Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ice Cream Cake for Dinner...

...is probably one of the best parts of being grown-up. Last night, we celebrated my roommate Tiffany's 25th birthday when I got home from work. I was about to warm up some leftover curry when she suggested we just cut the cake and go for it. So we did. We sang Happy Birthday and enjoyed our cake and ice cream. It was lovely. And it was never something my mom would have let us do as kids. Sometimes this whole adult thing is kind of fun!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Such a Great Salvation

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?  (Hebrews 2:1-2 ESV)
We just started reading through Hebrews in my small group at church. Last night we discussed the beginning of chapter 2, which can be a notoriously sticky passage for a variety of reasons. Sometimes I get so caught up in understanding the controversy that I miss the most important part of a passage. I realized as I was preparing for our discussion that I had done that with Hebrews 2.

Such a great salvation. We truly have a great salvation - an infinitely glorious and holy God who sent His Son to bear the wrath that we could never bear so that we might receive grace and mercy. We have been pursued by a God not because we are worth anything or deserve anything, but simply because He delights to display His glories. We have been saved, redeemed, justified, adopted, and we will be sanctified and glorified. These are good and great things.

And yet...the author of Hebrews has to remind us to pay much closer attention. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. I see it in my heart. Such a great salvation, and I am prone to drift away.

I was reminded last night of how much I need Jesus. I don't see the works of the Lord without the work of Christ on the cross and the Spirit's application of that work to my heart. Even with that applied work, I am prone to drifting. The only remedy is to fix my eyes on Jesus, who is both the author and the perfecter of my faith, to pay much closer attention to His all-satisfying glories. I don't want to neglect such a great salvation. And so this morning, I look to Jesus.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Weekend Links 1/26

Don't Put the Bibles Away - "The Bible is good for Bible study, we seem to be saying. But we seem to be saying something by putting the Bibles away the rest of the time. And what we're saying scares me. I am wondering what church would look like if we didn't put the Bibles away so quickly."

God Came Down - Powerful testimony. "Just over four years ago, I was on my way home from Red Deer where I had been at a piano teacher’s conference. I was about an hour from home and I think I called home to let Terry know where I was. He said something unusual for him: 'Don’t spare the gas – get home as soon as you can.' I pressed him a little on why – after all, we are usually pretty careful with both gas mileage and speed. He finally told me that our 14 year old daughter, Emily, was missing."

I Come Messy and Ashamed - A good reminder for us all.

Will the Real Biblical Woman Please Stand Up? - As someone who has felt the pressure from others around me that I am not a true Biblical woman until I am married, I am thankful for this encouragement from True Woman.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Real and Practical Doctrine

I was reading through an old journal of mine and came across this quote from Jim Elliot about his father:
"My father's religion is of a sort which I have seen nowhere else. His theology is wholly undeveloped, but so real and practical a thing that it shatters every 'system' of doctrine I have seen. He cannot define theism, but he knows God."
High praise indeed. May we have hearts that are caught up in knowing God, and not in labeling what we know about Him. It reminds me of another quote about Bill Wallace, missionary to China. The author of his biography writes:
"The Chinese had heard sermons before, but in Bill Wallace they began to see one, and that made the difference."
Doctrine is good; don't get me wrong. But unless it is born out of a true knowledge of God for the purpose of displaying His glory, then it truly is empty and meaningless, a vanity.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Not One Word Fails

Lately, my heart has been captured by the beauty of the Old Testament stories and the way that the Lord so sovereignly and graciously worked in the lives of His people. He used every event not only for His glory, for the ultimate good of the people, and to ultimately prepare the way for Christ. I've been reading in 1 Kings specifically, and recently came across this gem of a verse. To establish the context, Solomon has just spent eight years building the temple, and at its completion, he offers a prayer of dedication and a benediction. And stuck right in the middle are these words:

"Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. Not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He spoke by Moses his servant." - 1 Kings 8:56

Not one word failed then, and not one word will fail today.

