Stop pouring out your wine.

Last week, Brad House, our community life pastor, preached on John 2:1-11 where Jesus turned water into wine. You can listen to the sermon here:

“Water into Wine,” Brad House, Sojourn Community Church

There were so many great points he preached on in this sermon, but for me, I was coming to church that Sunday with anger and bitterness. Kevin and I had gotten into an argument the night before which carried on to the morning– to be honest I can’t even remember what it was about now– and prior the that I had been feeling very closed off to Kevin and to the Lord. I was seeing my hard heart and it was condemning me, making me feel like I needed to muster up my affections for both God and Kevin. I was stuck and frustrated.

Halfway through the sermon, Pastor House transitioned from teaching on Jesus’ miracle to reveal how we ought to respond to it: Receive the grace of Jesus. At the wedding, Jesus took the time to bless the guests when they ran out of wine. And just when we are about to run out of joy and hope, Jesus invites us into a life of joy with God. We don’t need to bring anything to the party, he supplies it all- our righteousness, justification, and our joy. He says, “Go, have fun, and enjoy what I’ve given you.”

But we have a tendency to revert back to earning the love of God. We want the stone jars God fills with 20 gallons of wine because it gives us something to pour out and fill back with water. We want to resist the blessings that God freely gives us, and try to purify ourselves. We need to acknowledge that we have nothing in our hands to bring, to put our trust in him, and celebrate the grace we’ve been given!

 

Ok, so how did I respond to this charge? I completely ignored it! My mind shifted to communion and how I didn’t feel like I could receive it that Sunday. I was still feeling bitterness toward Kevin and I wasn’t ready to let go of it and work through it. WHY?!? Why couldn’t I just accept the forgiveness of sin I’ve been given? Why couldn’t I acknowledge the righteousness Jesus gave me? Why couldn’t I trust in the ways Jesus was working in my marriage and in my hopeless heart? Instead, I poured out my wine! I didn’t feel free to just enjoy the grace of God and enter into communion with him.

So my reminder to myself, and you, today is to receive the free, undeserved grace of God and enjoy it. Jesus has justified you by his death, and has given you his righteousness. Drink your wine.

 

thankful for this prayer today.

     And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20
     Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Ps. 51:12
     “Dear heavenly Father, thankfully, I’m not beginning this day in a far away country, derelict and destitute—a re-enactment of the younger son’s plight (Luke 15). Though I’m capable of anything, I’m not filled with shame for squandering an inheritance, and neither am I out in a field feeding somebody else’s pigs. I’m in a comfortable chair, sipping a fresh cup of coffee, surrounded by more than my share of creature comforts. And yet I’m just as much in need of fellowship with you as any of your beloved children.
     Because the gospel is true, I bring you my busy, not-very-well-focused, somewhat meandering heart. I feel like a third son right now. I’m not struggling with the extremes of either of the sons in Luke 15. I’m not acting out in destructive “fleshy” ways, and I’m not presently throwing myself a self-righteous pity party. I’m just somewhere in between. I still hear and love the wonderful music of the gospel, but I just don’t feel like dancing right now.
     So, Father, as I come to you today, I take great comfort in knowing that I’ll always find you filled with compassion for me, even when my feelings are not fully engaged with you. As I saunter toward you, you’re always running toward me in Jesus. As I’m glad to see you, you see me from afar and are thrilled at the sighting. I believe this, help my unbelief.
     When I’m not as inclined to lift my arms in praise to you, your embrace is the most predictable element in my day. You don’t just put your hand on my shoulder; you throw your arms around me in the gospel. And though my love for you wavers, you will shower me with multiple kisses all day long, for you love your children with an everlasting, unwavering love.
     Because the gospel is true, I’ll seek to live to your glory today, neither by sight nor by my feelings, but by the faith you’ve given me to trust and love you. It’s not my grasp of you but your grasp of me in the gospel that matters the most. It’s not the enjoyment of my peace with you, but the assurance that you’re at peace with me that’s the anchor for my soul. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name.”

thoughts on being slow to speak & hope that hurts.

