“The key to seeing the gospel is to despair of your own efforts” – Dustin Kensrue
Needed this today. And every day. All the time.
I must die so that I might live in Christ.
“The key to seeing the gospel is to despair of your own efforts” – Dustin Kensrue
Needed this today. And every day. All the time.
I must die so that I might live in Christ.
I doubt God’s goodness more often than I want to admit.
I believe that God is good but I live expecting the worst. Recently there have been circumstances God has surprised me by them not working out the way I thought. They were better. And given God’s nature to be good, steadfast, faithful and all together perfect, I should expect Him to have more positive and life-giving outcomes of things He is involved in, including the things in my life.
Then why, given what I know that about God, why do I expect so little? Why is it more comfortable to not expect much?
I think because I also know depravity of man. I have felt it’s sting, been under it’s wrath. I let the pain of suffering weight in too heavily into the argument. Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s all I hear. But when I allow the reality of evil in the world to be bigger than the steadfast, righteous and good God I worship, the King over the world, I am degrading His glory. I am stripping him of what he deserves: All my faith, all my worship and all my trust. Cause God wins. At times it might not feel it, at times I feel stuck in the mud or endlessly wandering the desert valley, but in the end He wins. And he already won and I am supposed to live in the knowledge of that. I think this is why God says:
“But let him who boasts, boast in this – that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
So I want to repent of this preparation. The readying myself for situations in preparation for the worst. I trust too heavily in my instinct and ability to read people and to protect myself from harm. But God, even the pain and the discipline you bring me under when I enter your presence, I see the end. I see you as good, and therefore the pain as good to me. I cannot believe you, without experiencing your goodness. Help me not run from your discipline, or hide from your reprove, for to me I would rather stay under the Hand of God than to run into the unknown where God is not.
But sometimes, you don’t choose suffering to grow me. Sometimes you choose joy! I will rejoice in that! You are so much better than I give you credit for. You are incredible. No situation or struggle you bring me through is thoughtless or without purpose. But you also choose to bless, grow, breathe life into dead bodies, break bonds and set captives free. You care about my good and the good of your children. I don’t need to prepare. I don’t need to self protect. I need to lean. Lean into the Spirit…. Lean into You. You knew that blessing would remind me that I can trust you. You can handle this – You have got this perfectly figured out. You do not need my help. You want my heart and soul.
So I am just freaking thankful. Thankful that God loves me enough to remind me of his goodness. That although his plans include suffering, his goodness and power is ever present and I can continually trust.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10
“All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.” Psalm 25:10
“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 36:7
“No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11
Beholding God is more important than figuring your sin out. God can do a better job at that anyway. If you abide in Him, he will work out your sanctification – In his time, by his power, in perfect conviction and perfect grace. Beholding the one who is Love and Truth must produce fruit simply because you cannot behold something so good and not be changed.
Lord – Is there anything you want to speak to my soul? I do not want to manipulate you or use you. You will not be used. I do not want to fake it or twist it. You deserve my worship and my all.
So here I am.
I loved last night how Timothy Keller said – “ If you seek happiness more than you seek me, you will have neither; if you seek to serve me more than serve happiness, you will have both” (The Meaning of Marriage). How true is that! I have first hand experience of trying to fix my mood and it getting worse and worse!
I don’t want anything but you.
My heart and flesh war against my spirit but you give me a new heart that longs for you. That, although tempted, only wants you. Help me trust you, Jesus. Help me trust you in my temptations. Trust you with my heart. I believe the lie that I can control my heart and flesh… but it’s only by submission to your Spirit that I find FREEDOM! Amen!
Take my heart – use it. May I love you more than life. I have searched the world and found only you to be the one that satisfies my soul. That gives meaning to the chaos. To my life. Open me up, I am broken before you. Take me – I am yours. You are my rock, redeemer, friend. Help me rest in your sweet mercy and grace. Help me bathe in your presence. The essence of who you are is perfection. I am utterly amazed. If I am overcome by you, what else matters? If my heart is in your hands, who can harm me? You have the words of life. Living water that never runs dry. I will speak of your goodness forever. I will worship you all the days of my life. My cup will never run dry. You are it. You are all. You are MY all in all.
