Archives For gospel

She is Beautiful

September 22, 2013 — 8 Comments

I met the Church this week and she is beautiful.

Her hips are wide and she sways to the praise of her God. She laughs loudly, her head thrown back, two rows of gleaming teeth; her sound is joy. She is too short or too tall, too much, not enough. She sips her wine slowly, savoring the taste of life. She gulps the last drops, never afraid to do anything boldly. She is half a century old, she is twenty-two. She is a writer a speaker a story-teller a friend. She adopted her children. She lost hers.

I met the Church this week and she is beautiful.

I gathered with some women this week, thinkers, dreamers, ministers, travelers, speakers, writers. They are half the Church and there was nothing halfway in our gathering. There was robust fullness, women fully there, fully present, fully themselves. There was no competition, no idle chatter, no small talk, and no shortage of prayers or tears. There were rooms fully alive in the fullness of God.

I am a Church-girl, I have always known it. There is nothing, nothing, I love more on earth than a diverse community of believers wrought together by one common thing: an uncommon man. On a local level, this means I serve her, I love her, I pray for her, I believe in her. On a broad level, this means I see her place in the manifold plan of God.

We are His plan. The Church is it. Without the Church we are factions of individuals broken by the things that set us apart. With the Church we are reminded it is our brokenness that binds us together, planting us deep on the level ground before the cross.

The Church is beautiful because she has met with God. She has seen Him and been seen by Him—fully, all her blemishes and beauty, all her brokenness and bravery, all her boldness and belief.

I met the Church this week and she took my breath away.

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Challenge to Christian bloggers: read a blog you don’t usually read, find good content, share it. Reach across the table & find the commonness of the gospel.

That’s my status on Facebook right now and I mean it.

Last week there was yet another dustup in the blogosphere. You know how it goes. Blogger writes XYZ, Twitter erupts with 140 character-easily misunderstood opinions and all manner of logical fallacies, and 67 Bloggers all respond—many of them entirely missing the point of original blog or demonizing original blogger or making good points of their own which will undoubtedly be rebutted by another 67 bloggers.

Somebody hand me a paper bag and get me off this ride.

One of the ways I try to do damage control in the Christian blogosphere is to stare people in the face and tell them to slow down, breathe, be circumspect, trust Jesus is Who He says He is and that He is building His Church—with or without a troupe of bloggers all juggling their balls in amateur hands.

But one of the most helpful things, I think, a blogger can do is to simply read more than one polarizing post of one blogger. There’s something about even reading the “About Me” section of a blog that humanizes a person, takes the monster out of him, or at least shows the monster to be only a suit bought at half-price after October 31st. Underneath they’re real people with real lives who cook dinner with their spouses and stub their toes and probably really do love Jesus—even if He’s revealed Himself to them in different ways than He has to us.

The beauty of the gospel is that it is for all men, Jews, Greeks, Slaves, Free, Men, Women, but it does not eliminate differences, demanding a dehumanizing clone-like Christianity. No. Instead it reaches inside all the differences and finds the beautiful sameness: broken people in need of a Holy God, and then sends us out to reach all kinds.

So if you’re a blogger or a content creator of some sort, can I encourage you to do something radical this week? Go read that publication you shudder to think of. You know which one it is for you. Go read it and read it with the express purpose of finding the beautiful gospel woven through its threads and then share it with your followers. I think we’d be surprised at what might happen.

 

Listen, Really Listen

August 1, 2013

resignation

This week has been ablaze with conversations about millennials and leaving the church. CNN published an op-ed piece by Rachel Held Evans, the fearless leader of the marginalized and marginalizing millennials, on why there seems to be a mass exodus from the Church. Yesterday in a conversation with Micah Murray I was reminded that my very personal faith/church crisis is a common story among my generation and one which I beg God regularly to not let me forget. My carpet was snot-soaked for months on end and “Eli Eli lama sabachthani?” was my constant cry. I felt forsaken by God, the Church, and life itself.

