Archives For sin

Awaiting a Savior

June 10, 2014

Awaiting a Savior, The gospel, the new creation, and the end of poverty
by Aaron Armstrong

This book is the book I’ve wanted to exist for a long time—and now it does. In Awaiting a Savior, Aaron Armstrong talks about the roots of poverty, not in economic terms, but spiritual terms. Aaron brings with him knowledge as an employee of a charity, but also an obvious study of the subject biblically. In a strangely refreshing way, he exposes poverty for what it really is at the root: the result of sin, and not just the sin of others, but our own sin, and not just our own sin, but original sin. He doesn’t make excuses for poverty in a “what will be will be” way, but instead joins every act of poverty with the greatest display of riches: grace and the gospel. I found myself tearing up time after time in this book and want to give it to every person I know who asks the question, “What can I do about the problem of poverty!?” I highly recommend this short and powerful book.

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If you are a Villager, or you podcast The Village’s sermons, this weekend Matt is preaching from II Corinthians 5. If you struggle with doubt, I encourage you to listen. One of the things I love about my church is that it is a safe place to wrestle with sin and the brokenness that sin brings into our lives. As I’ve been reading Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd Jones, I’ve been so freshly encouraged to be honest not only about my sin, but also the brokenness that trickles down as a result of it. Note: if you haven’t read Spiritual Depression, I cannot recommend it more highly.

From Chapter III:

What is the cure for [spiritual depression]? For the moment I shall give principles only. The first principle is evident: above everything else avoid making premature claim that your blindness is cured. It must have been a great temptation to this man to do that. Here is a man who has been blind. Our Lord puts spittle upon his eyes and says to him: ‘Do you see?’ The man says: ‘I see.’ What a temptation it must have been to him to take to his heels and announce to the whole world: ‘I can see!’ The man, in a sense, could see, but so far his sight was incomplete and imperfect, and it was most vital that he should not testify before he had seen clearly.It is a great temptation and I can well understand it, but it is a fatal thing to do. How many are doing that at the present time (and are pressed and urged to do so), proclaiming that they see, when it is so patent to many that they do not see very clearly and are really still in a state of confusion. What harm such people do. They describe men to others as trees, walking. How misleading to the others!

The second thing is the exact opposite of the first. The temptation to the first is to run and to proclaim that they can see, before they see clearly; but the temptation to the second is to feel absolutely hopeless and to say: ‘There is no point in going on. You have put spittle on my eyes and you have touched me. In a sense I see, but I am simply seeing men as if they were trees walking.’ Such people often come to me and say that they cannot see the truth clearly. in their confusion they become desperate and ask: ‘Why cannot I see? The whole thing is hopeless.’ They stop reading their bible, they stop praying. The devil has discouraged many with lies. Do not listen to him.

What then is the cure? What is the right way? It is to be honest and to answer our Lord’s question truthfully and honest. That is the whole secret of this matter. He turned to this man and asked: ‘Do you see ought?’ And the man said, absolutely honestly: ‘I do see, but I am seeing men as if they were trees walking.’ What saved this man was his absolutely honesty.

Now the question is, where do we stand? The whole purpose of this sermon is just to ask that question—where do we stand? What exactly do we see? Have we got things clearly? Are we happy? Do we really see? We either do or we do not, and we must know exactly where we are. Do we know God? Do we know Jesus Christ? Not only as our Saviour but do we know Him? Are we ‘rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory?’ That is the New Testament Christian. Do we see? Let us be honest; let us face the questions, let us face them with absolute honesty.

Link Love

April 23, 2014

The Real Problem with Female Masturbation I’m linking to this because I’m so grateful these subjects are being talked about more and more. I spoke at an event a few weeks ago and was astonished to find that most of the followup conversations I had with the women there were on sexual issues that they had never been taught about. It shouldn’t have shocked me, but it did. Friends, leaders, women—we MUST create space for these conversations. We must shush the prude in us that doesn’t want to say those words aloud and bend down in the dirt with our sisters to give them the living water.

Nathan Bingham and Mathew Sims both had great articles up this week on whether it’s a sin to retweet or share a compliment on social media.

There has never been a time in my memory when I have not wrestled with depression and condemnation. I am less prone to worry, anxiety, and panic than I ever was, but Simon and Garfunkel’s Hello, darkness, my old friend, is a common refrain in my life. Zach Lee is one of the pastors at my church and for as long as he’s been there, he’s been honest about his struggles in this area. I’m grateful for his words here and hope they encourage you if you share the weakness.

