Tuesday, April 30, 2013

God is Good; Therefore...

I am fully funded for my upcoming trip to Thailand, which is such a blessing and encouragement. There are still people at church who ask how my fundraising is going, though, and each time, I get to say, "I'm done! God is good!" And it's true - He is good. But I have been reflecting recently on how often I praise His goodness to me only when I experience "good things" (read: things that I want) from Him.

There is an essential distinction that I often fail to make. God is good. Always. In all that He does. However, we usually say, "God is good because...(insert something good you experienced from Him)." But God isn't good because He does good things. His goodness and character are not dependent on His actions. Rather, His goodness produces those good actions. It is much more truthful to say, "God is good; therefore He..."

God isn't good because he chose to send His Son - He is good. Therefore, out of His overflowing goodness, He chose to send His Son. He isn't good because He provided for my Thailand trip. He is good and therefore, I am now fully funded. If I wasn't funded, it was still because God is good and always does good.

You see, when we make God's goodness dependent on His actions, trials and sorrows can break us. When something happens that we don't understand, we don't know where to turn because we have always said that God is good only when we received His blessings.

But when God is good always and regardless of what we understand to be a "beneficial" thing, we have a refuge in the time of the storm. We can run back to the Father and cry out that He is good and does good (Ps. 119:68), and therefore know that we only ever experience good things from His hand.

God is good and therefore He does all things well. This God is an anchor for our souls.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Why Baptism?

I am so thankful for these beautiful truthes. 

Why Baptism? from Granger Community Church on Vimeo.

Weekend Links 4/27

Leap and Weep - John Piper's thought on finishing his time as a pastor.

53 Fun Nights Out for $10 or Less - I love all of these different ideas!

Letter to a Parent Grieving the Loss of a Child - "This loss and sorrow is all so fresh. I hesitate to tread into the tender place and speak. But since you ask, I pray that God would help me say something helpful."

Naming False Securities - This was so convicting. "All of these false securities erode our trust in God, and when our trust in God is gone our joy evaporates and we are left with dehydrated souls. The response is to turn to Christ, and there to find all the security we need eternally and for our daily bread today."

Dear Church Kid - "Did you know that you functionally deny the reality of our need for grace in Christ when you put on your church kid mask?"

The Complementarian Woman: Permitted or Pursued - "The challenge for any pastor would be to consider whether he is crafting a church culture that permits women to serve or one that pursues women to serve. Because a culture of permission will not ensure complementarity functions as it should.

Salvation's Tenses - Don't miss this glorious gospel poem

Book Review: Delighting in the Trinity

As I mentioned last week, I have been reading Delighting in the Trinity. Now that I am done, I am hard-pressed to think of a book that has been as much of an encouragement to me. I think intellectually, I have always been able to say why the Trinity was important - the Father sent the Son to bear His wrath and the Spirit applies salvation to our heart, etc., etc. All true. But I had never understood the depth of this precious truth.

Reeves argues that if God is triune, this central truth changes everything. It is not a problem to be solved, an after-thought, or a technicality. In actuality it is "the vital oxygen of the Christian life and joy." If God is, indeed, eternally Triune, then He has always been a Father, who gives life, love and glory to His Son through the Spirit. We now, in Jesus, receive the overflow of this eternal love.

Many times, the way that Christians discuss God is no different than the way that a Muslim or a Mormon would discuss their God. But this Triune God is shockingly different; rather than being a self-absorbed, singular being, He is a God who has always delighted to share His love and glory. This explains why He would create us and why He would send His Son. He seeks to have His life and goodness shared.

Karl Barth contended that, "The triunity of God is the secret of His beauty." After reading this, I cannot help but agree. At the beginning of the book, Reeves says that his purpose in writing is to help us taste and see that the Lord is good. This was the effect on my heart.

Delighting in the Trinity is relatively easy reading, and it is short, about 130 pages. But for me, it has changed so much about how I read Scripture, how I think about the Lord and how I relate to Him. The Trinity changes everything - it really is the foundation of Christianity. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Life Update

Sorry for how quiet I have been! I leave for Thailand in just over 3 weeks, and the closer it gets, the busier I have become. Between worship practices, team meetings, VBS preparation and more, any extra time that I have is usually not spent on my computer. If you think about it, your prayers would be much appreciated as we prepare for our trip.