Yet it was the debasement of my mind that emptied me of me and led me straight to the sufficiency of the cross. That snot-soaked carpet was necessary to bring me to today. Micah made the point that we have a generation who is in that period and too often we kick them when they’re down. What they don’t need is kicking, I agree. But what I didn’t need was just someone letting me vent for years on end, I needed the cross. I needed to be welcomed to the cross, not beat over the head with it. I needed someone to say, “There’s room, there’s room,” and then make room for me.

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Here’s a compilation of many of the responses I’ve read this week. I think most of them make valid points and should be read by both sides of this discussion. If we’re only preaching to our choir, we’re not making disciples, we’re making an army, and it’s not God’s army. Depending on your angle of this discussion, I’d encourage you to click on some of the links here and listen, really listen to the points made and stories told. Whether you agree or not, it is important that we mourn with those who mourn and respect those with a different perspective (whether or not we feel respected back).

Why Millennials are Leaving the Church,
by Rachel Held Evans:
You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.

How to keep Millennials in the church? Let’s keep church un-cool.
by Brett McCracken:
As a Millennial, if I’m truly honest with myself, what I really need from the church is not another yes-man entity enabling my hubris and giving me what I want. Rather, what I need is something bigger than me, older than me, bound by a truth that transcends me and a story that will outlast me; basically, something that doesn’t change to fit me and my whims, but changes me to be the Christ-like person I was created to be.

Why We Left the Church,
compiled by Micah Murray:
You know my heart, if you’ve been here before. I don’t share these stories to disparage the church. I love the church. I want you to love it too, someday. But if you don’t, that’s ok. You aren’t alone. Just listen.

Jesus in the Church,
by Seth Haines:
As fate, fortune, and the Holy Ghost would have it, Mrs. Curtis drew my name. She never told me that she had come into possession of my pledge card. She never broached the subject of purity or lust with me, which is good because the awkward quotient to any such conversation would have been rivaled only by the time Sister Sarto had the “sex talk” with my class of sixth grade boys in Catholic school.

The Millennial Exodus and Consumer Church,
by Nate Pyle:
Christendom is coming to a close. Church is going to have to change. Call it a new reformation. Call it a changing of the guard. Call it what you want, but change is on the horizon. This makes how we have this dialogue very important. My hope is that, if we do it with a lot of grace and love, our dialogue might just be as beautiful as whatever emerges.

Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church: A Response to Rachel Held Evans,
by Trevin Wax:
Some millennials, like many from generations before us, want the church to become a mirror – a reflection of our particular preferences, desires, and dreams. But other millennials want a Christianity that shapes and changes our preferences, desires, and dreams.

United Methodists Wearing A Millennial Evangelical Face,
by Anthony Bradley:
One of the many blind spots in Evans’ entire project is that young evangelicals are not leaving evangelical churches to join mainline churches like the UMC, they are leaving the church altogether in many cases.

7 Lessons Learned from a Church of Millennials,
by Chris Morton:
We don’t have to worry about the “Millenial Exodus” because God has promised that the Gates of Hades will not overcome his church. We just have to decide if we are willing to get on board and be the church for the next generation.

Entitled, Don’t Care,
by Caris Adel:
Who exactly am I having to prove my reasons to?  To people who don’t want to engage while I’m still here?

Jesus in the Church (A Community Story),
comments moderated by Seth Haines:
I’d like to shift the focus away from the institutional wrongs or misplaced ideologies, and focus on the small, unsung saints who faithfully plug away at conforming themselves into the image of Jesus.

Why are millennials leaving church? Try atheism,
by Hemant Mehta:
It appears that atheists and Christians are finally working together on the same task: getting millennials to leave the church.

Where Have All the Young Adults Gone? Reflections on Why Young People Leave the Church,
by Jason Allen:
Why do young adults leave the church? This is a pressing concern, but an often-misplaced question. Instead of focusing so much on why young adults leave the church, let’s focus more on how they enter the church and how they engage it along the way.

And, finally, if you’re interested, here’s the piece I wrote for The Gospel Coalition on the subject.