If you were on Twitter at all this week #ERLCsummit was trending. I was a bit surprised as it was the hashtag from a small conservative conference meant to train Southern Baptist pastors and leaders in ministry. I watched many of the talks on the live-stream because they were on sex, homosexuality, pornography, and marriage—and I think we’re in times when it’s more important than ever to be thinking biblically about these issues instead of culturally. The reason the hashtag was trending so high, though, was because of the backlash it was receiving from the self-described progressive Christians. While I do think there was some unfortunate phrasing and less than apt metaphors made by some of the speakers, I was grieved by the reactions of some progressives. That said, I appreciated Wesley Hill’s response as well as Chelsea Vicari’s Women, Sexuality and the Southern Baptist’s ERLC Summit. Every time a Twitter-storm happens on these issues, I’m reminded of what a great—and limited—tool Twitter is. And I’m freshly aware of our need to be in season and out, to live life face to face with real struggles and strugglers. 140 characters is not enough to disciple someone in truth.

Some time ago someone asked me, “Do you even want to be married?” My response surprised me: “No. I mean, I want to love Jesus. If living single with those girls in that house makes me love Jesus more than being married, no, I don’t want to be married.” I’ve thought about it so many times since then because the truth is, I DO want to be married and I DO think marriage would be good and hard in the right ways. But the deeper truth is that today I DO love my singleness because it is a gift from the Lord and I honestly see it as such. I appreciate Ben Stuart’s thoughts here.

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Sawdust and Scolding

April 22, 2014

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I read a short story once about a man who died with a pile of sawdust in the corner of his bedroom. They said if he had seen the sawdust he wouldn’t have ended his life. The mystery was why.

In the end it was revealed his livelihood required the use of his wooden leg and his short stature. Someone had been sawing away at his wooden leg while he slept. Every morning when he woke, he seemed an inch taller. He feared being worthless and so ended his life.

. . . .

There are things gnawing away at our souls that lie to us or debilitate us. We don’t know to go hunting for the pile of sawdust, for the places our lives have been swept up, sitting in a corner, so all the while hope is shriveling up inside of us.

Misinformation about us is so deep inside that sometimes we can only identify the gnawing pain, but not the source of it.

Tim Keller tweeted, “For some people, the reason why they can never change is because all they do is scold their heart.” Oh, how my soul knows that well. Someone called me a spiritual masochist recently, and another friend challenged me that maybe my issues aren’t from sin as much as suffering.

Those words play over and over in my heart and mind these days. I champion in scolding my heart, sometimes all I do is scold, from waking until sleeping.

A friend told me the other day that in the Old Testament God’s children are usually called sinners, but after Christ, they’re called saints. Yet who among us feels that saintliness?

I don’t. Do you?

There are piles of sawdust everywhere in my life, lies the enemy tells and sometimes truths he exaggerates. But the real truth is that I am Christ’s, and what is Christ’s can never be snatched out His hand, and if I am held and His, I am a saint. Not because I feel like one, but because He has said I am one.

Meditating On

April 7, 2014

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (I Corinthians 2:1-5)

It’s so easy to get caught up in the words, right? There are so many words, competing messages, and directions for our hearts and minds to take. We gobble them up, feed on them, sustain ourselves with them, and oh how hungry we go to bed every night. Don’t you? I do.

But Paul, truthful Paul, he drops those lofty words and sweet wisdom in the mud, crushes them with his heel, and says, “No, friends, I decide, I purpose, I war with my flesh, to know nothing, nothing, among you, except Christ.”

Oh, how my prideful, boasting, self-righteous, independent heart needs to hear the apostle say those words: it’s not of me, it’s of Christ and for Christ and about Christ.

 

Grumbling & Complaining

April 5, 2014

My heart has been a grumbling one recently. I could give you a few reasons I think why my grumbling is necessary or warranted, but the truth is that even talking about those situations would invite more grumbling.

People talk about it being necessary to say how we feel, but I usually think there is more merit to say less about how we feel, and more about who God is in spite of our feelings. Disagree or not, I don’t think the Bible makes a case for us to all sit around and talk about our feelings to one another.