His promises are trustworthy. This same God who fulfilled His Word in the day of Solomon is the same God who has promised that, in Christ, He stands for us and not against us. In His Word, we can find true rest, rest in who He is, what He has accomplished, and what He has said He will do. His words do not fail.

His timing is perfect. The promise that saw fulfillment through the work of Solomon had been made in the days of Moses, and then again during the reign of Solomon's father David. The fact that the Lord's timing is different than ours does not mean that the promise has failed. On the contrary; it is evidence that He does indeed know best, and has the power to work that for our good. Our ways are not His, and neither is our timing. Find rest in Him alone, oh my soul, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.

He is faithful. If we are faithless, He remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). He who has called us is faithful; He will surely do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24). Not one word ever fails. Can we, by our unfaithfulness, nullify the faithfulness of God (Romans 3:3)? May it never be!

May you find true rest in the goodness of His promises and character, knowing that not one word has ever failed, and not one word ever will.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Weekend Links 1/19

Biblical Womanhood and the Holy Spirit - "God lives in us now and guides us through His Word. The very Spirit that guided the original authors of Scripture now lives in us as we read their words. And this is very relevant to biblical womanhood."

Why I Am Not Reading in 2013 - "Instead of adding things like diet, exercise, and reading, I am cutting stuff out. The most life changing, for me, will be reading. I have decided that in 2013, I will not read any new books."

Where Have All the Positive Americans Gone? - Or rather, positive Christians in America. Great thoughts from David Murray. "Let me give you five equations that I believe will make us more biblically balanced and more counter-culturally optimistic."

Why I Hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (And Why I Love It Too) - From Russell Moore. "I hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday because I’m reminded that we have to say things to one another that human beings shouldn’t have to say."

Finally, I really enjoyed this Lord of the Rings flowchart. Maybe I am a nerd, but it is so accurate!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Holiness for Gospel Adornment

I try to spend some time reading before I go to bed, and lately I have been reading some short biographies by John Piper. In his own about the Puritan John Owen, he shared this quote that summed up Owen's life and ministry.
I hope I may own in sincerity that my heart's desire unto God, and the chief design of my life...are, that mortification and universal holiness may be promoted in my own and in the hearts and ways of others, to the glory of God, that so the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ may be adorned in all things. 
It seems to me that this really should be a summary of the life of every Christian. May we be serious about pursuing holiness so that we might better display the glories of our God and His gospel.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I was a communication major in college, and one of the theories that we learned about was the theory of liminality, or the state of being "betwixt and between", according to Victor Turner. We often talked about how college was a liminal stage, a stage where your life was lived in this artificial environment that would only last for a few years.

More and more, however, I'm realizing that I feel more "in-between" now than I ever did in college. My heart is torn between so many different people and places - my family a few hours north, my job, friends and church here in San Diego, and now Thailand, halfway around the world. I'm done with school, but I don't yet have a family. Wherever I am, I am missing people who are somewhere else. I don't feel settled or like I really belong anywhere.

Life won't stay this way forever, at least I hope it won't. At some point, I have a feeling that everything will settle into more of a routine and there will be a place that is most definitely "home" to me. That said, I think I am realizing that maybe all of life is more liminal than I had ever imagined. Really, for the Christian, our time here is best spent looking forward to our true home with Jesus. Yes, we are here for now and are called to live to the fullest.


But at the same time, while it is possible to feel more or less at home here on this earth depending on circumstances, I think it is my sinful heart telling me that the next stage will satisfy my longings to no longer be in between, to be settled, to belong. There is nothing on this earth that will perfectly fulfill these desires, which means that the desires really aren't about this earth anyway.

They are about Christ. We are hidden with Him in God (Colossians 3), and that is where our true home is (2 Corinthians 5). Until we reach that place, we will always be in a state of liminality, betwixt and between.But that is where the Lord has us, and it is good, because it is in these liminal stages we realize that He is the only who satisfies these desires.