Worriers in Remission

July 15, 2013

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I have a friend who worries she has “lost her salvation.” I listen for long hours and ask questions because I had friends who did the same for me three years ago. My friends worried about me, but I want to go to bed without fear, so I lay my worry on the doorstep and cross over the threshold of trust every moment.

I ran into a friend while getting coffee this afternoon. Five minutes only and tears well up in both of our eyes—the world weighs heavy on shoulders not meant to carry it. Our Father is a better Atlas, rolling our globe on His fully capable back. We are worriers in remission. This is the life of the Christian.

I read an article today about a girl grown with Sunday School sashes and Memory Verse Answers. She doesn’t believe in that god anymore and I see myself in her story. We didn’t end in the same place, but there is time still. It is God who numbers our days and He knows every one of hers. My heart wants to worry about her, but my God clothes lilies and counts hairs—surely He has not fallen asleep at the helm of her life?

I don’t mean to excuse trouble, but I know enough not to borrow it. Or to borrow it long enough to have it pierce my soul and my heart with empathy and then bring it to the throne with confidence—not that my plan will be accomplished, but that His will. And I don’t mean to be lazy. Take my arms and my legs and my mind and my time, take it all, but give us Jesus, only Jesus.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Matthew 6:25

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It is raining when I wake. I stretch my legs, hooking my toes over the end of my bed. I have not been able to shake the brokenness I feel these days. There is good news and bad and it comes simultaneously. The world is broken and we are in the world, and sometimes of it too. A new niece was born yesterday and a man who is like a father to my brothers died last night.

I was brought forth in iniquity.

There are those who excuse those words as poetry. But what is poetry if not man’s attempt to make sense of what seems senseless or too mysterious for simple words? What is poetry but God’s way of making beautiful what seems ugly? When science fails me and theology is too wondrous for me, I take comfort in mystery, in poetry.

An unsettling verdict, a drug overdose—”this world breaks every one of us, and later we are strong at those broken places.” Hemingway did not believe in original sin, I don’t think, but even the best and worst of us knows the cracked and creviced face staring back at us from the mirror. Are any of us whole? Really whole?

A week of conversations on brokenness, where baggage on original sin and depravity and hope circle and devour—it leaves me feeling brokenness more acutely. No one is unscathed, and especially not the one who thinks he is. We all walk with a limp and better that we acknowledge it than try to hide it. You’re broken? Me too. Let us walk more slowly beside one another then, the journey toward the kingdom is not a sprint or a race, there are no winners—or losers. His glory is our collective trophy.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
a broken and contrite heart, you will not despise.

Brought forth in brokenness, brought forth in wholeness—either way, what He desires is the cracked and creviced child. The one who knows her sin and her faults, her needs and her Savior. The one who knows his helplessness and his fears, his limps and his Healer.

What need have we for a Savior if we can find a scrap of wholeness on our own?

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 15:51-57

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Last week I wrote a piece on the reflection of Christ and the Church on dating relationships. To my surprise within 24 hours it was one of the most viewed posts in Sayable’s history. It seems the Church—and not just singles—is desperate for clear reminders of what marriage is at its core.

The more I thought about the core of marriage, especially in light of the recent legislative decisions, the more my heart began to break for my friends and family who are desperate to enter into marriage with their same-sex partners. I love these people and it pierces my heart when I hear them say earnestly, “Why would you want to legislate who I can love?”

Now, first things first, I am not interested in legislating love. I am, however, in favor of a more holistic and Christ/Gospel-centric love. I want to see past the “Do unto others…” surface love, and delve into the root of love, namely God’s love and all its implications.

Our love will always be dim until we behold Him face to face—and there is no chance of that on this side of the Kingdom. So yes, love who you will, but let us check ourselves for the quality of the love we experience.

Love, however, is a tricky emotion, so qualifying it is nearly impossible for any one of us, straight or gay. If I were in love, how could I explain how bright the stars look when he is around? or how brilliant the colors are? or how my heart jumps into my throat? I cannot. Goodness gracious, gladly I cannot.

So there must be something deeper than our definition of love on the table here, but what is it?