Paul, however, does have something to say about grumbling. In his letter to the Philippians, he says:

Do all things without grumbling or complaining, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
Philippians 2:14

Do: It’s an action word. Often we want to passively let the disciplines of the Christian life just happen to us. But Paul is saying, no friends, you gotta do this. It’s not going to happen without some elbow grease.

All: It’s an encompassing word. It’s inclusive, including all things. Not just hard things or bad things, but good things and seasonal things. It means in every situation—hard or not—this verse applies.

Things: It’s a noun. A person, place, or thing—which, I’ll betcha is where most of your grumbling is directed. Who’s bothering you? Where is it hard to be? What is rubbing against you in a difficult way? That’s exactly the thing Paul’s talking about.

Without: It means an absence of. It means no sign of, zero, zilch, none. There shouldn’t even be a hint of this in your life.

Grumbling: Murmuring, even under our breath, to ourselves. This is what grumbling is. It’s preaching a gospel, a false gospel, to ourselves about ourselves. It’s heresy—the opposite of good news.

Or: I like this “or” right here because I’m usually guilty of one of these, but not the other. I don’t know about you. I usually think it’s okay to grumble to myself, even if I don’t complain to others. But Paul is saying, nope, neither is okay.

Complaining: Sounding off, letting off steam, gossip, sometimes even “asking for prayer about this particular situation”—these can all lend to complaining. Is there some situation of discomfort in your life? Seek encouragement from others, but don’t let it terminate on idle negative talk.

I’m challenged by all those words today. Challenged to shut my mouth, even if it means awkward silence around others. Challenged to guide my heart, even if it means I don’t get to entertain or indulge my thoughts toward another person or situation.

Let’s hold fast to the word of life—Christ’s words and what they offer—for they far outweigh our momentary grumbling or complaining.

My friend Trillia Newbell’s new book United has hit the shelves this week. Trillia is a wise and kind woman whose words regarding race and unity are much needed in the church—especially from a woman. After reading her book, I watched The Loving Story on Netflix, which I’ve highly recommended several times this week. I am also partway through Letters to A Birmingham Jail, edited by Brian Loritts, with contributions by Piper, Chandler, and more.

This week I have been so struck by the importance of ongoing conversations regarding the Civil Rights movement and how they affect current movements in our culture and world. As I read and watch these stories, and learn to how parse this ongoing history (because that’s what it is and will be for a long, long time), I am having to consider freshly what our response to things like gender roles, same sex attraction, homosexual unions, abortion, and even Church and non-profit polity needs to be. These words will be recorded someday in biographies and documentaries. Whether we like it or not, our words matter and they do hold weight.

One thing I was deeply struck by while watching The Loving Story was the original content, first person narratives, film of actual an actual couple being persecuted for their marriage to one another, young and eager lawyers making history in 1968 regarding interracial marriage. In 2014, more than ever before in history, we are content factories.

Some day, and not very far in the future, our children and their children WILL use our words for better or worse. That makes me want to be very sober-minded and slow to speak, slow to give opinions, especially ones that have not been tried or put through the fire.

There are a number of polarizing situations at play in the world, just today I can think of three huge ones concerning religious liberties, homosexual unions, and abortion—oh, friends, let’s be careful, very, very careful of how we respond. Not in fear of what will someday be used against us, but in wisdom for the sake of future generations.

These are not simply ideals and ideas—they are people, real people.

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The popular euphemism for “can’t we all just be friends” is to give folks “a seat at the table.” I’ve used it. It’s helpful. It reminds me that people are people and everyone around the table is coming with different presuppositions, stories, layers, and theologies. It evens the playing field.

More and more, though, what is communicated is that everyone gets a seat at the table and the table is a pulpit for everyone to preach their message. It’s the church of all peoples and thoughts and ideas—and it’s a veritable mess.

Paul warned the Corinthians that hanging with those intentionally sinning was corrupting the purity of the gospel. Here’s what’s interesting though: he used the words of one of their own to deliver the warning. The Greek poet Menander first used the words, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Paul contextualized the line for gospel purposes.

What often happens with all these seats at the table is we end up attempting to fit the gospel to sinners, instead of fitting sinners to the gospel.

Bad company does corrupt good morals, and one of those morals is that the gospel cannot be so contextualized that everyone at the table agrees.

If that is difficult for us to swallow in an age where everyone wants meritorious rightness, we’re in good company, the disciples once grumbled to themselves, “This is a difficult thing, who can believe it?”

And Jesus, sweet Jesus, gives that wide berth and narrow path: It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.

