left you.

38) Reality is only what you see.

39) The bad now is not worth the good later.

40) There is something more important for me to do today than to get to know who God (which primarily comes from His Word), to thank Him, to ask Him for direction, to ask Him for strength to do as He calls, and to love others by interceding for them in prayer.

I might elaborate on some of these (from Scripture) in an upcoming blogpost. If you would like to see me elaborate on any particular ones, please write me a comment and let me know. If you have any comments or questions on the ones I have posted above, I’d love to hear them. Also, if you have some other good examples of Satan’s lies, feel free to post them in the comments section.

We are lied to on a daily basis. Scripture calls Satan an accuser, a liar, and a deceiver. Oh, that we would be watchful for this! Oh, that we know the Word, meditate on the Word, seek to understand the Word, pray through the Word, believe the Word, so that we can recognize Satan’s lies against God’s truth which is found in the Word! Oh, that we would discipline ourselves to silence Satan’s lies. How different would my life be!! I would certainly have more joy, more strength, more hope, and more peace!!

1 Peter 5:6-11 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 8Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”


Ephesians 6:10-20 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Food For Thought--Chan, Driscoll, Harris Discussion


What's Next for Francis Chan? A Conversation with Mark Driscoll and Joshua Harris from Ben Peays on Vimeo.
I am intrigued and moved by what Francis Chan says in this interview. In the last couple years especially, I have had trouble reconciling what I see in my own heart and in American Christianity with what I see in Scripture. Worldliness, selfish (often ruthless) ambition, comfortable apathy, arrogance, materialism, legalism, vanity, partiality, and plain old lack of love are plagues in the American church (and in my heart). A really sad part of this is that many unbelievers often see these as defining qualities of the American church--they see us as "jerks for Jesus" and too often they have good cause to do so. This picture does not fit with the sincere, geninue, devoted, Spririt-produced, Spirit-powered, pursuing, sacrificial, inconvenient, difficult, and humble love that is modeled by God, poured into us by God, and ought to pour out of us to our spouses, families, church family, brothers and sisters in Christ (near and far), neighbors, unbelievers (even the ones who mock us), the poor, the broken, the opressed, the nobodies of this world, and even to our enemies. This IS the cross we are called to carry. This call inevitably involves suffering--not as an end, but as a necessary means to something infinitely greater. From what I was hearing in this interview, Chan's willingness to step back from a high profile position that garners praise, wealth, and influence sounds like it is coming from sincere, God-glorifying love for God and for his church. He sounds like a shepherd concerned for the sheep entrusted to him (and for himself)--that their hearts (and his heart) would be captivated by Jesus himself rather than the glittery distractions of this world. Chan's position also recognizes, that while God uses charasmatic preachers like him, the God of the Universe is dependant on no one.  He will advance His mission period.  Don't get me wrong--I am not saying that there is anything wrong with large churches or dynamic and popular preachers. God frequently uses these men in mighty ways.  That is not my point. I don't think that is Chan's point either. The heart reflected in Chan's words remind me of the heart behind this quote attributed to George Whitfield, who was a dynamic preacher who drew large crowds:

My brother [John] Wesley acted wisely. The souls that were awakened under his ministry he joined in class, and thus preserved the fruits of his labor. This I neglected, and my people are a rope of sand.
I hope this conversation will continue to inspire those of us in churches to consider what it is that draws us to a church, what it is that keeps us at a church, how we steward our ministry gifts while living as disciples, and how our answers to these questions fit with true love for God and true love for others.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Oh My Gosh, You Have to Check These Out!

These are pictures by Jocelyn Brown Photography.  Love them and love this family!!