Throughout all of scripture God deals with His chosen people as a bride awaiting her bridegroom. Woven through the entire Old Testament and carried to near fullness in the New, God endears Himself to His people in various ways.

He helps her to see her helplessness without Him.
He helps her to see her beauty in His eyes.
He woos her when she plays the harlot.
He comes to earth in the form of a man, a Groom, and lays His life down for her, the ultimate sacrifice.
He promises to come soon to take her home with Him.

God, in beautiful ways, makes it clear to His people that He and they are wholly different from one another. Though man was created in God’s image—a likeness in part, a reflection—intrinsically they are not the same. This is not a simple love story, though, here is the most sacrificial love possible: this is two entities, completely distinct, absolutely different, and intrinsically separate—brought together to form an eternal union.

A homosexual union cannot be, by its nature, a reflection of Christ and the Church because Christ and the Church are intrinsically and holistically different from one another. For the Christian, the bride of Christ, a homosexual marriage cannot reflect that which marriage is intended to display: their union with Christ.

It is not about biology or parts fitting together, or feelings of love, or a fullness of emotion, or unalterable attraction—it is the definition of a love story, legislated by God, for the good of all men. It is the greatest love ever known. Earthly marriage between a man and woman is meant to be a profound mystery, but it is meant to be a mere illustration of what happens when two holistically different entities are joined together.

The kingdom is made complete.

A Profound Mystery

July 5, 2013

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:31-33

You don’t reach the ripe old age of 32 without having worn sixteen bridesmaid dresses to sixteen weddings. (Actually, seventeen, I wore the black one in two weddings.) Standing beside seventeen women as they vowed to love, honor, and cherish the guy facing them, as well as walking through countless relationships with nearly all of my friends, you learn a thing or two.

This morning, as yet another friend and I were talking about how to handle a situation with a guy she recently started dating, it occurred me to that there would be much more clarity in dating relationships if we really took the “profound mystery of Christ & the Church” seriously. That illustration is about marriage, yet, but shouldn’t that be the aim of dating?

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Christ pursues us from the foundation of the earth. He doesn’t wait until it is less risky or for us to show interest in Him. Because of this, the Church knows Christ’s love for us is true and will not be depleted when the going gets rough.

Men, do not wait for a riskless situation, pursue anyway.
Women, don’t make it difficult for him to pursue you.

Christ never wavered in His sacrificial offering. He wept in the garden, but did what His Father asked Him to do. Because of this, the Church trusts that Christ’s word is true and trustworthy. There is no question or doubt about His intentions.

Men, state your intentions, simple though they may be, right up front.
Women, trust a man who does this and believe him without second guessing.

Christ spreads wide the arms of love. He doesn’t withhold until we are lovable, understandable, or beautiful. Because of this, we can take our unloveliness to Christ with confidence. He sees past our blemishes and we are lovely because He loves us. We love Him because He first loved us.

Men, look past culture’s demands for a perfect wife, love what the world calls unlovely.
Women, you become lovely because you are loved first by Christ—rest in that loveliness.

Christ intercedes on our behalf. He does not stop going to the Father in our defense and for our petitions. Because of this, we know Christ will fight for us. He will not allow anything to break us beyond His capable sight, so we trust Him.

Men, don’t give up on a woman because she is difficult to understand; seek the Holy Spirit for understanding.
Women, be clear about what you need or how you feel, without making it difficult for him to meet your needs—trust him and the Lord’s work in him.

Christ reminds us of our sufficiency in Him. He doesn’t make us wonder if we are enough or too much. Because of this, the Church can trust that every difficult and beautiful thing will be used for the fruition of His kingdom—nothing is wasted, nothing is too much, nothing is not enough.

Men, find your sufficiency in Christ, not your girl’s approval, respect, or admiration of you.
Women, trust your “not enoughness” and “too muchness” to the finished work of the Cross, and know that in your weaknesses He is made great.

It is a profound mystery, I think, Christ and the Church, marriage, all of it. But I think it could be a little more profound here on earth if we really took Paul’s illustration to heart.