We are restless until we find our rest in Him alone.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Song: How Firm a Foundation

I am loving this absolutely lovely rendition of the hymn by Chelsea Moon and the Franz brothers. They recently released an album that you can buy here and it is definitely worth your time.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Weekend Links 1/12

Recovering Lost Disciplines - "We stand at a crossroads, and we will either rediscover the lost virtues of listening, meditating, and thinking, or we will amuse ourselves to death."

Where There is No Wal-Mart - I thoroughly enjoyed this account of bartering in an African market from Ali. Reminds me of Thailand!

If God Says No - "This year may be filled with 'no's.' It may be another year of unanswered prayers, of waiting, of longing. It may be another year of pain and sorrow. But God is not only holy, majestic, and just. He is 'our Father in heaven'."

Christian Hedonism in 155 Words - Sally Lloyd Jones reads from her new devotional for children, but it isn't just for children. Everyone can benefit.

Lord Have Mercy - This song resonates so strongly with me. I need His mercy in all things.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Preschoolers and Words

One of the things that I miss most about working at a preschool is watching my little friends play circle time. Once a day, everyone sits in a circle and we play games, sing songs, and read stories. It's one of the most pleasurable times in the morning. And during free play, some of the older kids loved to pretend that they were the teacher leading circle time.

The first part that I love is how the kids listen. When the teacher is leading, sitting still, taking turns and keeping mouths quiet are very difficult tasks. But when their friend is leading, they are all ears. They will sit quietly and patiently for more than 20 minutes. It reminds of the importance and value of surrounding ourselves with godly friends. They often have more influence on us than we realize, for better or for worse.

The second thing I love is listening to their little conversations.

"Now everyone take two scoots back and sit criss-cross-applesauce; I don't have room for my legs!"

(Hands on hips, head tilted and eyebrow raised), "What do you need?"

"Now it's Jesse's turn. (Pause) Good job, Jesse! You did great!"

"Now, Aubrey, you need to share with your friends!"

It's adorable to hear their little voices sounding so professional and authoritative, but it can also be intimidating, because what they say is word for word what we as their teachers have said to them. They hear everything, and they remember. It is a good check on us to listen to them - are these the words that we want them to hear?

My little friends are the ones who remind me more than anyone else the power of my words. But my words don't just matter to them - they matter to everyone I speak to. They have the power to build up or to tear down. And either way, they are usually remembered.

The people who push me towards Christ the most are often the people whose words build me up and encourage me, whose words preach truth in a way that lovingly convicts my heart. My preschoolers helped to show me what my words sound like. I pray that they continually grow in reflecting Jesus to those around me.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Open My Hands

January 8 was the anniversary of the deaths of five missionaries in Ecuador: Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, Nate Saint and Jim Elliot. After I returned from Thailand last year, I devoured several different biographies, one of which was The Shadow of the Almighty, Elisabeth Elliot's account of Jim Elliot's life leading up to his death. I was (and am) convicted and encouraged by his love for the Lord and faithful pursuit of eternal things rather than earthly. One quote in particular stood out to me:
Father, let me be weak that I might lose my clutch on everything temporal. My life, my reputation, my possessions, Lord, let me loose the tension of the grasping hand...Rather open my hand to receive the nail of Calvary, as Christ's was opened - that I , releasing all, might be released, unleashed from all that binds me now. He though Heaven...not a thing to be clutched at. So let me release my grasp. 
Oh, that this would be my heart - open my hands, Lord!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Winning the War but Losing Hearts

Last week I had coffee with a friend who is intimately involved in pro-life ministry here in San Diego. Additionally, the Lord has placed her in classes at college where she has had the chance to build friendships with several homosexuals. I know that each of these ministries is very dear to her heart, and she intentionally considers how to glorify and obey the Lord in what can be very difficult and controversial contexts. She does so better than most Christians I know, maintaining both her commitment to the gospel and truth and also her deep love for the lost and desire for their salvation.

We attend different churches here, but both are very similar: conservative, reformed, dedicated to expository preaching. We love our churches, but as we were talking, we realized that over the past few months, we have been seeing the same weaknesses. Our churches are full of people who love the Lord and His gospel and truth. They desire to see His greatness proclaimed. 