This year has been a slow year for visible growth in my christian life. I have been filling up journals more slowly and dissecting less of the bible than I have in previous seasons of life. And most times when people ask, I can not put my finger on one tangible thing that I am “learning” about the scriptures or about the Lord. This has really challenged my definition of sanctification, and I have bounced between pride and guilt many times as I try to figure out what it means to be “doing well.” As I mentioned before on my post on learning about forgiveness, most of my change has been inward, matters of my heart. One thing I keep coming back to is being slow to speak and quick to listen (James 1:19).

Moving to Sojourn made me feel like a small fish in a big pond. Surrounded by seminary students, godly women much older than me, and people from different life experiences than my own, I felt insecure of the “wisdom” I used to so flippantly share with other women. Two instances I can remember: the first when I was meeting with a friend who was married. She was sharing with me about the way her husband was leading their family and some hard things they were struggling through. I realized what an influence my words could have in that moment! I could have led her to distrust her husband’s leadership and create disunity in their marriage–the very way God didn’t want her to respond in this trial. How much weight and responsibility I hold with the words or counsel I choose! In another instance, I was on a panel for college students speaking about marriage, dating, friendship, and accountability relationships. The other girls on my panel were older and wiser than I, certainly knowing the bible better. My self-consciousness ended up being the Holy Spirit, guiding me to be thoughtful with my words, backing them up with scripture, and being open-handed with many of the gray life issues being discussed (instead of saying “this is what we did so you should do it this way too”). This year has taught me how to comfort a struggling friend instead of preach at them, what wisdom is purely from my own experience but isn’t “the only way,” and when to simply keep my mouth shut when I don’t know what God is up to (Prov. 17:28).

On the flip side, I have been more aware of when people are hasty to offer encouragement or advice (Prov. 29:20). This year I have shared with a few people the struggles Kevin and I face in our marriage. At times, it has felt as though our situation were hopeless. I have seen with many well-meaning people, that they simply don’t know how to give good hope. I know that I have been one of these people many times! We listen to the burdens and struggles others are facing, and then we try to simply tag on “hope” to the end of the conversation. We share with them the hope that Jesus is making all things new and the kingdom of God that is coming someday, and we force it into every desperate situation…and then we don’t understand when they aren’t encouraged! Don’t get me wrong, these truths are right and good to remember, but can be handled in a harmful way. The writer of Proverbs says, “whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes away a garment on a cold day… (Prov. 25:20).” These joyful truths, verses, or “gospel nuggets,” can often seem trite and simple, and our friend may wonder if we were really trying to understand or sympathize with their situation. All the comfort they received from us simply listening was snatched away.

CCEF’s Winston Smith, in “How Hope Hurts” writes, “Hope is not something to be tagged onto at the end of a counseling session.” So how do we speak into those difficult situations? How can we practice being slow to speak in a situation that doesn’t need to be and can’t be “quickly fixed?” “To give good hope is to love well,” he says. Listen, show sympathy, weep with those who weep. The kind of hope they need comes from the present, everyday faith in God’s grace in the midst of our trials, teaching us how to preserver and love in a difficult situation. When my friend’s or my own marriage is in a hard place, hope means learning to believe that God is bigger than our mistakes, sin, weaknesses, and is in fact using them to make our marriages more beautiful! It also means reminding each other that growth and change needs faith that Jesus will help every step of the way and give us the strength we need for the concrete action to endure and extend love.

 

Just some thoughts…

Give Them Grace: Introduction

 

**Preface: Everything I write on this topic is simply restating the information. I am still figuring out what I think about this topic and more specifically, I don’t have kids. Feel free to post your reactions/questions/ or personal experiences!

 

 

What makes our parenting distinctly “Christian?”

