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At the risk of sounding like I’m not looking forward to transplanting to beautiful Denver at the beginning of June and starting a job I can’t wait to do, I have formulated a canned response to: “Are you so excited!?” I am so excited and I am also so, so sad.

The Lord does give and does take away, but he doesn’t always do it in that order. Sometimes he takes away and then he gives, and oh how he has given in the past season.

He has given so well and so plentifully that I cannot help but mourn what I will lose by stepping into other good things. As I navigated making this decision, walking through it with several pastors, elders, and friends from my church, it seemed the more Denver was looking like a probability, the more I longed for what I had already here. The morning I got on the plane to Colorado with one of my best friends for a scouting trip, I was certain I would leave my time there deciding to stay in Texas.

But when we got on the plane after our trip, it was clear to both of us: Denver would become my home sometime soon.

It felt like both a generous gift and a strange gift. The timing felt (and still feels) awkward and uncomfortable. The community of people I have around me currently is the richest I’ve experienced yet at my church; the home in which I live is not without its struggles, but I love it deeply; a man who captures more of my affections every day in every way snuck quietly and surprisingly into my life; nothing about this timing makes it feel good to exit this place.

And yet there is more surety in me about what the Holy Spirit is doing and where he is taking me than I can remember.

. . .

This is just a testimony of sorts, it’s not a formula. I’m not saying, “Let go and let God,” or “Stop trying to control life and everything you ever desired will happen for you.” Those are unhelpful statements at best and terrible theology at worst. What I am saying, though, is I came into 2015 with my palms up and a blank slate. I thought I made a wreck of some things in the previous year, but God knew those things weren’t wreckage, they were seeds, and their time hadn’t yet come.

James 5:7-8 says, “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”

I thought I was wasting away last year. Dormant. Standing there, waiting, and for what? I didn’t even know what I was waiting for. But just as I prepare my heart in this day, surrounded by rich bounty, God has been preparing my heart for the past two years, in a fallow field I thought was wasting away. The ground produces best when it is allowed to rest, to sit unused, empty, tilled, waiting for the right time.

Is now the right time? I don’t know. I can’t possibly know, and I have learned that all the certainty in the world doesn’t mean we always get what we want. But I have also learned to trust that barrenness doesn’t mean uselessness.

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Barnabas Piper is releasing Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt is not the Enemy of Faith in July and reached out to a few of us who have wrestled in ongoing battles with faith and doubt. Of all the struggles in my life, this is the most pressing and the most fruit-filled. I have found joy and an increase of faith the more I confess and wrestle with my doubt. Barnabas asked five questions about faith and doubt and you can read them here.

“I believe; help my unbelief” is my favorite phrase in scripture. It captures so much of what it means and takes to be a follower of Christ, encapsulating struggle, faith, doubt, obedience, wandering, and repentance. It is deeply theological and personal. For these reasons and more I wrote a book called Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not The Enemy of Faith (releases July 1) which explores what real belief is and its relationship with doubt in the life of a believer. The challenges of that tension are not unique to me; They’re nearly universal among Christians no matter position, maturity, or church tradition. In the weeks leading up to the release I will share the the thoughts and experiences of several friends of mine – authors, church leaders, writers, thinkers – who honestly answered five questions about faith and doubt.
—Barnabas Piper

 1) What does “I believe; help my unbelief” mean to you?

That God is never surprised by my weakness is a great comfort to me. My pastor says, “God doesn’t drive an ambulance,” which means God isn’t rushing around crazily trying to manage my life. The comfort of that reality allows me to walk in tensions of all kinds, but especially (for me), the tension of “I believe. Help my unbelief.” Belief has never come easily to me, especially belief in God. It’s not that I don’t believe He exists (though there have been extended periods of time of believing that) or believe He’s good, it’s that I don’t believe He means good to me. This is what the father of the demoniac was saying in Mark 9 when he said to Jesus, “If you can!” The entire gamut of doubt exists in that little word: if. It is not a question of yes or no, belief or unbelief, it is a question of whether God can and will. It ultimately has nothing to do with my ability to believe anything, and everything to do with God’s ability to do anything. That’s the tension of “I believe. Help my unbelief.” And it’s the tension that every believer, no matter how strong or weak, must walk in. Blind belief and stubborn doubt don’t serve us—or God. He wants our restless hearts to find our rest in Him. Keep reading.