Sit with sinners, eat with everybody, welcome all to the table—but remember Jesus is the only one who offers words of spirit and life.

I’m a church girl, capital C and lowercase c, cosmic Church and local church. I love the Church and I love my church. This is why I’ve stayed silent on most controversies within the church and Church. More of us need to really read I Corinthians 13 when Paul said Love doesn’t delight in wrongdoing, and fewer of us need to skim over the cliche oft cross-stitched words.

The other night my weary and hardworking pastor sat down with me at church. After talking about what God is doing in Europe through the church planting network he leads, we chatted for a few minutes about the work still ahead. There are so many who need to hear (and see) Christ. Nothing excites me more than endeavoring toward that. I’m a Church girl.

And then I asked him: Matt, talk to me for a few minutes about the most recent Driscoll dust up; as my pastor, I want to take your lead on this, happy and joyfully, knowing you take pastoring us seriously.

Nearly the first words out of his mouth were scripture:

I Corinthians 4:3-5
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

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

This past weekend Driscoll issued an apology to those who call him pastor, friend, and family. It was not an “open letter” as many are asserting that it is. It was family business, not public business. But sure enough, I scrolled through twitter this morning and the finger-pointing had already begun. People are out for blood and nothing Driscoll does or says at this point will be enough. Follow every possible route this could go, and someone, somewhere, will still be out for blood.

I did not read his apology, because he does not owe me one, nor will I comment on it. First, because I trust Driscoll has elders around him who will stand before the Lord for their actions; second, because Driscoll himself will stand before the Lord for his actions.

What I will comment on is the lack of ecclesiological understanding within the Church today—which is ironic if you give it a few minutes of thought.

Everyone wants to BE the church and not GO to church these days. Everyone wants to LEAVE the church that doesn’t make them FEEL like they’re the church. Everyone wants to SAMPLE the church in various ways and means and SHRUG OFF the church when it presses in too uncomfortably. And everyone wants theorize and strategize and commentate on the Church and no one wants to sit and understand some pretty rudimentary things about the Church.

Namely that there are three things more of us should understand and practice:

Understanding and practicing biblical eldership.

Understanding and practicing biblical discipline within the local church.

Understanding and practicing the One Anothers of the New Testament.

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

Less and less am I interested in what self-proclaimed journalists, bloggers, social media experts, and “church survivors” are saying about the Church because I don’t see them actually practicing church.

I am not saying they’re not. What I’m saying is I don’t see them practicing it. They might be practicing it, but I can’t see it with my own two eyes.

Beneath the layers of apologies and acts of repentance, beneath the acts of submission to authority or acts of subordination, beneath the unjust actions and the loving ones—there are real people living real lives in front of real people who see them with their own two eyes. As it was designed to be.

If you do not have a biblical understanding and practice of the three things I mentioned above, you absolutely do not have any authority to speak on things in other churches.

And if you do have an understanding and practice of them: trust God is on His throne, building His Kingdom, and the gates of hell won’t prevail against it. He has won this and there are far better, greater, and more worthwhile things for your energy and biblical understanding of ecclesiology to be spent on. Namely, teaching those who don’t know—which are many and gaining in number.

Go and be the church if you will. Be it to your neighbors and friends and pastors and the people you sit beside week after week after week. Do it well, do it heartily, as unto the Lord, not as unto the twittersphere or blogosphere or whatever platform you have toppling beneath you.

Moth and rust destroy those things, and if you think they won’t you are more a fool than you realize. Step down before you’re standing in front of millions and it topples in front of them all.

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I anticipate plenty of pushback on this namely in these areas:

1. My use of the word biblical, which many progressives seem to think is manipulative and heavy-handed, and which, to me, simply means: the Bible says it and if we’re children of God, we ought to abide by it.

2. A perceived victim-shaming for all those who’ve experience pain related to the church. I hope you’ll understand if I’m saying anything here, I’m saying your greatest place of healing could come within good, healthy, biblical church order as God designed it.

3. An accusation that I’m protecting my pastor, leaders, church network, etc. To which I say, first, they don’t need my protection. I am a lowly blogger. Moth and rust will destroy my words, and sooner rather than later. And second, to me covenant means mutual trust. I am in covenant with my church which means I trust them and they trust me. If you expect me to break that trust, then you do not understand two things: covenant and being in covenant in a place you trust. Call it protection or naivety if you wish. They will stand accountable for my soul someday and I don’t envy that place at all.