I have only but to sit and be amazed.
The Psalm came to mind as I was praying – It includes some of my favorite verses as a well as the lyrics to one of my favorite Rich Mullins song’s “Nothing is Beyond You”. (Yes – bringing it back old school).
O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.
O that You would slay the wicked, O God;
Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.
For they speak against You wickedly,
And Your enemies take Your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
I hate them with the utmost hatred;
They have become my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
Vulnerable (Adj) – capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon: a vulnerable part of the body.
Why Does the Gospel Provide a Way for and Call Us to be Vulnerable?
I have never met anyone who likes to be completely honest and vulnerable all the time. I think most of the time we are afraid because of our need to control and/or in an effort to protect something other than God. Being vulnerable makes us open to get hurt by people who want to harm you, or even worst, by the people you love. It feels, at times, like there is so much at stake. What is never at stake in being vulnerable is your standing before, relationship with and love from God. In fact, the more open and honest we are before a loving God, the more we are shielded from the attack of the enemy and others. I want to explore why being a follower of Christ invites us into constant vulnerability with God and with others.
1 . The Gospel Requires Need
The gospel is all about need. It’s grounded in the fact that we need a Savior. Our first ‘parents’, Adam and Eve, chose to be their own ‘gods’ in the garden, rejecting God’s plan of intimate relationship and trusted in themselves, choosing something outside of the safety of a relationship with their Creator. We have lived with the consequences of that first sin since, as now all man are born into sin, desiring to be their own gods. God, in his great love for us, even with the weight of our rejection, sent his Son to die, making a way for us to be united to him once more. The gospel is the good news that we have a Savior who has wiped away the sins of the world. Now we must, in response, die to ourselves (our trust in our own “lordship” of our lives), trust and follow the only trustworthy One who is able to provide for all our needs. We walk in a new understanding that we cannot do it alone. The foundation of our faith is based on the need for a Savior to save us from ourselves. Saving requires an admission of weakness.
2 . The Gospel Calls us to Community
i. God is in Community within the Trinity
ii. Honesty in Community is a protection against Pride
iii. Image of God is complete in the Body not in one part (i.e. you)
iv. Call to love your Brother/Sister requires knowing and being known
v. Unity is God’s chosen way to display his glory to the World
3. The Gospel is about Truth
4 . Living in Honest Relationships in Community is Evidence of Personal Fellowship with God
5 . Hiding/Shame began at the first Sin of Adam & Eve
The primary desire to be “needless” is to be your own god – contrary to a intimate, dependent relationship with God.
The type of relationship God had always planned for his people was intimate. Before the Fall, God walked in all His glory among Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen. 3:8). God chosen people, Israel, although penetrated with sin (unable to commune with a holy God), was accompanied by the holiness of God in the middle of their tents in the wilderness. God made a way through the law for them to dwell together. GOD chose to come down and dwell with them. And of course the ultimate proof of God’s desire to be with his people is sending “God with us” our Savior Jesus Christ when we were enemies to die for our sins, making a direct way to commune with the Father. Jesus is our physical representation of the invisible God. On top of that, he sent part of Himself – the Holy Spirit – to indwell us. Like literally inside of us! Is it clear yet? God wants to be with us. Not an image of ourselves, our cleaned up version or our sacrifices. He wants us. Our hearts. Our failures. Our victories. Our desires.
Besides the ridiculousness of this reality that God would want to be with us (given who we are), God knows He is the only solution that will satisfy our wandering and needy hearts. His presence, His peace, His forgiveness, and just plain old – Himself. So who else should hold our brokenness, our weakness, failures and faults but the one who forgave, absorbed them in the greatest act of love that will ever be.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered
One of my favorite pictures my husband has taken of me. Josh wanted to get more photos for his portfolio and I was being his model ;). I have to admit, there have been many times on a run or … Continue reading
Today the Lord reminded me to call him “Father”.