But our churches are also full of people who do not always extend the grace of God to broken sinners. They like the sinners who have their act together. They want gay marriage outlawed, but don't want to minister to homosexuals who are contentedly living in their sins. They want abortion to be illegal, but rarely serve the young mother who doesn't know how she is going to provide for her precious baby. Don't get me wrong - this is a generalization and certainly isn't true of everyone. But the pattern remains.

I have been reading through Matthew and I have been struck by how Jesus loved the people that the Pharisees and other religious leaders weren't willing to love. He unashamedly spent time and built friendships with "tax collectors and sinners" (Matthew 11:19).

He came to save sinners, not the righteous.

He came to proclaim liberty to the captives, not to the the free.

He came to redeem the lost, not the already-found.

He came to proclaim God's radical love to those who did not deserve it, not those who do.

He came for the sick, not the healthy.

In our zeal for truth and obedience have we forgotten the most basic truth of the gospel, that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, even the foremost (1 Tim. 1:16)? Have we forgotten the grace and mercy of God that we have experienced, how He took our sin and bore the penalty that we deserved?

It's easy to love those who look like they have their lives together, and certainly, we ought to love and minister to them as well. But we display the power of the gospel in wonderful ways when we love with our words and actions those whom we disagree with most.

Do we declare sin to be sin? Absolutely. But we do so in order that we might proclaim the glorious and scandalous grace of God demonstrated through His Son. Jesus was absolutely committed to truth and the glory of God. But that led Him toward sinners and toward those whom the world despised. Does our commitment to truth do the same for us?

May the people of God be people who demonstrate love to the outcast, to the sinner, to the one who needs it the most. And may they do so that the world may know that our God is a God who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, a God who redeems even the most wayward and broken of hearts, a God who has loved the unlovable through His Son, Jesus Christ. 

Celebrating Growth

In high school, I competed in speech and debate. This past weekend, the league that I competed with hosted a tournament here in San Diego, and I was able to go and judge some rounds, support my siblings and catch up with old friends, many of whom I haven't seen in a year or two. It was such an encouragement to be reminded of how those friendships have blessed me over the years.

One of my favorite parts of catching up with old friends, though, was seeing how God has been changing and growing them in the years since we graduated. One friend who I have know for nearly ten years has always been rather exclusive and had very strong opinions about who he likes and who he doesn't. All of the sudden, God has grown in him a heart to notice, include and welcome others. Another friend is finishing her TESL certificate so that she can head to Europe this summer to serve with a missionary family there for several years. Others have just been changed in quiet and yet beautiful and God-glorifying ways.

I think that is one of the only things I like about being so far apart from these friends - when we are finally together again, I get to see the distinct changes and growth that have occurred, changes that I would likely have missed noticing if we saw each other more often.

It was also encouraging to remember that just as God is faithfully sanctifying these friends, he is sanctifying me and the friends who I do spend a lot of time with. It's easy to become discouraged or frustrated when we don't see progress as quickly as we want to, but these past few days have reminded me to look for and celebrate His work, because He is faithfully bringing to completion the work that He began.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Weekend Links 1/5

Some People Get Presents - From Katie Davis in Uganda. "Some people get presents under their Christmas tree. Me? I get a family of 5. 4 children under 8 and their mother sleep on the couches and on mattresses laid out on the living room floor."

Is the Pro-Life Cause Winning? - A friend and I have had several conversations about abortion and homosexuality and "winning" the battle. Russell Moore shares some insightful thoughts.

Birthday, Last Day, Good Day - I think John Piper's poetry is one of my favorite things that Desiring God shares on their blog. This is a poem for his wife Noel.

Sparrow - An beautiful arrangement of the hymn His Eye is on the Sparrow from Audrey Assad.

Thankful for Rest

Working full-time has given me a new respect for my dad. It's not that I don't like working (because I do), but there are several things that I have found really difficult about work Monday-Friday from 8-5.

