Thursday, February 28, 2013

Debate Champions

Over these past few days, my younger brother and sister have been competing in a speech and debate tournament up in Orange County. Lizzie is a senior this year, and this was her last local tournament before she graduates. She and her debate partner Hannah, who have debated together for four years now, had a fantastic tournament. They were undefeated in preliminaries, with a 6-0 record, and continued on to win the entire tournament, placing first out of 120 teams.

What they did was incredibly difficult - even during all of my time in debate I never even came close to that. But their hard work and discipline has paid off. So proud!

Monday, February 25, 2013

It Depend on His Faithfulness

From Mark Talbot in For the Fame of God's Name, commenting on friends whose grief has overwhelmed their joy in the Lord:
I...know that their faith and their ultimate happiness do not depend on whether God is right now being glorified in them. Their future with God does not depend on their manifesting right now their complete and total satisfaction in Him, nor does it depend on their obedience, nor even on their being able to acknowledge God's goodness. It depends only on God's continued faithfulness to them. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Weekend Links 2/23

 Sorry for the late post - we finished our triathlon! And both of us either met or exceeded our goals. However, my plans for the rest of the weekend include sitting on the couch and not moving.

Worshiping the Idol of 'Open Options' - "Making choices and moving on with our lives seems increasingly difficult. We find ourselves paralyzed: unable to make choices about relationships, dating, marriage, money, family, and career. I want to suggest that if we feel unable to make these choices, it's not because we have the wrong accent. It may be because we're worshiping a false god."

6 Ways You Can Support Missionaries - "That said, overseas missions would be impossible without the committed, consistent support of well-informed people and churches back at home. Here are six alternative ways to support missionaries and take part in God's mission to the world."

Citizens of Heaven - "Because of the cross, Christians know where we’re headed, and because of the cross, we are guaranteed citizenship. It is the country we belong in, the home and land we’ve been looking for all our lives. The color of our passport is blood red and our eternal visa has already been irrevocably stamped in."

The Seamless Garment of Christian Mission - How local and global missions work together to fulfill God's glorious purposes.

Missional Moleskine - Clearly there is a theme this week. Tim Brister shares how he intentionally orders his routines to build relationships with people for the sake of the gospel.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Weekend Links 2/16

No More Tears - Greg Lucas reflects on what the hope of heaven might mean for him and his son Jake.

What God's Teaching Me Through Epilepsy - "I've had two months to grieve, accept, do some research, grieve some more, then accept, then do more research, then start to kind of hate the Internet for proving me with so much information to drive myself crazy with. Then I do some more research. Here are some of the things I've learned, both about epilepsy and about myself."

Lost in Transition - "Transitions are an inevitable part of life. Whether they come slowly or suddenly, deliberately or unintentionally, a million at a time or just one, happy or difficult—we can all count on transitions happening."

The Last Friend - I really enjoyed these reflections about C.S. Lewis and his wife Joy.

Gospel Conversation - "We need more leaders like Brother Jack who understand these truths. Our conversation—both what we say and what we don’t say—really does matter."

A Beautiful Birth to Heaven - This is an old post, but I ran across it this week. It is a beautiful testimony of a family whose son was stillborn at 31 weeks.

One Month - Katie Davis reflects on death and hope in light of the gospel.

Love is Biking Slowly

I didn't own a car my whole time in college. Most of the time this wasn't an issue, but I did rely on friends from church for rides to church functions. One time, I sent a text to my friend Whit (who later became my roommate) asking for a ride to a dinner we were having that night. Her response was, "I actually don't have gas right now...but I have an extra bike. Want to bike with me?"

I hadn't ridden a bike in probably 8 years at that point - but you never forget, right? So I said yes! We biked the 5 miles that night and then several times more because we enjoyed it so much. We only stopped when the time changed and it got dark too early to be safe. I have great memories from those rides. The first time, I was definitely slow and unsure of myself, but after that, I felt like I had pretty good speed and kept up with Whit pretty well.

It wasn't until nearly two years later that I found out the truth. Whit and I were talked about Santee Lakes, a really nice park not too far from us. I was saying how fun it would be to bike out there one day to do homework. It's a long ride - about 30 miles round-trip. But I thought it would be a fun excursion. Whit agreed, but commented on how it can be hard to bike with other people because of the different speeds people like to bike at.

I said, "Yeah, but remember when we biked together - our speeds weren't that different." There was a quick silence, and then I realized something that Whit had never let me know. "Or were they?"

She smiled, and said that they actually were more different than she had let on. It shocked me, because I would have never known if she hadn't told me. She cared so much about me that she rode her bike slowly many times so that we could ride together. Not once did I feel any pressure or frustration from her.