Check out the rest here:

http://www.jocelynkbrownphotography.com/beautiful-life/

Check out Maggie's awesome store here:

http://www.shantyboutique.com/

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Need

People are herded into rows of confined seats, one after another. The air, if you could call it that, is stale, stuffy, and suffocating. Jolting, jerking, and jarring motions accompany our escalating speed. One of my sweaty palms fiercely grips the arm rest of my seat, and my other hand tightly grips my husband’s hand as my nails pierce his skin. Our intensifying speed abruptly divorces us from the ground. We soar further and further away...away from firmness, stability, and familiarity of the ground. My heart races, so fast that I wonder whether it will explode out of my chest. My breathing is no longer natural and effortless. I anxiously wait for the chime that will release the attendants and signify at least that all is proceeding according to plan. I anticipate with dread the side to side, the lift, and drop that disturbs the steadiness of the ride. I long for the time when my feet meet again the solidity of the earth beneath them.


I am terrified of flying.

I know it is illogical. I know that more people crash in automobiles than in airplanes, and yet I drive my car daily in complete peace. At one point in my life, I used to travel by airplane every 4 months. The airplanes in which I traveled never crashed. Yet, every time I fly, the anxiety within me has gotten worse.

I hate it.

However, there is one thing for which I am particularly grateful with regard to my fear of flying, and that is that it reminds me in a very tangible way of my need for a Savior.

It is easy to walk through life with the illusion that we are independent and self-sufficient. I feel perfectly confident in breathing in and out every second, rising in the morning, driving to work, doing my job, driving back home, preparing dinner, reading a little or talking with a friend, and starting that cycle all over again the next day. It is easy to forget that my every breath is sheer grace from my Creator who gave me breath and sustains it moment by moment. It is easy to forget that my life is a vapor and could be over in a flash. It is easy to forget that it is God’s empowering grace that enables me to get up in the morning, drive to work unharmed, do my job, interact with others, and study. When I am in an airplane, I feel like I will simply not be able to endure sitting there while my heart pounds, my mind spins, and my palms sweat. I find myself constantly praying, “God, I need you. Please help me.” Yet this same prayer is true and needed while my feet are safely on the ground.

My need for Jesus includes my need for His Body. I need brothers and sisters in Christ who will point me to Christ, who will pray for me, who will encourage me, and to whom I can confess and from whom I can receive counsel and help. Because Christ has set me free and because He is all, I can humbly walk in the light... I can be honest about my frailty, weakness, struggles, and sin. I can receive help, and He can receive glory. I was so blessed to have dear friends pray for me, encourage me, and help me before and during my flight. (My sweet family even wrote me the nicest cards to read on the plane.)

Another way that flying reminds me of my need for a Savior is because I know that my obvious fear reflects a sinful lack of trust in God. My head knows that God is good. My head knows that God will equip me for whatever situation He brings into my life. My head knows that any discomfort and even death is worth it so long as I can be with my Savior. I know this because God has proven His character to me over and over again. And yet in the air, my emotions betray my knowledge. My lack of faith is so blatantly obvious while I am flying, and for some reason it is less obvious to me while I am on the ground. In the air, my lack of faith and my frailty is exposed. I am betraying my Savior and friend by not trusting Him--the One who has demonstrated His steadfast love and trustworthiness to me over and over again like no other in my life has. My reaction to flying reminds me of the obvious truth that I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I simply do not live by the faith that I ought.

Flying reminds me that I never stop needing Jesus. Becoming a Christian does not change the fact that I need Him for every moment of every day. I cannot do anything, good or bad, apart from His Sovereign permission. I cannot do anything good without His empowering grace. I cannot stand in His Pure and Righteous presence given my past, present, and future sins, apart from the work of the cross—where Jesus paid for each of those sins and washed me clean, so that I can enjoy fellowship with our Pristine God. And until the day when Christ’s sanctifying work in me is complete, I need His constant healing, forgiveness, and help. And when His sanctifying work in me is complete, I will need Him then too because He will be my sun, the source of my delight. I love how this song reflects our reality until that day:

“The River”

By Brian Doerksen

To the river I am going
Bringing sins I cannot bear
Come and cleanse me, come forgive me
Lord I need to meet you there

In these waters, healing mercy
Flows with freedom from despair
I am going, to that river
Lord I need to meet you there

Precious Jesus, I am ready
To surrender every care
Take my hand now, lead me closer
Lord I need to meet you there

Come and join us, in the river
Come find life beyond compare
He is calling, He is waiting
Jesus longs to meet you there.
I am so grateful that my God remembers that I am dust.  I am so grateful that He is the most loving Father I can imagine, and He shows compassion and affection to me daily.  I am so grateful that He wants me to come to Him with all my cares and needs.  And He does meet me!