First, dropping from 12 weeks of vacation (which is roughly what I enjoyed while I was in college) to 2 (what I have now) is a terrible transition. All of the sudden I feel like I don't have time to do anything!

Similarly, it is really difficult to find time to spend with both my friends who are married, since evenings are family time for them, and my college friends, who have all of their activities at night. And since 90% of my friends are either married or in college, that means it is very difficult to find time to spend with the vast majority of people I spent time with when I was in school.

Finally, 40 hours is a lot, and when I do get off, I'm tired. It's hard to find the energy to do some of the things that I really do want to do. Plus, during the winter, I barely get to see daylight since my office doesn't have a window.

I have been so blessed by my job - my coworkers, the environment, what I get to do. But working is not easy. I guess it wasn't meant to be.

But over the past two weeks, it has been so quiet in the office that my boss keeps walking into my office and telling me to leave early. The feeling of getting of at 2 or 3 pm instead of 5 is absolutely glorious. I walk outside, and the sun is still shining, I still have energy and there is time to accomplish so much.

These past few weeks of extra time to rest and to just be have been such a blessing. I don't think I realize how tired I am until I stop. These times have reminded me that the Lord has instituted the Sabbath for my good. I am not very intentional about resting on Sundays, at least not as intentional as I ought to be. But resting is good, so very good. I am thankful for the Lord's grace in allowing me to rest even when I don't take the time that I should.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Sum and Substance of the Covenant

"Jesus Christ is Himself the sum and substance of the covenant, and as one of its gifts He is the property of every believer...
Has He power? That power is yours to support and strengthen you, to overcome your enemies, and to preserve you even to the end.
Has He love? Well, there is not a drop of love in His heart that is not yous; you may dive into the immense ocean of His love, and you may say of it all, 'It is mine.'
Has He justice? It may seem a stern attribute, but even that is yours, for He will by His justice see to it that all that is promised to you in the covenant of grace shall be most certainly secured to you...
O believer, God's acceptance of Christ is your acceptance; for the love that the Father set on a perfect Christ, He sets on you now...
That perfect righteousness which Jesus worked out, when through His stainless life He kept the law and made it honorable, is yours and is imputed to you. Christ is in the covenant." - Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Christmas Pictures

As a surprise for my mom this Christmas, my sisters, brother and I had pictures taken by our friends at Captured Grace Photography. They did an incredible job, and my mom was as excited as we hoped.

 This is David, who turns 15 in January. He, as the baby of the family, is officially taller than me now, making me the shortest person in our family. 

 This is Jenn. She is 19, and is studying early childhood education. Her joy and laughter brightens our home.

This is Liz. She is 17, and finishing her senior year of high school.She has such a passion to love and mentor young girls, and they think she is great (probably because she is).
And one shot of me.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Welcoming 2013

It's on days like today that my words always seem to fail me. I want to have something profound and thought-provoking to share. The truth is that I just don't, not today at least. I am excited for the year to come. I know that there are many changes that I am not anticipating, some of which I probably won't like.

But I also know that each year has always ended with me looking back and seeing the goodness of the Lord once again. He has promised to bring to completion the work that He has begun (Phil. 1:6), and so for that reason each new year is a reminder of His faithfulness, that He has not left us alone.

He has promised to withhold no good thing from those who love Him (Psalm 84:11), and so each new year is a reminder to look ahead to the good things to come, things that are good not because they are easy, but because they are from the hand of our loving Father.

He has promised that He is coming once again (Acts 1:11), and so each new year is a glorious thing, as it brings us that much closer to His return.

He reigns (Psalm 146:10)! This makes each year full of hope, hope found in knowing that what is going to occur is not due to chance, but to the sovereign hand of the righteous Lord.

It's easy to dread what is to come, or at least to anxiously anticipate it. But our hope is rests on a solid foundation. And because of that foundation, each passing and coming year provides reasons for our hearts to praise His glorious name. May our prayer in 2013 ever be, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus, and may Your name alone be glorified."
"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen." - Rev. 1:6