On Valentines Day, it can be easy to get caught up in the dramatic expressions of love. And those are certainly not bad. But often love is in the little things, in the things that are never said or mentioned, in the dishes that are washed, in the books that are read, in the stories that are told, in the shopping that is done.

And sometimes, love is found in biking slowly.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Age is Complicated

Last night, my roommate and I were babysitting some of the kids from church. I pulled out my cell phone to check the time, and one of the little girls told me, "I didn't know you were old enough to have a cell phone."

So I asked her how old she thought she had to be to have a cell phone. She said, "As old as you, I guess," and shrugged her shoulders, giggled and went back to her toy.

It's so interesting how our concept of age grows and matures with us. When I asked my preschoolers how old they thought I was, they told me anywhere between 7 and 68. To them, time seems to take forever, so they don't have any concept of what it really means. And that makes things like half-birthday's a big deal to them.

The older I get, the faster time goes. I am not even close to the point where I want to stop acknowledging how old I am (and hopefully I won't ever get there - I want to love growing old!), but sometimes I wish I could just make life slow down. I would love to go back to the days when half-birthdays were a big deal, because it had been SIX WHOLE MONTHS since you last celebrated...

At the same time, though, there are a lot of things that I am glad have changed. But sometimes, it's good to be reminded by the kids in my life that time really is valuable, and I need to be intentional about taking advantage of it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Psalm 8 is Our Destiny

I was reading through this sermon from John Piper as I was preparing for Bible study on Sunday. His conclusion was so full of hope of the gospel in the midst of all of life's trials that I had to share it.
What then shall we do? Put your faith in the promise of this great future grace—that what you see in Christ today will someday be your portion. 
Fix your eyes on Christ, not on the pain and futility and frustration and sickness and death of this age. They will not have the last word. Christ has conquered death and all the sin and pain that leads to death. 
Think on him. Consider him. Look to him. 
And say to cancer and paralysis and sightless children and airplane-eating Everglades and child-shooting fathers—say to every unsubjected enemy— 
"Psalm 8 is my destiny! In Christ Jesus all things will one day be put under my feet, and I will rule with him in glory forever and ever." 
Believe that and say that—in the face of every calamity and every frustration in life. 
Because it is true.  
Jesus has made it true.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Rejected for Us

This past summer, I went through a season where I felt very left out of a several friend groups that I had previously been really close to. I dealt with a lot of bitterness and anger, but it forced me to make the Lord my sufficiency. There were no longer friends to fill the emptiness that I felt. But this past week, some of the bitterness that I haven't felt in quite a while showed up again in my heart.

As I was laying in bed feeling sorry for myself and just thinking about how rejected I felt, the Lord reminded me of Isaiah 53.

The Lord Jesus was rejected too, for my sake.

He deserved none of it. He did not have to experience it. But He choose it. For me - for us! He was despised and rejected by men and God that I, that we, might be accepted by God. While He experienced no good thing from the Lord on the cross, I experience only good things from God.

Amazing grace, these words:

"Despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief."

Praise God!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Weekend Links 2/9

How to Kill Yourself - Ouch. "And, my guess is that you too truly enjoy serving others, but like me, occasionally, secretly hope to be noticed or thanked for it. So here’s the question; was our real motive, love for others, or love of ourselves?"

Cultivating Creativity and Freshness - Great tips. "I fear becoming a grumpy old man. Life is hard. It tends to wear you down. We can either die as bitter and frustrated or we can seek to grow better with age so that we can glorify God as creative people who make a difference."

Consider Preschool before Pulpit - "Since the fall, I've been teaching in our children’s worship service, usually once a month. After songs and prayer, I teach a short message before the kids aged 5-8 are dismissed to their individual classes—and for me, at least, the experience has been extremely helpful. Here are three things I've been reminded through the experience."

The Value of a Tired Soul - "Some days I go into the office just plain tired. Tired of late nights and early mornings. Tired of phone calls and texts messages. Tired of loss and heartbreak. Tired of being tired. But I am convinced that for all Christians there is real value in a tired soul."

He Does All Things Well - Wonderful gospel truth from Jared Wilson.

And finally...a video about worship. It really is painfully funny!

Where Else Can I Go?

This past year was one of the hardest that I have been through. It was the first year where I really questioned what I knew about the Lord and I began to wonder if my church was where I ought to be. There were many times where what I knew from Scripture did not seem sufficient, and when I wondered if everything I had always believed was actually true. It wasn't easy.

But each time I would question, I would come to this conclusion: there is nowhere else to go. Though Christianity and Scripture in no way answers all of my questions, it is the only explanation in the world that even comes close. I felt like Peter after Jesus asked his disciples if they wanted to leave him too when things became difficult. Peter's response is, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68).

There is no where else I can turn that brings hope to my weary, broken soul. And really, I don't want to go anywhere else. Though I don't understand His plans, I know His purposes, that they are steadfast and merciful (James 5:11). I know how sweet Jesus is. I know that He holds the words of eternal life.