We are not perfect parents and we don’t have perfect kids. But to remedy our mutual imperfections isn’t more law, even if it seems to produce tidy or polite children. Kids will use the law the same way we do—ignore it, bend it, or obey it outwardly from a selfish heart. This is for certain: they won’t obey it from the heart. They can’t. This is why Jesus had to die. Christian children and their parents don’t need to learn to be “nice”. They need death and resurrection and a Savior who has done before them as a faithful high priest, who lived and died perfectly in their place. They need a savior who extends the offer of complete forgiveness, complete righteousness, and indissolvable adoption to all who believe.

The funny thing is, we all know the gospel and share it with girls we disciple or non-Christian co-workers. On our blogs or in triad, we share our war against trusting in our own goodness. But something happens when we begin training miniature unbelievers in our own home. We forget the deadliness of relying on our own righteousness and we teach that the Bible and Christianity is all about their behavior and how because of it, “God is happy” or “God is sad” on any given day. And we wonder why there are so many nominal Christians in the world who base their standing with God on their moral life choices and a prayer they prayed once at Sunday school when they asked Jesus into their heart. Or we wonder why so many good meaning parents raise children who end up denying the faith or rebelling as soon as they can. I mean, who would want to deny himself, lay down his life, or suffer for something as boring as “Say your sorry,” or “be nice,” or “don’t hang around them.” Is that the message that has both empowered and caused persecution to the church for the past 2000 years?

The grace that has been lavished on us through Christ ought to make our parenting or teaching radically different. At the deepest level of what we do, we should hear the heartbeat of a loving, grace-giving father who freely adopts rebels and transforms them into loving sons and daughters (and that includes us adults who don’t have it all together either). We can’t save ourselves any more than we can save our children. And that is why we need to share the gospel, the message of salvation. God will use us as we give grace to our children, but salvation is entirely from the faithful, soul-transforming, blood-covering, One.

 

Sounds like the pendulum is swinging in the opposite direction? You may be asking “So….what about my kid’s obedience?”Answer: I don’t know. TBA!

New Series: Give them Grace.

I am going to begin a second running series tracking my thoughts on the book, “Give Them Grace: Dazzling your kids with the Love of Jesus” by Elyse Fitzpatrick. I picked this book up at Fitzpatrick’s women’s conference hosted by Sojourn in August. I would say that it is by far the most controversial books I’ve ever read and when I say controversial, I don’t mean in our christian circles but in our hearts.

Of course we would never say that we want our kids (or the kids we teach) to grow up to be little moralists. We would never claim that they will go to heaven because of what they do. The problem of moralism, or “being a good person,” is the very pattern that enslaves us and is so hard for us to undo. It is the very problem that evangelical churches preach AGAINST every Sunday: nothing you do will please God or make you right with him.

So if we want to keep our children from a life of works-based righteousness and trying to earn the approval of God and if we want them to fully love and trust the God of grace through the cross of Christ, how are we supposed to discipline, rebuke, and train? How are we supposed to tell our child “stop” or “listen” when they do not understand the very gospel that makes them free to obey? Do we tell our unregenerate children that God is pleased with them because they shared a crayon or bowed their head for a mealtime prayer, when the bible clearly says that anyone who does not trust in the finished work of Christ, but rather submits to the burden of the law will be killed by it; a child of wrath in the eyes of God?

But are we supposed to just let our children do whatever they want, disrespect authority, and be hurtful to others until they become a believer? Don’t we still want our children to be “good?”

Yikes is right.

This book has been confusing, convicting, challenging, and beautiful. It impresses a heavy weight on the call to parenting and ensures that every moment is an opportunity to lead your child to legalism or to the gospel of grace and thus, the feet of Jesus. Fitzpatrick has been undoing much of what I thought it meant to “train a child.” Hopefully, as I stumble through this book, my thoughts and questions can be insightful, a blessing, and a springboard to conversation. Stay tuned!

thank you @stephjamison.