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I don’t know when I first began to understand the bible was not a blueprint for life, that David was not a model of how to slay giants in my life and Balaam’s donkey wasn’t my cue to listen for God’s voice in odd places. It seems foreign to me now, to think of the Bible that way.

Here was the whole story of God and I spent my whole life trying to make it the story of me.

The Jesus Storybook Bibleby Sally Lloyd-Jones, takes a holistic and simple approach to the gospel, from Genesis to Revelation and is appropriate for the youngest of children—though I don’t know many adults who can read it without choking up themselves.

Sometimes I find the intricacies of the gospel seem so complex, the questions mount, and before I know it, I doubt God’s goodness and faithfulness and love for me. One of the opening lines in the book is, “They were lovely because God loved them. Because He made them.”

They were lovely because God loved them.

I recommend you buy this book right now, go! Buy it even if you don’t have children, but most certainly if you do.

For You!

I’m giving away the four DVD set of animated Jesus Storybook Bible. The illustrations are by Jago, the same illustrator from the book, and it is narrated by British actor David Suchet. I think its value is far greater than money alone, so even if you don’t win, I recommend purchasing them. The DVDs were given to me by Zondervan for review, so in return I’m gifting them to one amazing family!

To Enter

Winning is easy, really easy, and I hope fun.

I know a lot of you read Sayable and you feel like you know me, but I don’t know you! If you’d like to enter to win the four DVDs, tweet me a photo of your family or leave a comment on this post on Facebook attaching a photo in the comment. If you don’t feel comfortable showing your faces in public, no problem, email it to me here. If you’re single, upload a photo of people who are like family to you.

I’ll pick a winner Saturday at noon and contact you through whatever medium you shared your image with me. Cannot wait to “meet” your families!

This contest is now closed. The winner was Jonathan Wilson and family from Conway, AR. Thanks all! Seeing your family photos was one of the highlights of my blog-writing days!

 

A few months ago I wrote an article that caused a bit of a firestorm among some of my writing compadres. Perhaps I gave it a provocative title, but I maintain its truth: Mark Driscoll is Not My Pastor.

Amongst the backlash of that article there was also a curious phenomenon on the twitter chat: the affirmation of the virtual church.

What was being espoused by person after person was the reality that they considered their online friends their church. “Twitter is my church” and “You guys are my church and my pastors” were among some of the statements I read. The definition of virtual is “Existing or resulting in essence or effect though not in actual fact, form, or name.”

Hear me out, one of the ministries to which God has called me is of the online variety. This blog and other publications I write for take a good amount of mental and spiritual energy. You are my ministry. But you are not my local church.

More and more I read articles lumping authors into clear and present camps. You have the Jesus feminists, the red letter Christians, the social justice-cause driven, the reformed, the story-tellers, the orthodox. There are these hard and fast lines boxing authors to a particular movement or theological framework, and once they have been flagged as such, they are blacklisted or embraced. There is little room for grace in this world because if I confess I agree with Rob Bell in this one area, that is a blight on my character to those who disagree with him. If I confess I agree with John Piper in this area, well, count me out of an entire sector of the blogosphere.

If we are in an age of the virtual church, then we are also in an age of virtual shunning.

You won’t ever hear me disavow the importance of the global Church. That I can consider someone who lives thousands of miles from me one of my closest friends—that is the power of the bond we have in Christ.

But love for the global Church does not negate the biblical importance of the local church. Too often I hear great passion in my brothers and sisters for the health of the Church, without seeing evidence that they value it at its most local level. I see bloggers calling men and women to task, and shunning those who associate with them, without seeing any accountability to authority in their own lives. I see much concern for orthodoxy and discipleship and brotherly love, without seeing evidence of those things in their lives.

I am not saying those things are not happening, what I am saying is that I don’t see it.

I don’t see it because they are not my local church and I do not know them in the way I know the people alongside whom I walk. I don’t see it because I am not privy to the conversations they have with their pastors (if they have pastors) or elders. I don’t see it because I don’t see them taking meals to new moms or visiting the sick or weeping with those who weep. Seeing those things is reserved for those who are not virtual, but real life, flesh and blood.

