Category Archives: Faith

sigh.

“What an utter denial it is of the whole of the New Testament, this foolish suggestion that one service a Sunday is enough, one that takes place at nine o’clock in the morning, to get rid of it, as it were, in order that you can then really go and enjoy yourselves and have real happiness in looking at the television or in rushing to the seaside or in playing golf!

But what happens when people are baptized with the Holy Spirit — as you read throughout Acts — is that they want to keep together, to get together as often as they can — they continued daily, steadfastly, talking about these things, singing together, praising God together. This was the thing that was first above everything else.  Everything else came second; even their work was something they had to do.  It was right that they should do their work, of course, but this was the thing that meant life to them, joy and salvation.”

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Joy Unspeakable (Wheaton, 1984), page 102.  Italics original, emphasis mine.

(HT: Christ is deeper still)

I really, really miss that. I’m not convinced when anyone tries to tell me it’s a station of life thing — like, in college, that kind of fellowship was easy, because we were in college and had very little in terms of actual responsibility, but now — now that we have houses and kids and marriages, well, fellowship just gets pushed to the back burner and there’s nothing we can do about it. Maybe that’s true to a certain extent — it is more complicated to make time for fellowship — but I’m not crazy for thinking something is not right about a lack of fellowship. I’m not. And surely there are others out there — I hope! — who desire that kind of community as much as we do. Please, Lord…please.

Maybe we should just move back to Muncie.

knowing God this summer.

So, I’ve been thinking about this summer. And how it’s a pretty relaxed time of fewer commitments (usually) than exist during the school year.

And, I’ve been re-reading one of my favorite books which my sister just returned to me since she is moving to Texas like a poopyface and leaving me forever, and I’ve been thinking that this book is amazing, and it’s topic is amazing, and maybe it would be a good thing to read with some other people this summer since small groups and whatnot are all on hiatus until the fall.

What book, you ask?

Knowing God, by J.I. Packer.

Do you, as a Christian, ever stop and think about how we claim to know God? And how on some level that sounds completely absurd — how do we know God? What does that even mean? What does that look like? Is it just one of those nice things Christians all say to each other that means very little in the big scheme of things? If it’s true that we can know God and be known by Him — why aren’t our lives any different? Shouldn’t that be a life-altering thing, to know God?

Sometimes I wonder if I know Him at all. Like, when I get to heaven some day, am I going to recognize Jesus? How? I don’t really know what he looks like (except for some vague cultural constructions my mind has made up that represent Him — you know, that whole sign and signifier Derrida thing you learned in your intro to literary theory class your sophomore year of college). So…how will I recognize Him when I get to heaven? I’m assuming it’ll be pretty unmistakable, what with the throne and the right hand of God and everything, but wouldn’t it be pretty embarrassing if we showed up and Jesus was like, the bellhop, and we were like, “Excuse me, can you please direct us to Jesus” and He’s like…”I AM.” And we’re like, oh, hahaha, I, um, didn’t recognize you, uhhhh. Whoops.

I’m not trying to be flippant, because I really do think this is a serious subject. I don’t really think Jesus will be the bellhop. But…Would I recognize Him? How so? Do I know Him? How well do I know Him? And, if I know Him, what does that do to my life — my thoughts, what I value, what I love, what I laugh at, what I spend my time doing, how I treat others, etc.

So, yeah, knowing God. I want to know Jesus really well on this earth so that when I get to heaven I don’t mistake him for the bellhop. I want to know Him intimately on this earth so that heaven isn’t like an awkward first date.

And mostly, I want to know Jesus on this earth because I love him. Poorly, really, really poorly, but I love Him none the less. I am ashamed at how often I love and spend time and energy on things which aren’t headed toward that goal of knowing Him more.

And, how do I teach my little boy to love Jesus if I don’t know Him? How do I make much of Him for my little boy if I don’t really, truly, make much of Him?