Just started reading Dr. Helen Roseveare’s book, Living Faith: Willing to be Stirred as a Pot of Paint. Steph sent it to me about a week ago in response a former blog post I wrote and I was blown away by her thoughtfulness. The past few days I have been so thankful for that book! I feel like it is exactly what I need to hear, yet am so resistant to hear at the same time.

She talks about just as a pot of paint has to be stirred all the way to the bottom of the can until all of its separations, hardened layers, and discolorations can become one consistency, one color, and ready to applied to a white wall- the purpose for which it was designed. This stirring can’t be done only once, it has to be done daily until the job is done.

She proposes that our lives as Christians are the same. We must be willing to be stirred in whatever ways Gods has planned for us; stirred to the bottom of our innermost beings, until no solid, secular matter remains from the liquid, spiritual life. It is when we are being constantly, and sometimes painfully, stirred, that we know God is applying and using us for the purpose and works he created us in advance to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). All of this is very basic, I know, but how many of us are really genuine in our prayers to “stirred?” Sure, we pray, “God, send me!” or “God, change me!” or “God, make my like more…” but secretly we mean, “God, send me (as long as you don’t ask me to go here….or to leave these people…..or to miss out on this….) and God, change me (but please don’t do it this way….or take away this in the process…).

And so while I am here in Louisville, without a lot of direction for ministry, relationships, or opportunities to teach, I know that I am in the “stirring” process (as we always are) until I see God starting to apply me in this city. I am encouraged in this: “it is by the faith of the Son of God indwelling in me that I am assured that God has a place for me. It is by this same faith that I grow to realize that outside of God’s prepared place, there is no ultimate satisfaction or peace of heart for me. And so, I desire to be led into his will for my life, unconditionally surrendered for obedience to his will.”

So go ahead and stir me, God. I do care what it costs…and I’ve already felt the discomfort of the cost thus far…but stir me all the same, God.

If you are in a stage of uncertainty or transition, I especially recommend this book! Thanks again, Steph!

harmony?

It’s funny how quickly the “honeymoon” phase of dating and engagement ends after the honeymoon. Whether the weeks leading up the a wedding are smooth and giddy, or exposing and weighty, something triggers after you get back from your whirlwind vacation of love. Somewhere in-between finding places for the boxes of clothes you’ve never seen eachother wear and running endless errands to banks, supermarkets, and Bed Bath & Beyond’s return line, sin and satan make those initial commandments you pledged in your vows, really really difficult to obey.

Ephesians 5 says, “Wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord (v. 22).” To men Paul commands, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…and love your wives as your own bodies (v. 25 &28).”

I’ve been thinking about the duties that scripture presents a lot. Both are commands of love, but have respective differences for each man and woman. In the scripture above, woman are called to submit, or be reverent towards their husbands. Other verses use the word “love” from the greek word, “philo,” referring to warm affection and respect (Titus 2, Eph 5:33). On the other hand, husbands are called to love, “agape,” their wives with a self-sacrificing service.

In Douglas Wilson’s book, Reforming Marriage, he points out that there is a harmony between what God requires and what we both need to give and to receive. Here is what he says, and you can tell me if you agree or disagree…

First, “the commands are given to our repective weakness in the perfomance of our duties.” Wilson claims that woman are fully capable of loving a man and sacrificing for him all day, while still complaining about him and believing he is a jerk. A man may try to love his wife by not giving trouble to her and “checking out.” So the pitfall for many marriages are for woman to slave for their husbands and households, but hold a posture of grumbling and disrespect toward them, and for men to turn to  apathy- both substitute the “love” God commands in scripture for the love that their sinful nature finds easy to give. But God calls us to be sanctified in our love, and thus, targets our weaknesses. Already I’ve seen this play out in myself. I can go all day cleaning, organizing the apartment, sweating in laundromats, and washing dishes, but is my posture toward Kevin respect and affection? No, lately its been annoyance and bickering…even if he isn’t doing anything to deserve an annoyed wife.