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!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Today


There is so much in this life that we cannot see. We cannot see how the past affects the future. While we have experienced in some measure the comfort, joy, and fulfillment of God’s promises in Christ, we haven’t experienced the completeness of this fulfillment—and we await this eagerly. One day, He will wipe away every tear. One day, we will be free of the sin that entangles us. One day, this light and momentary affliction will not be fit to be remembered in light of the weight of glory we will experience. One day, the lion will lay down with the lamb. One day, war and strivings will cease. One day, friends and enemies will be reconciled. One day, we will see the full of effects of glory to God in the Highest and peace among men upon whom His favor rest. One day, we will be with Him with no barriers whatsoever and He will satisfy us so much that we will never doubt or fear again. Today, we have the promises. Today, we remember from what He has delivered us. Today, we remember what we can understand of His faithfulness. Today, we take Him at His Word, because He has demonstrated that we can trust Him. Today, we worship Him because we have caught a glimpse of His beauty and majesty and even that glimpse has been marvelous beyond anything we have ever seen. Today, we discipline our feeble hearts and minds to go back to His Word and remember just Who He is! Today, we remind ourselves that what we see today with our eye, is not all there is. Even as we live between the here and then, we seek to see Him with the eyes of our heart today, because the Majestic One is with us here, today.

Isaiah 26:3-4


“You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
4 Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.”

I love this from Matthew Henry’s commentary on Psalm 56:
II. He encourages himself in God, and in his promises, power, and providence, v. 3, 4. In the midst of his complaints, and before he has said what he has to say of his enemies, he triumphs in the divine protection. 1. He resolves to make God his confidence, then when dangers were most threatening and all other confidences failed: "What time I am afraid, in the day of my fear, when I am most terrified from without and most timorous within, then I will trust in thee, and thereby my fears shall be silenced." Note, There are some times which are, in a special manner, times of fear with God's people; in these times it is their duty and interest to trust in God as their God, and to know whom they have trusted. This will fix the heart and keep it in peace. 2. He resolves to make God's promises the matter of his praises, and so we have reason to make them (v. 4): "In God I will praise, not only his work which he has done, but his word which he has spoken; I will give him thanks for a promise, though not yet performed. In God (in his strength and by his assistance) I will both glory in his word and give him the glory of it." Some understand by his word his providences, every event that he orders and appoints: "When I speak well of God I will with him speak well of every thing that he does." 3. Thus supported, he will bid defiance to all adverse powers: "When in God I have put my trust, I am safe, I am easy, and I will not fear what flesh can do unto me; it is but flesh, and cannot do much; nay, it can do nothing but by divine permission." As we must not trust to an arm of flesh when it is engaged for us, so we must not be afraid of an arm of flesh when it is stretched out against us.


Psalm 56


Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
2 my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.


3 When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.


4 In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?


5 All day long they injure my cause;
all their thoughts are against me for evil.


6 They stir up strife, they lurk;
they watch my steps,
as they have waited for my life.


7 For their crime will they escape?
In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!


8 You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?


9 Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.


This I know, that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the LORD, whose word I praise,


11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
12 I must perform my vows to you, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.


13 For you have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.



Thursday, August 5, 2010

Great Post on Prayer from DesiringGod.org

http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/2585_praying_the_6_ds/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DGBlog+%28DG+Blog%29
Praying the 6 "D's"


August 5, 2010
By: Jon Bloom
Category: Commentary

A few years back I wrote about the 5 "D's" I pray for daily. Recently, I added a sixth: desperation. I need to feel continually my desperate need for God.