I’m writing this because too often the assumption is made that the virtual groups with whom I am associated are somehow the people to whom I am submitted. The assumption is we ascribe to the same set of theological ideals, we have discussions behind closed doors, spit-shake on how we’ll handle certain situations, administer church discipline and the sacraments together. And it’s simply not the truth.

I have pastors and a local church. I write for publications, enjoy friendships, but they are not my local church or my elders. Simply because a publication for which I write or a group of online acquaintances embrace a certain stance or ideal, does not mean I agree with them.

A year ago I had a conversation with one of my pastors. I met with him to discuss an opportunity put before me to participate in a publication where I would share the platform with some diametrically opposing authors. Should I do it? was my question. Yes, was his answer. Why? Because every opportunity we have to proclaim the gospel is good and we should prayerfully consider taking it. Some of the places I write, I write because I do disagree with their stance on certain issues. I write because it is my prayer that the gospel would go forth. My name doesn’t matter, but Christ’s does.

We proclaim Christ best by loving what He loves. What Christ loves best is the glory of His Father, and the Father is glorified when we are his disciples, when we love one another—at the most difficult, personal, beautiful level: right here, locally.

Love the Church, friends, but start by loving the church.

A Life Full of Sabbaths

June 10, 2013

It’s Wendell Berry all this month. I drink in his essays, turning words over and over in my mouth. I read him aloud, even when no one is listening. Last night as she spreads cornmeal on wooden boards, I read her three paragraphs to give context to the quote written on the chalkboard: Though they have no Sundays, their days are full of Sabbaths.

He speaks of the cedar waxwings eating grapes in November. But he penned the poem The Peace of the Wild Things nearby then and poetry is meant to speak of the mysterious in the mundane and so he speaks of us, or the hoped-for us.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This morning I read in Mark of Jesus healing on the Sabbath, the pharisees outrage, and the calm response of the Lord of the Sabbath: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

How we have forgotten that. How have we forgotten that?

She is leaving to get bread flour to bake round loaves in the brick-oven. Do you want to come with, she asks, dropping her prepositional phrase and picking up her purse. I am drinking coffee on the side porch and nothing could bid me leave the wild rushing of the river in front of me and the song of the orioles above me. This is my sabbath and I am made for it, I think.

The last time I was home was a year ago, in May, and I have waited a year for these few days. They are not exactly as I imagined in my mind, other duties and events capped its full breadth, but it is a few days at least of quiet and still. I was made for this week, I think. The coals burned hot in the brick-oven the other night and faces gathered around the tables, children everywhere, laughter lingering. A phone call from Malaysia from a globe-trotting brother: you always sound so happy when you’re home, he said, and it is true, except when it hasn’t been.

I have lived this year holding my breath, it seems, waiting for the mornings when I could sleep past 4:30 or when I at least didn’t have to hit the ground running, literally, as soon as I woke. I have lived this year waiting for Sabbath, guarding it with a fervor I didn’t know I had. If anyone came near it, I would square my jaw and shake my head: it’s mine!

I preened myself for my Sabbaths.

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Whenever I rest and really rest, empty my head of expectations (yours and mine), listen, really listen, I remember there is nothing of my doing in salvation; that salvation is one long rest in the same direction. There is work too, obedience and sanctification, moments of weakness and moments of strength. But at its core and its very marrow, the work of salvation is rest, Sabbath. It is to say, again and again and again, I rest in You, Lord of Rest. I find my Sabbath in you, Lord of the Sabbath.

The work of salvation is to live a life full to Sabbaths, even when there is no margin and little space, when there is demand from every outside element and every inside emotion. This is to trust that a God who rested when His work was not done—even when it was good—to set an example for His people: You are not done, children, no, but it is still good. And so rest. You are not made for Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for you.

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It’s been a few months of feeling discouraged and one of the effects of that is I simply don’t want to write for you. I don’t want to write at all, but I especially don’t want to write for you. I don’t want to be found out, so to speak. I don’t want the world to know my first love feels likes seconds and my *gospel wakefulness feels tired. I don’t want you to know I’ve been struggling with condemnation, fear, insecurity, uncertainty, and weariness. I am ashamed of those feelings—especially because I know they are anti-gospel and they are born in me as a result of not reveling in Godward affections.