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Adrienne Rich said, in one of my favorite poems,

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.

and that feels a lot like life sometimes. At least life right now. There’s some wreckage I don’t want to explore. I don’t want to use my words to find the treasures that prevail here. I’d rather just be heartbroken and walk through grief as it comes, instead of purposing with my words.

A friend told me a few weeks ago my life had been like a fallow field for a long time. Furrowed, plowed, ready for seeding, but still standing empty, waiting for the proper time. She was referring to a plethora of good, good things happening in my life right now—seeds and shoots and promises coming through from the dark, dark earth. But with growth also comes pain and these growing pains hurt worse than almost anything I’ve known.

I’m weeping as I write those words because I can’t talk about all the things weighing on me right now—that’s part of the wreckage and the seeds: both things pressed in deep places, hidden from the public eye.

The difference between wreckage and seeds though, is that one falls apart and produces nothing, and one falls apart and produces everything. And it is important to remember the difference and to keep on remembering it.

Something is breaking apart in every one of our lives. Something is giving away and changing and shifting and breaking. Some of it feels like wreckage and some of it is a seed. Some of it we need to dive straight into to see the treasures which prevail, and some of it we need to trust to the deep, dark earth and the sovereign hand of God who makes everything produce fruit in its season (Jeremiah 17:5-8).

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
John 12:24

The plan was to leave Texas almost as soon as I came to her. Six months, see if God was real, and if he could spare any love for a doubter like me, then move on, vagabond my way through life. I figured God (if he was real) could manage an oddity like me better than any one place could.

Five years later: I’ve tried to leave her a half a dozen times but she’s kept me, like the song goes, “Not from Texas, but Texas wants you anyway.” A year ago I sobbed on my bedroom floor before signing another year lease. It felt like signing a death warrant. Another hot summer, another suburban home, another brown winter, another flat year.

But God turns our mourning to dancing—or something like it.

. . .

I died a thousand little deaths throughout 2013 and 2014. Every one of them seemed a no to me and my desires. But the best of them were no to my lesser desires and I see that now. I have wanted a great many things, but too often I take the leftovers, certain God means for me to suffer until I am left with only Him.

A hundred decisions loomed in front of me over the past two years and I, like Rebekah, packed my little idols in my bags just in case. I worshipped the lesser gods of marriage, vocation, location, and more. I was certain God wouldn’t give me all the desires of my heart, so I settled for the scraps of just one, maybe two.

But something unexpected happened: the more I submitted to being all here, all in, Texan for as long as God would call me to be, I began to love Texas. Love for her people, her places, and specifically my place in her—it all began to grow. It was small at first, imperceptible glimmers, but it grew stronger and stronger until the thought of ever leaving seemed unlikely. I went to Israel last fall and the strongest emotion I felt while there was not wonder at the land upon which Jesus once walked, but homesickness for my own land.

For Texas?

Yes.

And then in January I got an email, a job offer. It was not in the location I wanted, not in the church I wanted, nothing of what I thought I wanted, and all of the peace I imagined was possible. I did not trust my heart or desires, though, and passed it through to those who know my propensity to worship lesser gods. Elders and pastors and mentors who know my proclivities, my impulsivity, and, more than anything, know the Holy Spirit. The more I let it slip from my grip, the more it seemed God was saying, “No, daughter, this, this is good.”

. . .

I stood in that church building a few weeks ago, the sunlight streaming through the windows of the hundred year old sanctuary, the Rocky Mountains to the west outside, the liturgy spoken and sung by all of us, small families and staff on all sides of me who’d done nothing but bless me and answer every question posed to them over four days—and I worshipped God. I worshipped God because he heard all my prayers and during all my attempts to thwart Him and take the lesser portion, He was still storing up the greater one.

This is an announcement of sorts, true: I have been handed the description to a job that only existed in my dreams and been told, “It is yours if you want it.”

But this is also a proclamation of sorts: the lesser gods will always be there clamoring for my worship.

They will be prevalent in Denver, Colorado at Park Church where I will work with their leadership team to train and make disciples in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. They will be there as much as they have been here in Dallas, Texas where the Lord brought me to the beautiful and full knowledge of Him, trained me in discipleship, taught me submission, and helped me to see He did not bring me out to the desert to die, but to truly learn that man does not live by bread alone—or all the feasts we think will bring us life—but we live on Him and His words and His water and His plans.