Crouching at Your Door

February 15, 2014

A few weeks ago I alluded that I’ve been dealing with latent sin and spiritual laziness, but what I really meant is there’s something I can’t shake and it’s as ambiguous as the words above: I don’t know what I’ve been struggling with. I’ve just been struggling.

I’ve been struggling to master my thoughts. Struggling to press in to accountability. Struggling to not grow lazy in the light of grace. Struggling to hear God, trust Him, and obey Him. I’ve even been struggling to want any of that. It sometimes just feels like so much work to do something that Christ already said was finished.

There are two schools of thought in most of christendom. One is that we ought to war and win over our sin, “Sin is crouching at your door and you must master it.” And the other is that sin has been beaten at the foot of the cross, so we walk in full victory. Both are true theologically, but both leave us grabbling with what it means to master besetting sin or to walk completely free of it.

I don’t know what “mastering” sin feels like, nor do I know what it feels like to be so free of the curse that I am unaware of its damaging effects of my heart, soul, and mind. The truth is that I walk with a constant, and growing, awareness of my sin and need for Christ, and I also walk with a constant, and growing, confidence in the finished work of the cross.

But when the nagging monkey on my back won’t keep quiet about what has been mastered and what is covered by the cross, what do I do?

My propensity is to circle the wagons, draw closer boundaries, shut out anything or anyone who might draw my eyes off of Christ. I’m so desperately afraid that He’ll lose sight of me I make it so He’s the only thing I can see. But this isn’t life abundant and therein is the catch for me. If the boundary lines truly have fallen for me in pleasant places, why am I putting myself in a Christian straight-jacket?

A friend asked me the other day, “Do you think it ever grows easier for us to keep from sin?” And the truth is I have no reason to believe it does. I think we grow more disciplined, more circumspect, and more tender to the voice of the Holy Spirit. But no, I don’t think there is a time when sin is not crouching at my door, waiting to devour me.

The enemy hates me and this is good for me to remember in weeks and months like these. He hates me. And he hates you. His sole desire is to devour you and thwart the goodness of God in your life. And I would venture to say if your heart is set on Christ’s, jealous for the righteousness and holiness of God, and in tune with the voice of the Holy Spirit, the enemy is that much more intent on your destruction.

So, friend, if your heart is burdened with your sin and prone to see it more monstrously than God’s grace, take heart in this: He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it. He takes sin-laden souls, breathes the spirit and new life into them, and never leaves or forsakes. If your faith is weakened by the sight of your sin, repent and then cease looking at your sin or what leads you to sin, but turn your eyes to the Cross and Christ.

Sin is crouching at our door, clinging to our backs, and waiting to devour us, but Christ breathed words, “It is finished,” and in this faith we walk on.

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It still shocks me a bit when friends confess same sex attraction.

What shocks me is not that they have same sex attraction, but that they have convinced themselves that I will be shocked at their confession. The truth is SSA is more pervasive within the church than most people know, or want to know. I don’t know the official percentages, but I know the personal ones—the myriad of girls & guys who through the years have offered their trembling secret to me. My home isn’t a half-way house, a place to get fixed up and moved on, but it sure has offered more than one cup of tea and listening ear to those struggling with SSA.

The confessions only seem to be on the rise, so tonight I have a few observations I’d like to make:

The longer marriage is delayed into the 30s and later, the more I have women especially coming and confessing SSA or the existence of a SS relationship in which they have engaged.

I don’t know how solid this hypothesis is, but I’d like to suggest that within the church right now we have the 30+ year old women who were pulled into the Passion & Purity, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Courtship, True Love Waits church culture of the 90s. We were taught to guard our hearts against those dirty-minded boys who only wanted sex, or worse, to snatch up little parts of our hearts and scatter them about, or we were taught that our romances must have the *weight and certainty that Jim Elliot brought to his relationship with Elisabeth.

We locked down those hearts real good, yo.

In the lack of healthy male/female relationships, we perfected our female engagement. We did not create soul-ties with boys. We denied our sexuality because sexuality was bad. We filled our basic physical need for human touch and engagement with other females—not in a sexual way, but an asexual way, wholly innocent.