I was driving to meet a friend for a play date, trying to find the answers to my heart being so tired, worn out and generally tending toward negative. I could see it clearly and wanted to “fix” it. I knew that I should have grace and love “flowing out of me” from a heart satisfied and loved by my Savior. But how the heck does one “do” that. It certainly wasn’t happening for me in this moment. After a long day of ‘ministry’ activities, where I was hit by sin, gossip, harshness and hardheartedness I was encountering in others… knowing that if God has called me to do ministry for the rest of my days, that I would need to be able to handle all of this and keep my hope and joy in Christ …. But today I was not feeling it.
I was asking God to help me. I knew that if I didn’t get a handle on all this, I could soon become like those in Tripp’s book Dangerous Calling that give up! I wanted a heart that sees good and not just mistakes. See potential, rather than problems.
I had hoped I would see Jesus’ face in the Church more often. I knew that I had seen him in His Body… but I was having a hard time looking past the all the rest of the crap. My heart was frustrated and loosing perspective.
In a blog I have begun to enjoy describes the difference between loving the universal and local Church:
“On the other hand you have the local church. It’s filled with people. Actual people who say dumbass things. Who manipulate out of their aspirations and desires. Who all to often hurt others and fail to embody love. It’s much more difficult to love this church. But you can’t love the universal church and not love a local church. Loving church means loving people, not an idea. And loving people means loving them when it hurts you to do so. Sharing in Christ’s sufferings is a brutal reality when you work to love actual human beings.”
See more at here.
I knew the problem and I wanted to fix it.
In the middle of my babbling at God about all of this, what came out of my mouth was “Father”…
All of a sudden, emotions rushed over me.
I desperately needing my father. What Romans 8:15 calls, “Abba! Father”. I am a child. I am in need of unconditional, care of a loving father. I need to be listened to. I need to be taken care of. I need my wounds tended to.
I cannot heal myself. Jesus blood is my healing. His forgiveness gives me access to God’s unconditional love. . . his saving grace which makes me free.
And I have collected my fair share of wounds. From other Christians, family and friends. Only at the cross can they be reconciled, completely and utterly wiped clean. I am being made new each day by the tender hands of my Father. Sometimes I need to get hurt in order for my Father to teach me something. Other times, I fall down and my daddy just wants to hold me as I cry. I have not known an earthly Father like this, but I do know my heavenly Father is one who loves me. Who cares for my every needs, and wipes away my tears.
I am convinced, this is the only way I can survive the pain that comes from loving a broken Church, my hurting neighbor is by staying as close I can to the loving, compassionate and gracious Father who did everything so that He could be with ME?!
Crazy, awesome grace.
I have been confronted by the theme lately of complete surrender and complete brokenness. It’s like God is whispering to me, reminding me of what I had unknowingly lost track of in the dust of suffering. The last six months have been like surgery. God has been taking a knife to heart and digging out the pieces he doesn’t want there anymore, in hopes I would cling to Him, completely. I am left without many options to cling to besides Him…. although my broken, desperate and wandering heart tries to find them.
I think to solidify this in my heart and to bring some type of comfort to my broken soul, God directed me to read Jeremiah. Jeremiah is known as the Weeping Prophet. Sometimes I laugh – Sometimes my rebellion wants to yell “Really, God?” Cant I read John or Psalms? But He always knows how to take care of me. He always cares and He is always good.
In the first chapter, what God calls Jeremiah to do shook me. Most people quote the verses about how God knew Jeremiah “before he was formed in the womb” but if you read on this is what He says:
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak. “Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the Lord. Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. “See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, To pluck up and to break down, To destroy and to overthrow, To build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:7-10 NASB)
What strikes me about this is God called him to be a prophet. This was no choice of Jeremiah’s. It was also not his age, experience or rank that qualified him but God who commanded him to go and to do.