So, this summer I am going to be re-reading Knowing God.  It would be really awesome to read it with some people and then get together and talk about it. The book has a study guide and some questions in the back, so it’s not like we even have to think of things to talk about.

So, who’s in?

hallelujah! all i have is christ. hallelujah! jesus is my life.

This song is my life story. It’s yours, too.  Does it ever just blow your mind that while we were enemies of God, we were reconciled to Him, and now all we know is grace?

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You

turn then, my soul, into thy rest.

From whence this fear and unbelief?
Hath not the Father put to grief
His spotless Son for me?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt of sin
Which, Lord, was charged on thee?

Complete atonement thou hast made,
And to the utmost farthing paid
Whate’er thy people owed;
How then can wrath on me take place
If sheltered in thy righteousness,
And sprinkled with thy blood?

If thou hast my discharge procured,
And freely in my room endured
The whole of wrath divine,
Payment God cannot twice demand—
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand,
And then again at mine.

Turn then, my soul, unto thy rest!
The merits of thy great High Priest
Have bought thy liberty;
Trust in his efficacious blood,
Nor fear thy banishment from God,
Since Jesus died for thee.

-Augustus Toplady, from Knowing God by J.I. Packer, pg 274, emphasis mine

gospel community.

I’m not totally convinced that the American dream — the house and yard in the suburbs — is the ideal environment for gospel community to happen. I’m sure it can happen in the suburbs, but isn’t kind of the whole point of the suburbs isolation? We have our own private house surrounded by our own private lawn all so we can not talk to people if we don’t want to talk to them. I am not saying there is anything inherently wrong with owning private property, because there isn’t, but let’s face it — suburban living is insular on purpose.

I don’t know if it’s just the season of life I’m in, or what, but I have been thinking a lot recently about gospel community and what that looks like, especially in a suburban context. The best example I have of gospel community is the church Tim and I were involved with in college, and right after we got married. I know that college is a time of minimal responsibility (even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time — I felt like I was so busy with classes, homework, and my part-time job, but I never knew how easy I had it!) and friendships are formed rather effortlessly because we have countless hours playing Euchre in someone’s dorm room on our side. But you know what? I am struggling with with gospel community looks like now, in the post-college, full-time-job, family-house-kids life.

The church we currently attend is a suburban church. And that’s fine — suburban people need Jesus, too. But I am really wrestling with how a suburban church like ours takes care of its people when its people live mostly far apart (i.e. a 5,10, or 15 minute drive or more) and only come together on Sundays or for various events throughout the week. How do deep friendships happen? How do we live life together? I think at it’s core, the Church — the Body of Christ — isn’t a place, a building, an event, but rather life being lived deeply with other people, but sometimes it seems like with the suburban church especially church becomes something we do rather than who we are.

I think a suburban church has to make more of an effort to build and sustain gospel community, because otherwise it won’t just happen. And in order to make more of an effort in that area, we have to make sacrifices in order to carve out the time. Maybe that means limiting evening activities like classes and sports with kids in order to make time to have people into our homes for dinner. Maybe that means forgoing the immaculate yard in order to have families and their kids over to enjoy the yard (and our company, as we’re not wiped from making said yard immaculate all day). Maybe that means we work fewer hours and make a little less money, or cut back in other ways, in order to have the time to spend investing in friendships.

Maybe it means we move. OK, I kid, I kid. But seriously.

Gospel community is not complicated, but it does require both time and proximity. Community is cultivated because we spend a lot of time together — in each others’ homes, sharing meals together, playing with each others’ kids, talking, praying together. And in order for those things to happen on a regular basis (i.e. 2-3 times a week or more), we need to live in a close proximity to each other. Unfortunately, time and proximity are two things kind of lacking in a suburban, middle-class lifestyle. I’m not saying that a suburban lifestyle is necessarily bad, because it isn’t — but it’s simply not conducive to cultivating gospel community.