Second, “the commands have been given in regard to our respective needs.” The ways he commands man and woman to love one another serve the ways the other needs to be loved. For example, if wives are called to respect their husbands, that means men need respect. Likewise, woman need to be loved and feel secure. Wilson says “we are often like a man who gave his wife a shotgun for Christmas because he wanted one.” We default to give the love we want to receive from another. Instead, Wilson challenges wives are to focus on the abilities and achievements of her husband and communicate (verbally and non-verbally) that she respects and honors him. Men are to provide for, nourish, cherish, and secure his love and faithfulness for his wife. Obviously this doesn’t mean wives should stop taking care of the laundry or cooking if that is the role that she typically plays in a home, but may she never confuse the respect her husband needs for a clean bathroom.

So in my sinful struggle (already) to be affectionate and respectful toward Kevin in the monotony of the day-to-day, may we remember that we are called to love, not necessarily because the other has earned it, but because God has required it. Anyway, God requires our spouses to render to us far more than any of us deserve. Amen.

Surgical Strike

“If you see Jesus Christ taking our disordered rage at infinite cost to himself, then you see the ultimate surgical strike- he loved the sinner but hated the sin, forgave our sin so he could embrace the sinner–and if you are melted by the knowledge, stunned into silence, by how he responded to our disordered rage, then when other people wrong you, you can do the same. You can say “hey, I’ve been wronged, but I wronged God, and at infinite cost he responded with cosmic gentleness and I can’t do anything other than that.

When you experience the ultimate surgical strike–loving the sinner and hating the sin–then you will be freed to turn around and do it yourself.” -Tim Keller, The Healing of Anger

Do we enjoy beholding Christ now as we see dimly?

This summer, the sermon Worth of Christ & Incessant_Worship, by Stephen Venable was the hype among my community.  If you haven’t listened to it, you should. It will leave you encouraged, challenged, and stirred up in your affections for Christ.

Anyway. So I’m reading though Isaiah.

{Side Note: I know if you read this, you know I haven’t blogged in a while…I think it’s because I couldn’t exactly put a finger on what I was learning…I read John, 2 timothy, 2 Thessalonians, Daniel, and now Isaiah, and seriously all I keep seeing is how glorious the character of God is, yet how faithful he is to me despite my sin. I’ve been seeing that Jesus is infinitely and inexcusably worthy of our complete worship. This means, that as believers, we are called to live lives grabbing hold of the power of God within us and, in that, eagerly putting to death sin and living for the sake of the glory of Christ.  This semester thus far has been evidence of God’s supernatural provision in my life; sustaining my desire to seek him and know him. Praise God. I think I can say with confidence that the past three months have been the most “consistent” emotionally and spiritually that my walk has been in a year. If anyone is even reading this, pray that God would will this season to continue that I would grow in faith that Jesus is the most satisfying and trustworthy thing I could ever worship. That way, when big trails come again, my hope would be steadfast and unshakable. Thank you.}

So back to Isaiah. Today I read chapter 6. This is where the Stephen V sermon comes in (see above)- listen to it.

1In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

4And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

6Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Some thoughts:

-what would it look like for christ to be exulted over everything in our lives? (Col. 1:17-18)

-what is central and supreme in your life? are there important things in your life that need to become (still important but) SECONDARY? (Phil. 4:7-8)

-“If your heart takes more pleasure in reading novels, or watching TV, or going to the movies, or talking to friends, rather than just sitting alone with God and embracing Him, sharing His cares and His burdens, weeping and rejoicing with Him, then how are you going to handle forever and ever in His presence…? You’d be bored to tears in heaven, if you’re not ecstatic about God now!” Keith Green
…so in other words, if you don’t enjoy dwelling in the presence of God now (when you can see him dimly) what makes you think you will enjoy heaven when you can see him fully in his glory?

-the seriphin’s testimony is that Christ’s unending glory warrants their unending praise. They have never had a single sin forgiven but worship God solely upon who he is. Why do we worship and give him glory?