Those lesser gods do not always seem like the worst decisions. Mostly often they are just the less than good decisions. I have not fully learned that lesson and I suspect God will always be teaching it to me. But I have learned this lesson: I cannot thwart His purposes. He will not let me live on the crumbs while a feast awaits on the table above.

. . .

If you’re my family at The Village, I sent this in a letter to the elders last week: I’ve been more loved here than I could have ever imagined. The Lord saved me here and taught me more about the gospel, studying the Word, loving discipleship, loving women, submitting to leadership, loving discipline, than I could have known was possible. The Village Church is honestly the most humbling and beautiful common grace I’ve experienced, and you’ve each played a role in that. I’ll never stop being grateful for it and each of you. My heart is broken to leave, but expectant to go.

I mean that for the rest of you too. My heart is broken to leave this place and I’ll be more mourning than rejoicing for the next two months as I prepare to go. I want to end my time here well, which means prioritizing the girls at #highchapelhouse and my immediate community of friends and leaders. We will have a come-one-come-all going away party at Roots Coffeehouse the first week of June, details forthcoming. Thanks for understanding my limitations over the next few months. And thank you for loving me. At the end of one meeting about this with some elders and pastors here, one of them said, “You can always come home,” and my heart knew that home was Texas and you, so thank you. 

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Jonathan Edwards is not the puritan, but he understands a little something about sinners and a seemingly angry God. When he was seven years old his dad left and this is the narrative we’re introduced to in Jonathan’s book LEFT: the struggle to make sense of life when a parent leaves.

Whatever your life looks like, the chances are great that in some way you have been affected by the reality of divorce. Your parents, your grandparents, your siblings, maybe you yourself. It’s a death that seems more common than death itself. I know far more people who have been affected by divorce than by the death of someone close to them. I experienced tragic death in my family (my 14 year old brother) the year before I experienced the tragedy of divorce in my family—and I swear divorce was the worse of the two.

Jonathan does an interesting thing with LEFT, a careful balancing act of narrative and memoir, staccato sentences ripe with good theology—but isn’t this like life? A constant experiential proof text? We observe, we ingest, we internalize, and then we prove our theology. LEFT is a book about a boy who was left by his father, but who felt left by his heavenly father for most of his life. It’s a common story from children of divorce. It’s mine and maybe it’s yours. There is nothing in the world I hate more than divorce, and yet there is nothing more in the world that has shaped and shattered my poor and pitiful picture of who God was to me. Divorce led me straight to the place where I learned my paltry portrait of God was made in the image of the man and woman who birthed me, raised me, sent me, and broke me. But it wasn’t until I came to face to face with that image that I was able to forgive the sinners who birthed me, raised me, sent me, and broke me. It was a careful distinction and a paramount one. One every child of divorce must experience if they are to walk through the shattered shards of what’s left of their family.

LEFT leaves no pretty picture of life after divorce. Jonathan is real about the struggles—even the ongoing ones. He confesses, he wrestles, he preaches, he stumbles. It’s the story of a man who knows by the grace of God he doesn’t have to make the same mistakes his father made, but also by the grace of God he does have to sort through them as part of his story. He says, “I began to understand that I didn’t have any justice to seek, that true justice was God’s…Reconciliation with my dad ceased to be my primary concern because I longed for his reconciliation with the Father so much more.”

This is the hinge upon which the door of growth swings for the child of divorce. When we begin to understand we are as much sinners, as faithless, as broken as the men and women who birthed us—in desperate need of the hands of a faithful Father.

Jonathan Edwards is not the puritan, but he does understand a little something about sinners in the hands of a faithful God.

generosity

On our own, we conclude:
there is not enough to go around

we are going to run short
of money
of love
of grades
of publications
of sex
of beer
of members
of years
of life

We should seize the day
seize our goods
seize our neighbors goods
because there is not enough to go around

and in the midst of our perceived deficit
you come
you come giving bread in the wilderness
you come giving children at the 11th hour
you come giving homes to exiles
you come giving futures to the shut down
you come giving easter joy to the dead
you come—fleshed in Jesus.

and we watch while
the blind receive their sight
the lame walk
the lepers are cleansed
the deaf hear
the dead are raised
the poor dance and sing

we watch
and we take food we did not grow and
life we did not invent and
future that is gift and gift and gift and
families and neighbors who sustain us
when we did not deserve it.