I know creating the time and the proximity to other people can be difficult to do. It seems like just keeping up with my family and my house and marriage is too much some days, but I also know that gospel-based friendships are vital to my walk with the Lord . I need people in my life who can pray with and for me, who know where I am struggling, who love my kid as much as I love him, who can ask me how my marriage is. And, on the flip side, I need people for whom I can pray and encourage and take care of as I seek to serve as Christ served. It is through community that I am made more into Christ’s image.

In all honesty, I am struggling with making community happen where we are right now. And I’m pretty sure that if I am feeling this way, that others must be struggling, too.

What do you think? If you go to a suburban church and live in the suburbs, how does gospel community happen for you? Can you describe a time in your life where you experienced gospel community, whether through a Bible study, small group, or church? What do you think gospel community looks like?

this is the reason why souls weep

You need not weep because Christ died one-tenth so much as because your sins rendered it necessary that He should die. You need not weep over the crucifixion, but weep over your transgression, for your sins nailed the Redeemer to the accursed tree. To weep over a dying Saviour is to lament the remedy; it were wiser to bewail the disease. To weep over the dying Saviour is to wet the surgeon’s knife with tears; it were better to bewail the spreading polyps which that knife must cut away. To weep over the Lord Jesus as He goes to the cross is to weep over that which is the subject of the highest joy that ever heaven and earth have known; your tears are scarcely needed there; they are unnatural, but a deeper wisdom will make you brush them all away and chant with joy His victory over death and the grave. If we must continue our sad emotions, let us lament that we should have broken the law which He thus painfully vindicated; let us mourn that we should have incurred the penalty which He even to the death was made to endure … O brethren and sisters, this is the reason why we souls weep: because we have broken the divine law and rendered it impossible that we should be saved except Jesus Christ should die.

-Charles Spurgeon

(HT: Challies)

how to take a real rest.

photo by jurek d.

Are you tired?

Worn out?

Burned out on religion?

Come to Me.

Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life.

I’ll show you how to take a real rest.

Walk with Me and work with Me — watch how I do it.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.

Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

–Jesus (Matthews 11:28-30, The Message)

***

Sometimes my entire life feels heavy and ill-fitting, and I groan under the weight of my unbelief.  Because that’s what it is — feeling that my life is heavy and ill-fitting is the opposite of believing that God in His sovereignty has removed my real burden and placed me where I am right at this moment in time and space, and that’s unbelief.

I’m really tired of feeling this way.

Today at church, Roger, a pastor at a sister church of our church, preached, and he said that when Paul writes in the beginning of his letters, “Grace and peace to you –” he is saying that God is moving towards us with grace with the intention of making us whole, complete, full.

And I’m going to be honest and say that I am having a hard time believing that.

I do believe it on some level, but a long time ago I believed it in a way that spilled out into how I lived my life, but now I don’t think I do. It was like I felt that the Lord loved me, and that made all the difference in the world.

Should it? Should my experience of the love of God affect how my day-to-day life is lived? I know He loves me, even if I don’t always feel loved, but boy, it helps to feel that love of God being poured into my heart by the Holy Spirit, you know? Is this what George Mueller meant when he said that:

“…the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, or how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world; and yet, not being happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit.”

Is the reason my life feels ill-fitting and heavy because it is ill-fitting and heavy when certain things are not being carried in the right way? They rub and chafe because they aren’t where they are supposed to be, as if I was wearing pants on my arms and a shirt as pants and a sock on my head.

What things in my life are in the wrong place?

What was it in my life, what patterns have I fallen into that have deadened my soul and my affections for the Lord?

What do I need to do now to get myself happy in the Lord?

I think I need to stop checking Facebook every 4.5 seconds or so. And my email. And my blog. And Twitter. And Google reader. Less computer time all around.

I think I need to get up and spend time with the Lord in the morning, which means I need to go to bed at a decent hour.

I think I need to go outside every day for a little while and take a walk, even if it is kind of cold still.

I need to sing songs, even if I can’t sing.

I need to get away with the Lord, and I’ll recover my life. I miss living.