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Tonight I was remembering some of the things that set my soul free a few years ago. Not the sermons or books specifically, but the realizations:

1. I am the younger brother AND the older brother. I hate restrictions and I love approval, I hate poverty and love lavish attention.

2. God is not more or less interested in me because of my legalism or licentiousness: His provision is the same for both.

3. The gospel doesn’t only carry the power to save me, but also sanctify and sustain me.

4. I cannot put God in my debt by being good, holy, or faithful enough.

5. All my righteous acts are like filthy rags.

6. God is not beholden to my view of Him. My concept of good is not His definition of good. My ideal of His faithfulness is not His attribute of faithfulness.

7. Man’s approval is impossible to attain. God’s approval is completely wrapped up in His Son.

8. God is not surprised by my lack of faith or my abundance of faith, by my questions or my fears, by my pride or my sin. On the threshold of His kingdom He will not deny access to me because I didn’t understand an aspect of theology or walk in complete faith in certain areas.

9. The Holy Spirit is not tapping His toe waiting for my faith to be big enough or my ear to be tuned. He dwells in me, empowering me to accomplish everything God has ordained for me to accomplish with every gift He formed me to have before the foundation of the world.

10. God is for my joy. He is most glorified when I am most satisfied in Him. My complete confidence and joy in the Holy Spirit, through the finished work of the Son, to the honor of the Father, brings the triune God glory.

It was encouraging for me to simply write these things out, and so I thought I’d share them with you. Perhaps you’re struggling too, or perhaps you’ve never experienced gospel wakefulness, and these points will help you along that way. Either way, I hope you’re encouraged. Also, I suggest you take a few minutes to write out what the gospel means to you, or has shown you. Even just to remind truths or clarify errors in your thinking.

*Gospel Wakefulness is not my term, but Jared Wilson’s . Jared wrote a book by the same title, but he has also written extensively on it on his blog Gospel Driven Church. Jared is one of the most Godward gazing people I know. His blog has been a constant source of encouragement in the past few years and I recommend every one of his books with full assurance you will be encouraged. Seriously, buy his books. All of ‘em.

Resurrection

March 31, 2013

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O God of my Exodus,

Great was the joy of Israel’s sons,
when Egypt died upon the shore,
Far greater the joy
when the Redeemer’s foe lay crushed
in the dust.

Jesus strides forth as the victor,
conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might;
He bursts the bands of death,
tramples the powers of darkness down,
and lives forever.

He, my gracious surety,
apprehended for payment of my debt,
comes forth from the prison house of the grave
free, and triumphant over sin, Satan, and death.

Show me herein the proof that his vicarious offering is accepted,
that the claims of justice are satisfied,
that the devil’s sceptre is shivered,
that his wrongful throne is levelled.

Give me the assurance that in Christ I died,
in him I rose,
in his life I live,
in his victory I triumph,
in his ascension I shall be glorified.

Adorable Redeemer,
Thou who was lifted up upon a cross
art ascended to the highest heaven.
Thou, who as Man of sorrows
wast crowned with thorns,
art now as Lord of life wreathed with glory.

Once, no shame more deep than thine,
no agony more bitter,
no death more cruel.
Now, no exaltation more high,
no life more glorious,
no advocate more effective.

Thou art in the triumph car leading captive
thine enemies behind thee.

What more could be done than Thou hast done!
Thy death is my life,
Thy resurrection my peace,
Thy ascension my hope,
Thy prayers my comfort.

Valley of Vision

 

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Before a polygraph can be performed, the test-giver asks a series of questions to which he knows the answers to ascertain a baseline. Therefore, when a lie is given, it’s clear because the needle spikes amidst the truth. Everyone has a different baseline, and some people can BS the lie detector, but it’s a rare one who can.

The reason I’m giving you a brief lesson in polygraphy is because what I see across the board in the blogosphere is a lot of people citing spikes as norms (on every side in every issue)—and it’s not helpful.