It dawns on us – late rather than soon-
that you “give food in due season
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”

By your giving, break our cycles of imagined scarcity
override our presumed deficits
quiet our anxieties of lack
transform our perceptual field to see
the abundance…mercy upon mercy
blessing upon blessing.

Sink your generosity deep into our lives
that your muchness may expose our false lack
that endlessly receiving we may endlessly give
so that the world may be made Easter new,
without greedy lack, but only wonder,
without coercive need but only love,
without destructive greed but only praise
without aggression and invasiveness…
all things Easter new…
all around us, toward us and
by us

all things Easter new.

Finish your creation, in wonder, love and praise. Amen.
― Walter Brueggemann

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A few ago my bible intake changed from broad to specific. Instead of reading a passage from the Old Testament, a Psalm or Proverb, and a New Testament selection daily, I began to just read the same book repeatedly for weeks. It has transformed my love for the Word. I always felt like I was drinking from a shallow well in every single Bible Reading Plan I picked. I’d lose steam and feel guilty that I wasn’t checking off my daily reading, I’d forget where I was reading, or forget the narrative line. I found myself spending more time trying to piece together things than actually reading and ingesting what I was reading. I loved the Word of God, but I mostly loved it because I knew there was life in it, not because I actually felt life in my reading.

After studying the book of Galatians with my church a few years ago, I realized my love for the Bible increased exponentially, I saw themes I hadn’t seen before, and I understood Paul as a person in a way I never had. It was as though my Bible reading went from watching a drama take place on a stage to actually being a part of the play.

If you struggle with your bible reading, if you battle constant guilt about not keeping up with your plans, or fight a checklist mentality when reading the Word, I cannot encourage you more to begin reading this way. Joe Carter at The Gospel Coalition has some tips about how to start reading this way, and I wanted to share a few areas I’ve seen fruit in my life from this reading method.

1. I memorize the word subconsciously. When I read the same verse forty or fifty times within the span of a few weeks, I can’t help it, it just gets in me. I’ve been reading James for the past three months and could outline the entire book from memory and unintentionally have memorized much of it. I might not be able to give you chapter and verse, but I know the meaning and hope in a way I never could before.

2. I understand context better. Reading the entire book helps me to understand the voice of the writer, the history of the situation, the issues at hand in a way I didn’t grasp when I just read a chapter or two out of context. I learn that I grow to love the audience of the epistle or the prophet speaking in a way I didn’t before. Context matters.

3. I no longer come at my bible reading with a nagging guilt, but a expectant hope. Not checking off a list or plan or even having a specific date tied to where I was “supposed” to be reading has been so good for me. I come ready to eat and drink, not to prove or even serve; it is not a task, but a gift.

If you want to learn to study the bible and don’t know where to start, I cannot recommend more highly (for men and women) Jen Wilkin’s short book, Women of the Word. I’m biased because everything I know about studying the bible I learned at her feet, but I don’t know anyone who teaches better by example than Jen. Spending months in a single book has been one of the best disciplines of my life, and learning to study it as I do has brought such life to me.

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Father,

I stood in your house the other day, the mid-morning light streaming through the windows, and worshipped. I am no stranger to worship, I frequent the halls and rows and offices where we talk about worship and extolling your name. But this worship was different. Usually when I come to you, I come for what you can give me, or, if it is a good day, what I can give you. This day was different: I was worshipping you for what you might not give me and how you offer it all the same.

Not like a bad parent who lends peeks to their kids at Christmastime, tricking them into believing they’ll get certain gifts, all the while knowing they mean something else for them entirely, but like a good parent who holds out a pony and playhouse and asks their child to pick. “Me?” I ask, because I am unaccustomed to getting what I want, let alone getting the choice of what I want, “Do you maybe mean this for me?”

I wrote this in December, not to you, because I was struggling to believe you meant good for me that day, but I wrote it just the same. I knew the fault was in me, for not asking, for not believing you could possibly dispose yourself in my direction. But I also think I believed the fault was in you for pretending to not know my desires anyway.