Healthy physical touch is a beautiful thing (you will never hear me say otherwise—I’m a firm believer in firm handshakes and even firmer hugs). The problem comes when we learn only to engage asexually. The further we grow into adulthood unmarried, that asexuality has a good chance of turning into a deeper comfort. Nearly every girl I know within the church who has engaged in a SS relationship did not begin with homosexual feelings, but reacted with it after being hurt in a heterosexual relationship OR being refused the opportunity to engage in a heterosexual relationship. I am not saying this is the case across the board, and I know many women who have experienced SSA since their childhood—I am only saying from my observation within the church, this seems to be a common thread.

Why?

Because we are soulish beings who have been sold the story of a soul-mate, and who better to fulfill the needs of a soul than a creature who gets me like I get me?

Very transparently, I don’t know very many girls in my demographic (33, single, Christian) who generally prefer or feel the same level of comfort with men as they do with women. We prefer women. “Well, of course you prefer women,” you might argue, “You should! The last thing we need is a bunch of women going around pursuing deep comfort with guys!”

But that’s exactly what I am going to argue for.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I do not advocate for gender specific friendships only. I do believe guys and girls can be friends, and I also believe they should pursue marriage if they start to really enjoy their friendship. What a great thing that is! Gospel centered marriages built on a deep friendship first, and attraction second? I cannot think of a better scenario.

I honestly believe that some of the reasons we are seeing a rise in SSA (not simply a biological attraction to the same gender, but an emotional one before the sexual one) within the church particularly, is due to a lack of healthy male/female friendship and a prolonged delay of marriage.

It might be a long-shot and I welcome discussion on this, as long as it’s helpful and not hurtful. This is a sensitive topic with widely varied levels. I say that because someone who has engaged for 20+ years in homosexual behavior and holds a deep, unwavering attraction to the same gender is not the sort of person to which I’m referring. I am primarily talking about the girls and guys who delayed marriage (for whatever reason), are paying the price of that extended loneliness, void, and lack of life-partner today, and expressing it sexually, emotionally and otherwise in SS relationships.

Thoughts? If you’re single and 30+, I’d especially love your thoughts. Feel free to comment anonymously and know that I will delete without hesitation any cruel or untoward comments.

*I love Jim & Elisabeth’s story, but it isn’t mine, and it isn’t yours. It’s a description, not a prescription. 

Related post on homosexuality: What God Has Joined Together

Wipe that Glass

January 7, 2014 — 1 Comment

The first thing we know about God is He is Creator. He takes nothing and makes something. He makes many somethings. More somethings than any one of us will ever see in our entire lifetime.

Staggering.

I understand God as Creator, but if He is Creator, that means He is infinitely creative—and that is something I will never be able to grasp or understand.

He is involved in every iota, every molecule, every atom, every gene, every thought, every action—and He is infinitely creative, which means He never stops creating.

Just thinking about that for three minutes staggers me.

But it becomes so real, so personal, when I think about all the ways He has been creative with me—and the accompanying realization that He isn’t finished with me yet. He is still creating, still teaching, still growing, still perfecting, still forming.

So an infinitely creative God, constantly creating and recreating His people, is a God who can be trusted to not make mistakes. Every scrap of my spectacular story, every rag of my richest rich, every moment of my mind—these form who I am and who I am becoming. He knew the washed up, backwards, inside-out, upside-down story He’d bring me through and He knew that through the mess I’d see Him.

And I’d see Him through a glass dimly, but that dirt and grime, that’s mine. I own that grime. God let me have that grime because otherwise I’d never understand His holiness, His set-apartness. Now all I can do is never stop asking Him to wipe that glass clean.

I love that.

I really love that.

I love it because it’s my hope, more than anything, that we’d spend our lives helping others to clean that grime. To take a rag and say, “You too? Me too. Let’s clean it together. Let’s see Him more clearly, love Him more for Who He truly is.”

I don’t know what your grime is, but I know God knows it. He made it, every atom and molecule. He knows your issues with fundamentalism, gender roles, abuse, theology, culture, suffering, depression, death, divorce, fear. He knows it all. And He’s so creative that He knows how to draw you in, grime covered you, and show you Himself, holy and splendid, majestic and clean.

It’s spectacular.

The Promise of Place

December 29, 2013 — 5 Comments

Grey Texas days are my favorite. Because they are so rare, or because I love grey more than blue, I don’t know. Back home trees enclose me and so I feel safe. Here there are no towering pines or old maples, so I take the clouds instead and find a haven in them.

Being away for a month was good for me. I did not miss Texas, but I missed place.