What did God call him to? To pluck up and break down. To destroy and overthrow, to build and plant through the words God places in his mouth. He would be a mouth piece to a rebellious, unrepentant Israel. What a weighty call. What a heavy burden. For a man who loved Israel, he would now go through horrible rejection, reproach, persecution from his beloved nation, even to the point of despairing of his own life, to obey and be the mouth piece of God (Jer. 15:15b)
Is this what you picture calling to be? When Christians talked about their “calls”, I have never heard anyone even come close to discussing anything remotely close to what Jeremiah experienced. I don’t know if it is the result of the American church or our own sin that entices us to believe the direction and will God has for our lives will always be coupled with ease, comfort and we will be rescued from harm. This is not the calling of any of our forefathers of the faith. Certainly not what God commanded Jeremiah to do.
The promise here is no different than in other parts of scripture – God will be with you… to deliver you. Deliverance does not mean escape from rejection, physical strife, loneliness or possible eventual death. So what does deliverance mean here?
When God called Jeremiah here, there really isn’t much of a choice. To turn away would awaken God’s wrath, that Jeremiah was fully aware of. Jeremiah did not, like many of us, doubt God’s power to move. This made his obedience less of a choice, and more of a necessity. And where else could he go, where God was not? What could he do but follow God. For those who have been captured with the affections and fear of their Maker, there really isn’t anywhere else to go. Even if the path is taking you where you never wanted to go. And asking to do what you never wanted to do.
At one point in Jeremiah the actual translation of how he felt about his call was “seduction” and “rape” in Jeremiah 20:7a. God has seduced him, then overpowered him to do his will. What hard imagery is this? What harsh imagery to reconcile with a good God … But is it?
Why would all of this be a comfort to me amidst suffering? When you have been placed in unlikely of situations, where all feels lost and despaired, to know God can interact with people he loves like he does with Jeremiah is a comfort. To know his love can actually look at moments like hate. His love sent his Son to die for all mankind. God’s love for Israel sent Jeremiah to call them to repent, knowing full well Jeremiah would suffer. God’s love for his Church sent the first disciples to preach the gospel to the world, and to eventually be killed. God’s love sends missionaries to desolate places, to harsh lives.
Why do people like Jeremiah, Paul, Jesus, you and I choose to follow God, even if it’s most likely we will go through refining fire, and maybe through moments of such despair you wish you were dead?
This is the only answer that makes sense to me – God, Himself, becomes better than life. The eternal becomes greater than the finite. God breaks into our lives and shakes us so deeply to our core by his love that we can no longer live for self alone. Gospel Wakefulness takes great efforts to describe this phenomenon. When this “phenomenon” happens, you begin to follow God joyfully … blindly. When God brings you to an unknown, unforsakable place, your flesh might squirm with the fears of what it might entail, but you have no where else to go. You have met Love, Himself. You know too well where all other paths in life will take you. You can not turn back. You cannot return. To do so would be walk away from God.
He promises us: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18)
So I welcome whatever following God looks like in my life because I know whatever it is, my life will not be in vain. I have everything in God, Himself. And no matter what I know the goodness, glory and work of God in me is worth the temporary suffering. I cannot say that about any other place in this life. Nothing compares to eternity. Nothing compares to God’s work. Nothing compares to God, Himself, loving, working and living inside of me.
I want to leave you with this song by Sara Groves that paints the tension between wanting to follow God but dealing with the frustration of where it is taking you and having to reconcile that it is still where you want to be.
I don’t want to leave here
I don’t want to stay
It feels like pinching to me either way
The places I long for the most
Are the places where I’ve been
They are calling after me like a long lost friend
It’s not about losing faith
It’s not about trust
It’s all about comfortable
When you move so much
The place I was wasn’t perfect
But I had found a way to live
It wasn’t milk or honey
But then neither is this
I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacked
The future seems so hard
And I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I”ve learned
And those roads closed off to me
While my back was turned
The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
Familiar things are never easy to discard
I was dying for some freedom
But now I hesitate to go
Caught between the promise
And the things I know
If it comes too quick
I may not recognize it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?