I see now you want me to ask

Today I talked to my friend across the table and told him thank you for pastoring me in December. He sat on my couch for three hours four months ago and talked and listened and asked and didn’t advise much and it was the best. It was as if I was a wayward arrow and he stepped in to blow a welcome breeze in the right direction, a degree off, maybe two, now righted. Joy, he said, pursue joy.

I know you’ve said this to me again and again, and again and again. And I don’t know why I run the opposite direction so often, certain you must mean crumbs for me when if I would just lift up my head I’d see the feast you’ve prepared for me.

Joy, you’ve said, pursue joy.

Father, I play with mud-pies and sandcastles, you offer me kingdoms and plenty, and I can’t stop thanking you for the choicest pleasures and even the choice at all. It’s only through your Son’s willing choice to sacrifice Himself on my behalf, so it’s in His name I pray, amen.

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“My faith, he said, is the same faith which is found in every believer. Try it for yourself and you will see the help of God, if you trust in Him.”

So ends the book George Muller: Delighted in God by Roger Steer.

This past week my pastor taught on active faith expressed in works. I don’t know that I would have had ears to hear his words quite so well had I not been soaking in the richness of George Muller’s biography for the past few weeks. Multiple times while reading a physical sob rose in my throat and tears filled my eyes. It was not wonder at the faith of Muller (though that was there), but wonder at the God in whom he trusted and the gift of faith on which he acted.

Many nights I would dog-ear my page, close the book, set it beside me, and lay my head on my pillow begging God for a shred of his faith. Just one bit of it, I asked. But why? Why only one bit? Why not be a detective for faith? Sniffing it out, finding it, and taking it captive, looking for it?

Muller said after receiving a gift of one thousand pounds, “I was as calm and quiet as if I had only received one shilling. For my heart was looking out for answers to my prayers.”

My heart was looking for answers to my prayers.

God, I’m praying, make me a looker and a finder. Make me a seer, a hunter, and gatherer of answers to my prayers. Let me not need to pick up every rock or look under every stone—make the answers to my prayers every small thing: breathing, seeing, trusting, believing, knowing.

. . .

I sat across from two friends today, on their back porch. As I shared the burdens and beauties of my heart, the careful complexities of life, they reminded me of where I was a year ago and how they shouldered different burdens with me then. For a moment I was acutely aware of the porch on which we sat, the sound of birds in the trees behind us, the stream trickling quietly below us, the blue sky above us, the water in my water glass, the friends across from me: it was as if every sense of mine was awakened in a split second and I could see.

I read in Chronicles last night, “He did it with all his heart and he prospered,” and I weep because it was right after reading George Muller’s response to man who asked if he had a reserve fund:

“That would be the greatest folly. How could I pray if I had reserves? God would say, “Bring them out; bring out those reserves, George Muller.” Oh no, I have never thought of such a thing! Our reserve fund is in Heaven. God the living God is our sufficiency. I have trusted Him for one sovereign; I have trusted him for thousands, and I have never trusted in vain. Blessed is the man who trusts in him.”

And I think of Jeremiah’s words about the man who trusts in man, who makes flesh his strength: he will not see prosperity when it comes.

God, make me a seer. Make me a looker. My reserve is in Heaven and not just my financial reserve, but my reserve of faith. Every measure of faith I do not have today, you have stored up for me, buckets and piles and mountains of it, ready to give it to those who ask in faith without doubt with all their hearts.

Make me a looker, a seer, and one who weeps for joy at the thousands of answers to prayer you give in every moment of life.

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God,

I did it again. I dug my own cistern and it broke. I sought solace in the arms of a whore, a cheap imitation of the real thing, a creature instead you, the Creator. I long for the comfort of independence, making my own fortune, building my own kingdom, because I long for respite today instead of someday.

I’m hungry for heaven and for the bread of life, but today I just want to be full, to stop feeling the pangs of hunger in my heart. I ache with all the somedays of our faith. The tomorrows and better days ahead.

Jesus, you said You gave us water that would make us never thirst again, but the only water I know is the kind I need every day, again and again. I don’t understand a quench ever being filled and my heart ever being full. I have no concept of fullness, only hunger or the gluttony that makes us fat on the feast of earthly sweets. I starve myself or I indulge myself—fearful of living in the tension of what you have already done and what you have not yet done.

I do not trust you.

And I do trust you.

And I don’t know how to live in that ever expanding, ever closing gap.