Whatever it takes, Lord, give me...

Delight in you as the greatest treasure of my heart.
Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
Desire to know you, be with you, and seek your kingdom above all else. Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
Discernment that comes from a renewed mind that I might know your will.
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:14)

Desperation because when I stop feeling my need for you I tend to wander.
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. (Psalm 119:67)

Discipline to plan for what I discern as your will.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)

Diligence to do your will with all my heart.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Galatians and the Message

These passages in the Message's interpretation of Galatians got me thinking about attitudes, heart, and actions that sadly too often characterize those of us in the church (think ego; think exchanging the freedom we have in Christ for the yoke of fearing/pleasing other Christians and/or not upseting non-Christians; think living for the wrong thing; think not keeping the main thing the main thing; think living for what is seen instead of what is unseen; think of living out of selfish ambition/performance rather than love; think an unwillingness to risk that stems from a lack of love for God and others, etc.).  It's convicting.

Gal 1:10... Do you think I speak this strongly in order to manipulate crowds? Or curry favor with God? Or get popular applause? If my goal was popularity, I wouldn't bother being Christ's slave. Know this—I am most emphatic here, friends—this great Message I delivered to you is not mere human optimism. I didn't receive it through the traditions, and I wasn't taught it in some school. I got it straight from God, received the Message directly from Jesus Christ.

Galatians 2:6...As for those who were considered important in the church, their reputation doesn't concern me. God isn't impressed with mere appearances, and neither am I.

Galatians 2:19-21 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn't work. So I quit being a "law man" so that I could be God's man. Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God's grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Another Cool Post from Peacemakers.net and Paul Tripp


http://bookstore.peacemaker.net/blog/?p=650&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Route59+%28Route+5%3A9%29


Forgiveness is an Investment: What it Costs

Published by Molly Friesen at 9:59 am under Forgiveness

Following up on my Monday post about the dark “benefits” of unforgiveness, Paul Tripp goes on to explain that “forgiveness is an investment in your relationship with God and in your relationship with one another. As with all investments, there is cost involved. In any investment you make, your concern is that the return will be greater than the cost” (95).

So, what are the costs involved? Tripp lists a handful of costs, along with a full paragraph of explanation for each. I’ll include an excerpt of each explanation, but it’s certainly worth reading in full.

Forgiveness requires humility. ”When we stand in the center of our own universe with nothing more important to us than ourselves, we find nothing more offensive than a sin against us … Nobody gives grace better than someone who is convinced he needs it as well.”

Forgiveness requires compassion. ”Compassion is being moved by the plight of another, coupled with action to help him or her. Husbands and wives, does compassion ever grip you when your spouse sins against you? … You forgive [him or her] because, by God’s grace, you look at [him or her] through tender, rather than judgmental, eyes.”


Forgiveness requires trust. “Forgiveness is not so much an act of faith in your spouse as it is an act of faith in God.”


Forgiveness requires self-control. ”If you are going to forgive your spouse for committing a sin against you, you must say no to yourself, exercising the self-control that only God is able to give you. To forgive, you have to say no to bitterness… to the desire to lash out with angry words and actions of vengeance … [and] to the impulse to share your anger with a relative or friend.”


Forgiveness requires sacrifice. “Forgiveness requires that we be willing to let go of our desire for safety and comfort and the surface peace of silence, and, as an act of faith, that we endure what we do not want to face in order for the other to be helped and our relationship to be reconciled.”

Forgiveness requires remembering. “Perhaps a lifestyle of unforgiveness is rooted in the sin of forgetfulness. We forget that there is not a day in our lives that we do not need to be forgiven… When you remember, when you carry with you a deep appreciation for the grace that you have been given, you’ll have a heart that is ready to forgive.”


From Paul Tripp "What Did You Expect: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage", pages 95-97