So ultimately, I left last year feeling as if I was echoing Peter in 1 Peter 1 when he said, "Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. And though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory." My seeing Christ (or lack thereof) doesn't change who He is. His faithfulness, His grace, His work - they remain. So where else could I go? Where else would I want to go? He holds the words of eternal life. And that is enough.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

An Open Letter to My Married Friends

Earlier this week, I read this post on the Boundless blog about navigating friendships between married and single people. For the most part, I agree with the sentiments discussed in the post. But I thought I would share a few thoughts of my own.

1. I love being a part of your family!
Because my family lives a few hours away, it is such a blessing to be asked over for dinner, even if it means I have three kids hanging off of me, dinner consists of macaroni and cheese and I help with the dishes. It is wonderful to just feel like I have a family again. Don't feel like you have to serve something fancy, have perfectly behaved kids or a spotless house - I remember what it was like when I lived at home. I don't expect perfection, and I like helping! Plus, I learn a lot from watching you raise your kids and interact as a family.

2. Please ask me to babysit.
And most of the time, I don't mind doing it for free. It's a way for me to serve your family, which I love doing. But...don't just use me as a free babysitter if you aren't also interested in building a friendship with me. Sometimes it can feel like the only time I talk to some of the married couples at church is when they ask me to watch their kids. That just makes me feel used, as much as I love spending time with children.

3. Don't assume that my only ministry is to children.
At times, there is this subtle implication that the only way I can serve the church before marriage is in children's ministry. But last time I checked, marriage was not a qualification for ministry! Certainly I don't expect to be considered to teach a class on marriage. But I am an adult, and the Lord is teaching me a lot. I do have spiritual gifts to contribute to the church as a whole, not just to your kids.

4. Singleness isn't a curse. 
Marriage is a good thing, a gift from God, one that I pray I get to experience some day. But my life doesn't start the day I get married. Singleness is also a good gift from God, and it is the gift that He has given me right now. It isn't a season that I need to "get through" until I get married. It is a time where I am just as much able to serve the Lord and His church (1 Cor. 7). Please don't make me feel like my life isn't complete until my wedding day...I struggle with discontentment enough, and from all I have heard about marriage and read in Scripture, a wedding doesn't bring completeness either. That is only found in Christ, whether we are single or married.

5. You are such a gift from God!
I am so thankful for the way that you open your home to me, for your wisdom and encouragement. Don't underestimate the way that the Lord uses you to encourage the hearts of your single friends. I like spending time with you and your family because I leave reminded of the community that God has intended us to find in His church.

What do you all can married couples, families and singles better minister to each other? For those of you who are married, what would you tell your single friends?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Song: 10,000 Reasons

Matt Redman's song 10,000 Reasons has been on repeat in my car for the last 5 months, but I recently came across this version from Rend Collective Experiment. I love the quiet harmonies and acoustic sound. May we never forget that we have endless reasons to sing His praise!

Monday, February 4, 2013

He Delights to Hear

Last week, I was enjoying lunch with a friend from church who has a son who is just old enough to begin talking. He knows how to ask for water, bananas, cars, help and other simple things like that. She said that even though she will always make sure that he has enough water or food and will always help him if he is stuck, she delights to hear him ask for her to do those things. It means that he trusts her, that he has no fear, that he sees her as someone who can provide those good things for him.

Later on in that lunch, we were talking about prayer. It's easy to question why we even need to pray if the Lord truly is sovereign and knows what we need. The simple answer is, of course, that the He has told us to pray. That said, though, we are the Lord's children. Though I don't think that this is a complete answer to the question, I do think that part of why we ought to go before the Lord in prayer is because it delights Him when we seek Him as the source of all good things.

What a privilege it is to approach the throne of grace boldly, knowing that we are His children and that we can come before Him with everything.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Weekend Links 2/2

Brown Eyes - Beautiful hope. " She looked up at me, still clinging with her arms wrapped around my waist, with two beautiful brown eyes. Two beautiful brown eyes for the first time in 21 years."

Check Your Motivation for Missions - "Befriending people like the Zhangs and Mrs. Huang reminded me that my passion for 'going to save the lost' would be unsustainable if my fundamental motivation for missions continued to be about me. It could not rely on results or the expectation that people would thank me for the effort."

Modern Worship Music - Thought-provoking post from Shaun Groves about modern worship and its strengths and weaknesses.

Seeing Christ in the Worst Christians - David Murray shares some helpful strategies for loving our brothers and sisters. Part 2 is here.

Grace for Monotonous Work - "Perhaps Chesterton is right, our inability to see God in our daily monotony has less to do with the nature of the tasks and more to do with the effects of sin on our childlike joy."