I think if we were to more often consider a holistic picture of any movement (political, spiritual, etc.) we would not only find a more holistic argument for their views—founded or not—and, which is more, we would find people. We would find individuals who care deeply about their issues and often times have deeply personal reasons for caring about them. I’m not arguing that every position should be considered viable, but every person ought to be considered, particularly by Christians, whose ministry is one of reconciliation—namely the reconciliation of man to God.

Recently I’ve been cited as being part of the Young Restless Reformed corner of the Church. True or not is beside the point (if you have a problem with that, reread the former paragraph). One common pushback on the YRR is that they only listen to like-minded individuals and only call out in public those who disagree. However, if you, like the polygraph giver, would observe the baseline truths of what God is doing there, you’d find they’re actively involved in calling out their own brothers and sisters where error occurs. I know my email inbox has been filled with an equal amount of caution and encouragement—and I’m fully prepared for more public responses as my readership grows.

A perfect example of good discourse on this currently is the current amiable conversation between Thabiti Anyabwile and Doug Wilson—on a very polarizing issue—on their blogs. It’s been a pleasure to watch a disagreement play out between brothers with good-will and gospel focus.

If you find yourself citing spikes and rushing to share the latest drama from any particular corner of the internet, a word of caution: establish a baseline first; find every reason to think the very best of individuals you’re planning on slandering or sharing information about, and then press near to the Holy Spirit for He ushers us into all truth (Jn. 14:26)

(This actually wasn’t written in response to the accusations leveled at me from the former post, just thoughts that have been rolling around in my noggin for a while.)

Did y’all know there are whole websites devoted to uncovering the supposed-salacious details of Christian bloggers and pastors? I didn’t until today when my inbox received a google alert that my name, lo and behold, was attached to some very salacious details of its own. Who knew?

I didn’t read far—my constitution is affected enough by truths about my own soul to bother with what strangers make up about it. Suffice it to say the underbelly is alive and well, folks, alive and well.

All this has me thinking about the ever shrinking neutral ground and whether it exists at all, or ever has. It seems nothing is out from under the watchful eye of bloggers and critics these days. Mostly because everyone has a platform these days and if not, they build one from crates, soapboxes, and grudges til they get one. I’m a peace-making sort, but even I feel the pull to build a Babel—even to just protect my own name and sense of peace.

What most of these watchdog sites and bulldog bloggers are doing, though, is attempting to make their -ism (whatever -ism and -ian or -ist they are) seem more appealing than the others’. And if they can’t do that, or have already failed to do so, they’ll do their darnedest to pull all the -isms down with ‘em.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

One of my favorite passages in the book of Acts is when those seven silly sons of Sceva tried to cast out demons in the names of Paul and Jesus without any faith of their own. The evil spirits replied, “I know Jesus and I’ve heard of Paul, but who are you?” and I-love-that.

I know Jesus and I’ve heard of Paul.

But who are you?

 

 

 

 

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

So tonight, this small writer, writing from a dark bedroom in a small, dark house in Texas, my roommate asleep next to me, her mom asleep in her bed, a friend asleep on the couch, and the rest of my girls snug in bed, I think about how small our lives are. How very, very small they are.

Who are we?

Precious few of us are Pauls; most of us are probably Peters, running at the mouth and sinking after three steps. Or Thomas, that beautiful faithless skeptic. Maybe we’re Mary, the whore with the hair at Jesus feet, giving much. Perhaps some of us are just shepherds on a cold night, to whom an angel appears with great news. Maybe we’re Joseph, asked to do hard things. But at the end of all things, we are very small people living very small lives. I think that with every new twitter follower, every facebook like, every email that comes into my inbox, every new invitation to speak or write: who are you, Lore? Who the heck are you?

Because at the end of all things, the world won’t care about my -ism or my name. They won’t remember anything when faced with the all-encompassing God of the universe. They will Know Jesus. Every one of us will bow and confess Him alone as Lord.

And until that day, I want to simply do my best to preach the gospel in His name. That’s all I am. And I hope, I hope that’s all you are too.

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