In other news, I run my first half marathon with my brother in a week and a half. And by run, I really mean that I hope I don't die while I move my body 13.1 miles. In all seriousness, though, it will be fun. It's in a beautiful area of San Diego, and my parents and my brother are meeting me down here the day before so that we can spend some time together, which I am looking forward to.

Speaking of family, I've just been feeling more and more torn. I love going - I want to travel and see the world. There is so much to learn and know. But my heart already feels torn and divided between home and here. I love going, but I hate that going means that I have to leave. My heart hurts because here on this earth, my world will never be a complete whole. Come soon, Lord Jesus!

It has been a reflective week, a week that has forced me to trust that the Lord is who He says He is. His promises are true and His timing is perfect. I don't always understand the way that He chooses to do things, but when I look to Jesus, I cannot help say, "You alone are my hope and stay." And He is. There is peace.

Please enjoy this wonderful song, one that I have been listening to over and over again this week...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Weekend Links 4/20

What Gosnell and the Gospel Mean to the Brave - "If the compassion of the world is 'We do not unwanted children born into the world,' then the compassion of the Gospel has to be far more powerful. The compassion of Christ-followers needs to literally and practically and sacrificially be: 'We do want all the children born into this world.'"

Ten Simple Strategies for Prayer - "I know very few people who don’t struggle with prayer. We know we should pray, but doing so consistently and fervently is not easy. Most of our praying is reactionary – that is, in response to a problem – rather than proactive, lifestyle praying."

Find Your Worth in the Gospel - "The therapeutic gospel says, 'I am valuable, and that’s why God loves me.' The biblical gospel says, 'I am valuable because God loves me!'"

Hard Training - "We agreed that God seems to give much more frustration to some Christians than to others. It is a fact that God will eventually put you ‘to death’ one way or the other through sorrow and disappointment. But with some this comes through a thousand cuts. With others through a few major strokes."

Mirror Wars - "But I wonder if Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches has the right idea. I wonder if seeing ourselves through the eyes of others will show that we are too hard on ourselves, that the real source discrediting our beauty is found in ourselves. And then I wonder what we would see if we chose to see ourselves through the eyes, not only of charitable strangers, but of Christ."

Strength to Hold On - A great reminder.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Who is God?

I have been reading Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves. I will be reviewing it soon - it has been a wonderful help to me in so many ways. But I wanted to share one quote:
At bottom this God is different, for at bottom, He is not Creator, Ruler or even "God" in some abstract sense: He is the Father, loving and giving life to His Son in the fellowship of the Spirit....Having such a God happily changes everything.
For the first, I feel as if I am beginning to see how a trinitarian God changes everything, and how so much of what we see in the world around is simply the overflow of this wonderful truth about the Lord.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Weekend Links 4/13

The Asphyxiation of Hope - Heartbreaking and courage-building reflections on depression and suicide.

Sunday School Conversations - My friend Jess teaches Sunday school at our church. She does a fantastic job, and the kids love her, so much so that they are doing everything that they can to get her married off. Her stories about their advice are hilarious.

The Right Time God - But thank God His timing is not dependent on my recognition of its rightness. Thank God He is not swayed by my complaints. Thank God He is willing to press on to the right time. And thank God that He didn't wait for me to be ready to exercise His good work in my life:

On Grudges and Generosity - Yikes. This is convicting.

Kermit Gosnell and the Gospel - Helpful thoughts from Russell Moore.

Quietness of Heart Overcomes All - "Quietness of heart before God, trusting in him, is our strength, and there is no greater strength."

Our Hearts Still Burn - I have been enjoying the whole album, but this song in particular is one that I keep coming back to.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Weekend Links 4/6

The Power to Love and Forgive - "At this point we realized we needed resources beyond love languages and bank balances. We had nothing to give the other — which left us with nothing to get from the other. It was a vicious cycle."

What the Law-Keeper Cries to the Gospel-Lover - "Over the years he has shared with me several interesting little glimpses of his work in that community--a community that attempts to adhere to every part of the Old Testament law. It is fascinating to hear how these attempts manifest themselves in the twenty-first century."