The truth is I feel misplaced these days. Misplaced by God, misplaced by men, misplaced, mostly, by myself. I have never felt comfortable in my own skin, but these past months I have felt a foreigner even to myself.

Who is this person? I ask as I roll over awake in the morning, when I hug a friend, when I try to explain myself, excuse myself, examine myself. I feel a stranger to her and estranged from her. As though I’ve forgotten how to take my own pulse, as though I am unsure I have a pulse.

That sounds hyperbole and I know it, but I feel it all the same. The creeping darkness of discouragement snatches away courage, not its opposite, affirmation, as it might seem.

It is a dark day outside and there are dark days all around us. Have you felt it? I am not prone to pessimism except when I am.

I am reading Hebrews this morning, about Abraham and the promise, and I remember the promises God gave him: land, east and west and north and south; descendants as many as the stars; a son, a babe, just one. Just one.

God put Abraham in his place and gave him place and then gave him a place in history. We know him because of his son, and his son’s son, and his son’s son’s son and so on. Because God took a man on a mountainside, an old man, and gave him place.

I wonder sometimes if Abraham knew the gift of place on that day. If he knew he was destined for good things, a forefather of faith and many mentions in the canon. Or if he only stood there and just believed what God told him.

Romans says that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness (Rom. 4.22). The truth is my righteous anything has felt like a failure this year, but faith? Faith, not in the promise itself, but the giver of the promise? The promise of place, not for place’s sake, but for the promise-giver? Faith I can muster up, if I try.

He said He’s prepared good works for us (Eph. 2.10) and I have to believe that. When good anything feels very far off and very impossible today. He has prepared a place for us (John 14.2) and whether that is here, in this home, or in a new heaven and new earth, God said it.

Father, help me to know my place. That the very safest place for me is at the foot of the cross, as a temple of the Holy Spirit, as your daughter, as a discipler and learner, a friend. Most of all, help me to see Christ in His place, high and lifted up, seated on the throne, parenting a world, and following the direction of His Father, wholly unconcerned with His place even while He prepares a place for us.

Copying the Creator

December 4, 2013 — 9 Comments

It was the his third strike. He was a baseball player, so he and I both knew what that meant. Out.

I was a TA for an English class in college. It was my first semester as a transfer student. I hardly knew my way around campus and I’d been tapped on the shoulder by the chair of our department to assist one of the English professors.

The first inkling of plagiarism seemed innocent, an uncited source; the second instance seemed lazy; but with two warnings under his belt, he handed in his third paper full of paragraphs I found in their entirety in a few minute google search.

I don’t know what happened to him when I reported the situation to the administration, though I knew they didn’t handle that stuff lightly. Looking back I wish I’d been more careful to explain why this wasn’t acceptable. I had plenty more opportunities in my years as a TA to do so, but I never did.

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

Allegations of plagiarism by Mark Driscoll are all ablaze right now and they seem justified in some ways. Whole ideas or outlines have been lifted, slightly altered, and used as his own material. I would flunk a student for doing that, and yet—haven’t I done it a thousand times?

In recent weeks I chew on John 3:30, “He must increase. I must decrease.”

Whether you’re a college student trying to get a passing grade or a pastor churning out books written by a ghostwriter, there is an element of “increasing” present that I’m not sure is healthy. I would argue too that even bloggers must wrestle with this dichotomy. If it is true that we must be ever decreasing and increasing Him—what does that say about all our platform building?

We may not be building a tower of Babel to reach God, but what have we made our god in His place?

This isn’t easy wrestle through. God gives gifts to men and finds joy when we use them for His glory—but I wonder sometimes how many of us are like my college student: trying to get a passing grade. It doesn’t matter who we seek approval from—if we seek it from men, we’re in sin, and if we seek it from God, we do so in vain. If we are His children, we have His full approval in the righteousness of Christ.

I have one finger pointed at you and three back at myself here. I seek the approval of so many other than God and I want less of it. More than ever, I want to shrink my footprint—or at least my byline. More of Him, less of me.

God help us, we are all guilty of plagiarism. The wise man’s words “there is nothing new under the sun,” assure of us that. You are the author of all truth and we merely regurgitate it, chewed and masticated, hardly a form of its original beauty and intention. Help us to copy you, emulate you, take our truth from you—and if another steals words from us, let us hand them over willingly because we truly own nothing apart from You.