The more I know you, the more I trust you, but the more I trust you, the more you give me to trust you with and the more I have to know and trust you. It is an endless cycle, this hunger. I eat of your words, they taste sweet and fill me, but I am oh so hungry again and the temptation to eat a lesser feast is always before me.

Fill me to full, Lord, to overflowing, and empty me of me in that process. Empty me, train my palate and my hunger so the only one for whom I thirst is you. Give me a taste for you.

The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.

John Piper

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My friend Paul Maxwell has some words to older men from a young man on Desiring God today. As I read through it, affirming so much of it, I thought about the mentors I’ve had in my life.

In my Christian life I have rarely been without a multitude of counselors to mentor and lend me wisdom. I know that is not the portion of every person and many men and women long for godly, older people to invest in and guide them. I do not take these gifts lightly. Here are few thoughts about mentoring that I’ve picked up along the way.

1. Above I used the words “these gifts” on purpose in reference to the many men and women who have walked with me.

So often when we seek a mentor what we have in mind is a unicorn. We want them to be tender and firm, gentle and wise, learned and simple—we want a man or woman who fully embodies the Christian ideal. The problem is: that man or woman doesn’t exist. That person is Jesus, our only Savior.

There has never been one person from whom I’ve received all of what we’d call ideal in a mentor. I have had a multitude of counselors—not a singular one. If you’re holding out on finding a mentor because you’re looking for a unicorn, stop, consider the strengths and weaknesses of the men and women in front of you, and gather yourself a multitude of counselors.

This will save the men and women from whom you seek wisdom from growing burnt out on trying to counsel every area of your life, and it will save you from future disappointment when they fail.

2. Whenever I have languished around wishing and hoping and dreaming for mentors, I have found myself lacking them. Yet when I have engaged in the ministry of mentorship myself, I find myself in an abundance of counselors.

Too often we disqualify ourselves from ministry until we’ve been given the go-ahead from older and wiser people, but one thing older and wiser people know is that pouring time and investment in a sieve is not ever wise. They’re going to invest in people who are investing in people. That’s wisdom. If you long to be mentored or discipled, begin mentoring and discipling. Go to the word of God as your guide, obey what it says, humble yourself, ask for the Holy Spirit, and go! You might be surprised at the older and wiser people who begin to invest in you.

3. No matter how old you are, you are both an older person and a younger person. There is no magic age when you suddenly have it together. Be an older person to a younger person, and be a younger person to an older person. Do it now. There’s no better time.

. . .

Your Father longs to give you good gifts, but sometimes you won’t spot the gift He’s giving because you haven’t feasted your eyes on what is good. Know what a godly man and godly woman looks like. Read the book of Titus. Again and again. And again and again. Be and do and seek those things, see what God does.

Every time I proclaim how much I love my church, I feel somewhat suspect. I sit under teaching weekly most people only experience at conferences and special events. I sit at the feet of some of the best thinkers and teachers, men and women, in the Church today. Not for one second do I forget it.

I remember it today after getting off the phone with a woman who has loved me, counseled me, and taught me for five years—who I know most women would love an opportunity to learn from. I remember it every time I interact with one of my church elders—men who I trust with my life and heart in every way. I remember it when I leave the office of any one of the pastors at my church who take my words and womanhood seriously—a trait I know many women weep for. I remember it when I travel all over the country and people speak well of my pastors and my people—it is not pride that puffs me up, but a deep gratefulness that the Lord saw fit to plant me here for a season.

But I still feel suspect that I do love her this much. As though it must be always easy to love her because of her better qualities, as though in her beauty she does not have blemishes, or as though I couldn’t possibly understand what it is like to be covenanted at a church of a simpler nature or full of more sinners. I do not imagine the accusation—it comes to me often, usually in the form of veiled compliments, “You’re so lucky you go to that church, with that pastor, and those people.”

. . .

I sometimes feel frustrated with men who are married to above average beautiful women telling single men around them to settle down and marry a perfectly average looking girl (because who’s kidding, there are plenty of us around). It’s hard to take advice like that from a man whose wife of his youth is still smokin’ hot.

This is how I feel sometimes when I talk about my church, like the person with the smokin’ hot spouse telling others to just grow up and settle down and be happy in their local churches.