Not a Waste of Time - "One of our favorites stories from Edith Schaeffer."

First Day Thoughts on Not Being a Pastor Anymore - "Finishing the ministry at Bethlehem has been deeply and painfully satisfying. Painfully, because of long, tearful embraces with people who don’t want to let go. But here I want to show you how finishing can be so satisfying."

Waiting, Wasting, Wandering - Sweet encouragement.

Why Envy is a Danger for the YRR - "This will be the test for us among the Young, Restless Reformed. So I invite you to take the test with me. The next time someone else is given an opportunity or a blessing that you wish was yours, how do you react?"

Two Adams Met in Me - Fantastic poem from Barry York.

When Josh Harris Slapped Me Across the Face - I needed to hear this.

Peacemaking: A Gospel Necessity - "If God has reconciled us to himself through Christ, how can we not pursue reconciliation with one another?"

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

He Crushed Its Head

I am finishing the book of Numbers in my regular Bible reading, and I just came to the passage where the Lord sent fiery snakes to punish the Israelites for their disobedience. It reminded me of one of my favorite passages from Russell Moore's book Tempted and Tried.
In my nightly Bible readings with my family, I read a selected narrative in the canon, but every night my children beg me to read "the one about the snake." For some reason they love to hear about Moses combating the fiery serpents in the wilderness with the bronze serpent on the pole and about the afflicted finding healing when they look on the emblem of the very curse that's killing them. My little boys don't simply have a morbid fascination with venomous snakes among the wandering Israelites. In fact, they are never satisfied to end the story there. 
They wait in silence until we turn to what they call "the other pole," the picture of the cross of Christ. That's when I tell them how mysteriously this seemingly helpless, executed man confronted the snake of Eden right there on "the other pole" and finally did what God had promised since the beginning of history. He crushed its head. 
Praise God that He did.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

When You Feel Wronged...

I hope you all had a blessed Resurrection Sunday - I know I did. The past few days since then, though, there has been a completely unintentional situation at church that has left me feeling as if no one cares. I know is not true; I just feel as if it is right now. As hard as it has been, though, the Lord has used it to remind me of what I need to remember when I feel wronged by the church, and how I can respond in a way that is honoring to Him.

1. I don't serve the church for what I gain.
Each time I start to think about this situation, my gut reaction is to point to everything I have done for everyone at the church...the Bible studies I have babysat for, the many times I cleaned the sanctuary on a Saturday when no one else wanted to, the early mornings arranging chord charts for worship sets, the multiple nights each week I arrive home late because I am serving in some way; I am not un-involved. Honestly, I feel as if I am as committed at church as I can be at this point in my life.

But situations like this remind me that unless I am married and/or have a family at the church, I will still fall through the cracks more often then not. And while my initial reaction is to scream unfairness, that really isn't true. Either way, I don't serve so that others remember me and serve me back. I serve because the Lord has first loved me, because I love this church, and because I can. I have time and energy and resources right now that I won't always have. And even if no one sees, it doesn't matter. The Lord sees, and it is ultimately for Him anyway. My job is only to be faithful with what I have been given.

2. Our actions often have unintentional consequences.
What's been so hard about this situation is that all of the things that I have been hurt by are good things - things that are glorifying to God and bless someone else in the congregation abundantly. But by blessing this person so openly and publicly, I have been left feeling as if no one cares about the fact that I am in the same situation. I know that isn't the intention, but the results are the same. However, this has forced me to think about all of the things that I do, and the unintentional consequences that they might be having. I am not exempt from this problem, and it has been a heartbreaking reminder to watch my life more closely.

3. I need to focus on what unifies me with my brothers and sisters.
It's easy right now to dwell on all of the ways that I feel wronged, and to even go back to little things that people have done in the past that have been hurtful. But the truth is that love does cover a multitude of sins, and that even though I feel divided from some people in little ways in the moment, we are united because of Jesus and His finished work on the cross. In the midst of this, that is what I need to remember - that we all have the same Spirit and the same Lord at work in us for His glory.

It has been a challenging few days, but God is good. It has been good to process through everything and refocus on the things that matter.