If it comes too quick
I may not appreciate it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?
Being the nerd that I am, I am gloriously excited to hear from some seasoned Pastors and Theologians for the next few weeks at my church. What a blessing!
I was struck by Dr. Osborne interview – here are a few thoughts :
1. “I really never had to fight the demons of insecurity that can cause us to run from problems and pursue bigger ministry goals as a means of self-validation.”
I was intrigued by his perspective on how some need to “grow their church” to be validated. I for one have always felt uneasy with this being the main focus of any push at the church. Yes, I love evangelism. Yes, I think to grow as a church can reflect that the church is healthy. The focus I believe, should be one stewarding and discipling the congregation you have to follow Christ and foster their own faith deeply so that they desire to share their faith with those who do not know. God decides who comes to your church (who is “harvested”). It’s not about manufacturing how your church is to just bring people in the door. It’s like saying if you get more people to crowd around an ice-cream truck, that means the people must worship, follow and devote their lives to ice-cream. It might just simply mean that they felt like a cone today. And then they will move on. Or when it gets cold, they will stop craving cold things. Being inside a building means little. Following a set of rules means little. Being completely transformed by God’s jealous and overwhelming love for you, that all you can do is repent and worship is everything. That naturally makes disciples. Cause one thing people love doing is sharing with someone else what has deeply and genuinely transformed them!
It was just interesting to me for Osborne to call out some leaders who might be wanting numbers to fill the emptiness inside them with the success of their Church. Honestly not thinking of anyone in particular here, just gutsy.
2. “But I do have concerns that I’ve written about in my book, Accidental Pharisees. If we’re not careful, our zeal can lead to pride, exclusivity, legalism, a critical spirit, and lots of unbiblical gift-projection. I see this as the greatest obstacle facing the young and zealous church today. It’s a much greater danger than the loss of any so-called “culture wars.” The darker our society gets, the more a tiny light makes a difference. But if we lose our agape love for one another in hyper-zeal and division, the light will go out.”
Did you hear that last sentence! Dude!!! I am chewing on this. In our Christian culture today, the term “truth in love” has been thrown around a lot to mean a lot of things. In scripture, it seems like certain things take precedence over others. Or in other cases, one thing does not work without the another. Like Faith is validated by your works, Truth is no truth absent of love. It stops being true. The essence of it is lost. Like gifts without Love is compared to a noisy gong (1 Cor 13). The gifts are still truly there – but loose their meaning and function without love. The function of gifts is to build up and edify the body of Christ. How can you do that when people are seeking self glorification and recognition in their gifts over their primary purpose to sacrificially serve others and sanctify the Body?
If Truth … (and when I say truth I mean the whole gospel which includes the deep love of God shown through Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins)… comes without obeying the command to encourage and sacrificially love your brother/sister, especially if he is weaker, knowing the greatest love is to die for one another – if THAT Love is not a part of the truth – I feel it is being served incomplete. I have a feeling this subject will become it’s own post :)
Full Interview with Dr. Osborne here: Interview with Larry Osborne
The gospel is illogical in our human understanding when it tells us to love and respect an imperfect husband, to forgive 70×7 a repeating offender, to walk in to the face of suffering and to believe in things we cannot see. But when we walk into the baptism of blood of Christ and rise with him, we are opened to the “logic”, or rather, the glory of the mysteries of the faith. We, then, are not controlled by the mind only but by the Spirit which reveals all things to those who are in Christ. I cannot argue the gospel with one who does not want to see outside of themselves… but when you come to the end of yourself (your human ability to understand) giving up control and the desire to rule, then you walk into the mysteries of the faith: To worship a God more knowledgable, more magnificant, and more perfect than we can ever become or know. This is the beautiful exchange- human ignorance for glory, flawed perception for magesty, tainted ‘good deeds’ for perfect love.