The longer I am single though, the more I feel the lack of a tender hand of a godly husband in my life. I know there is no guarantee if the Lord brings me into a marriage, that he or I will do one another good all the days of our lives, but there is the hope for it. But when I think of the most beautiful women I know, the more certain I am they are beautiful because they have been tended to by the gardening hands of their husbands for years. He has watered her, loved her, cared for her, and she has flourished beneath his husbandry. She is lovely because he loved her.*

This is what makes the bride of Christ lovely. The Church, when she is presented to her bridegroom will carry none of the stains of this world or blemishes she tries to hide these days. She will be presented pure, spotless, without blame or blemish. She will be lovely because he loves her.

This is what makes our local churches lovely too. Not just my local church, but yours. Loving your local church makes her lovely to you and to others. Her loveliness becomes contagious to everyone—but mostly to you. The more you love her, the more you love her. The more she is loved and cherished, the more she will love and cherish.

. . .

It is a gift to be planted at my church, I know this, but trust me, we have an underbelly and plenty of blemishes. We have faults and failures and holes and lacks. We spend much time pressing back darkness and engaging in discipline. We move too quickly into some things and too slowly into other things. But we deeply love the word of God and we deeply love one another and we deeply love our church because we deeply love The Church.

It’s okay if you love my local church, if you learn from her, glean from her, watch how she functions, but love your local church into what you yearn for her to be. Make her lovely because she is loved.

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*That’s a line from Jesus Storybook Bible, not me. 

Do Women Look at Pornography?

But if I Preach Christ in Every Text:
Christ crucified is the central point, in which all the lines in evangelical truth meet and are united. There is not a doctrine in the Scriptures but what bears an important relation to it. Would we understand the glory of the divine character and government? It is seen in perfection in the face of Jesus Christ. Would we learn the evil of sin, and our perishing condition as sinners? Each is manifested in his sufferings. All the blessings of grace and glory are given us in him, and for his sake.

Seven Ways We Can Guard and Protect Relationships:
Let’s judge ourselves, even as we give each other the benefit of the doubt. Matthew 7:5 says, “First take the log out of your own eye.” And 1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love believes all things.” In other words, love fills in the blanks with positive assumptions.

She’s Your Collaborator, Not Your Competition:
This biblical perspective obliterates all the bad advice that’s ever been given to single adults. An accomplished woman is a blessing. This passage, written by a wise king, nearly shouts at us, “If she is supposed to be your wife, then she’s your collaborator, not your competition! All those accomplishments could be your gift in marriage.”

Fear and Faith:
Women, gather for a panel discussion about Trillia Newbell’s new book, Fear and Faith, living in a fallen world and following the One who is sovereign over all. Join Trillia Newbell, Jani Ortlund, Kristie Anyabwile, Jen Wilkin, Catherine Parks, and Lindsay Swartz (moderator) for a candid conversation on the fears women often struggle with and the trust found in the character of God.

I.

I am not like those Israelites in the wilderness, the ones who handed over their riches to make the likes of a golden calf. I clutch to my idols in their original form. I do not trust a maker of any sorts with my valuables, I trust only myself. I adorn myself in them.

II.

I wonder sometimes if all the Israelites gave Aaron their jewelry on that day, or if there were some who held back because an idol in their hands was better than one melded with a hundred thousand other idols.

III.

Remember when Rachel hid the idols of her father’s household in her satchel? She carried them with her just in case. Just in case God failed her, just in case He didn’t come through, just in case the unseen God wasn’t as dependable as the seen gods. Just in case He didn’t give her what she wanted.

IV.

Sometimes the only way you can spot an idol is to have it wrenched from your hands. Empty hands can reveal idolatry.

V.

Sometimes idols in the ancient Near East were the big kind you envision in temples, massive stone or golden statues with people prostrate around them in every form. But common ones were small ones, pocketed bits of clay and wood and rock—things they could pull from their pockets at a moments notice, to fill the void, cure boredom, feel validated, and seek answers from.

VI.

The message to the idol worshipper is the same as to the law worshipper, the same to the younger son as to the elder, the same to the Gentile as to the Jew: that idol and that law will only reveal your need for a Savior and a Father.

VII.

Underneath the gold and silver plated idols was the stuff of the earth: clay, wood, rock. All that glitters is not gold. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone!”
Isaiah 30:22

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