I fear I live too much thinking that God exists for me instead of me existing for him. I live my life too often thinking that when God blesses me with good time in the word, provides for my financial needs, brings me out of a hard season, etc…then I will worship him. While salvation, sanctification, and evidences of grace are all gifts from God because he loves me and calls me his daughter, I feel as though this can not be my primary motivation for worship.  OH how they fan the flame of my affections and add to the wonder of God’s already perfect justice and grace! But even an unregenerate soul desires happiness, health, and to not burn in hell.  The angels in Isaiah 6 worshipped unceasingly and Jesus never did a thing for them. The atmosphere of heaven never changes for them. They never experience grace, love, fruits of the spirit, adoption as sons, marriage, children, and so on…yet their unceasingly song and ultimate end is glory to God. Why? Simply because of who he is: the divine son of God, who made us and who is upholding us. And from him, we have experienced grace upon grace– How much MORE ought our worship be than the angels!? God is worthy to be worshipped and we are infinitely blessed, church. Thus, let us behold him.

4 One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)

Triune God- like the seriphin see, reveal more of your glory to us so that we may see you more clearly! I am praying that this motivation of Your glory would bear down and shape our community. That we would stop being people who attribute worth to a person, find worth in a friend, or exult ourselves above other brothers and sisters.  But instead, Jesus, make us people who go low and seek to find worth in you and exult you above everything else in our lives. Be our treasure.

Band-aids for Heart Disease?

I’ve been reading Scotty Smith’s, The Reign of Grace. It’s been refreshing to say the least. In the chapter I read today Scotty addressed those of us who try to heal wounds lightly, beginning with our own.

What does it mean to “heal wounds lightly”? Scotty gives a diagnosis-

•    Extending the free offer of grace without extending an equally clear call for repentance of sin.
•    Maximizing warnings against performance-based spirituality while minimizing teaching on grace-empowered change.
•    Proclaiming the delights of God’s love without being just as faithful in proclaiming love’s demands.
•    Being quicker to apply the balm of the gospel to relieve heart-felt pain than the power of the gospel to overthrow heart-invading idols.
•    Confirming the comfort of God’s mercy to those with a greater need for the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
•    Highlighting the horrors of legalism more than extolling the beauty of holiness.
•    Celebrating God’s fatherly affection while marginalizing his fatherly disciple.
•    Deconstructing merit-based discipleship programs without reconstructing godly alternatives.

After reading this list, I was extremely convicted by my tendency to offer easy words, council or encouragement to those whose hearts are hurting- including my own! In the noisy chaos and the painful realities of our world, it is so easy to prescribe our diseased hearts and the hearts of others around us with an incomplete, “band-aid-like” gospel. It is so easy to be like the ministers in Jeremiah 6:14-

“They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, Peace!’ they say, when there is no peace.”

But God’s grace “isnt just an empathetic gathering for hurting hearts; its no mere pep rally for the glad-to-be-forgiven; its way more than a support system for recovering legalists. It’s a reign through righteousness unto eternal life (Rom. 5:20-21)” -Scotty Smith

I feel like I have come out on the other side of a season that was particularly painful and difficult. There were times then when the feelings of sadness, anger, emptiness, jealously, worthlessness were so unsettled that I thought I would never be freed. But I realized that while God did the heart surgery to remove my idols, I was not moving toward him in obedience to let him restore and fill those voids with himself. I was seeking quick healing and easy words to give me a false sense of peace when what I really needed were the bold words of truth and reality all culminating to expose the redemptive drama that my life was apart of: Jesus, taking my pervasive unrighteousness and changing me into an “oak of righteousness” (Isaiah 61); displaying his grace and his glory! Amen!

So in our communities, with the girls we disciple, in our bible studies, and in our own quiet, intimate time with the Lord, let us press on to know and give the grace of Christ that transforms and brings true, lasting peace.