Thursday, August 31, 2006
(J. Ligon Duncan and Randy Stinson – “Preface (2006),” Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem, excerpted by girltalk)
After 13 days of harrowing captivity, FOX newsman Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig were released by terrorists…unharmed…emotional and grateful. Images of them falling tearfully into the arms of loving family graced the television Sunday from morning ‘til night. Who of us didn’t rejoice?
Only those of us, perhaps, who understood the terms of their release. Dressed in Islamic garb, Steve and Olaf, cameras rolling, bowed their heads and converted to Islam. It was convert or be killed and they chose life.
Wouldn’t you? After all, everyone knows “conversions” are just performances required by deranged hostage takers to somehow advance their cause. No one means it when they renounce their government, their homeland….their God. You can believe something in your heart and say another, can’t you?
...Words matter to God. They are the basis of oaths and covenants. In the beginning was the “Word” and the “word” was God. He spoke words and the world was created. He spoke words to seal an eternal covenant with Abraham. That “Word” is the same yesterday, today and forever. Could he possibly expect us to indulge the opposite in ourselves? ...How have we come to a place where saying what’s expedient to save ourselves is acceptable…even to Christians?
Read the whole thing here.
I once believed I had it all figured out.
I once believed I was "better than most people, anyway."
I once trusted in my own righteousness and obedience.
I once craved the applause, approval and acceptance of man.
Sadly, on many days, I still do. The pride I battle creeps back in. I struggle to fear God and not man. In Christ I am a new creation, but vestiges of the old remain.
This discourages me. And yet it also magnifies the glory of divine grace. How? No matter how many times I bring these same failures back to my Heavenly Father, He patiently casts them into the depths of the sea once more. No matter how many times I dive in after them and wriggle my new self into old clothes, He kindly reveals my foolishness and calls me back to Himself. It is a mystery of His glorious grace.
I once believed that justification was by faith, but sanctification was by my own effort and works.
Now I trust in the blood of my Savior from first to last, knowing that His work alone can present me pure and faultless before the throne of the Holy One. Now I put off the chains of guilt and duty because Christ's love compels me. Now I delight in the glorious riches of His grace--grace that was greater than all my sin on the day I first believed, and grace that is greater than all the sin I still battle today and will battle tomorrow.
Now I labor with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me. Now I trust His gracious promise to complete the good work He began in me--confident that as HE began it, HE will complete it. Now I make it my mission to magnify the glorious grace that sustains me until the day that it finally and forever sets me completely free.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
- If the sky is slightly overcast, consider checking the weather forecast.
- If the radar looks like this: ...reconsider your plans to ride your bike twelve blocks to the grocery store.
- That trusty backpack which carried you through four years of college is not waterproof.
- The brakes on your fifteen-year-old Huffy ten-speed will not work when wet.
- Working brakes are important for your ride home, which is mostly downhill.
- You really need a new seat for that bike. That cute pink seat worked great when you were ten, but you don't have a ten-year-old's butt anymore.
- You might as well laugh, because hey, it's funny.
- You can officially self-diagnose a sick obsession with blogging if you spend the entire dripping-wet ride/walk home composing this blog post.
"We buy fresh pineapple all the time--I'll do it," I volunteered. So I showed the ladies how to cut up a pineapple.
I can't even tell you how insanely ironic I found this. I remember the first time I had to cut up a pineapple, in front of Steve. Feeling stupid, I bluffed my way through it because I had no idea what I was doing. He watched me with this look of consternation--not rude, just puzzled. "Why in the world are you doing it that way?"
It wasn't long ago that I was the one completely inept in the kitchen. So on Sunday night, all I could do was laugh, because I fnd it utterly amazing that I would ever be the one showing someone else how to cut up a pineapple. Or how to do anything cooking-related, for that matter. Truly God has given me grace in the kitchen.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Consider this: The word "now" can mean two different things. It can mean "FINALLY, now!" or it can mean "ALREADY, now?" For example...
1. A five-year-old boy receives a big package from his grandfather for his birthday. It arrives a week early, and is marked "Do not open until your birthday." Every day, the little boy asks his parents: "Now can I open it?" When his birthday arrives at last, his parents tell him, "FINALLY! NOW you can open the package."
2. The boy's father receives an envelope from the grandfather (his father) containing a check for $5,000. A note explains, "Son, you know that I'm getting older, and when I'm gone, you'll receive an inheritance from me. But I know you need that money now. So I'm giving you some of it before I die." The man thinks, "ALREADY? I get this blessing NOW?"
"Therefore, there is NOW no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:1).
We once faced condemnation for our sin. We had no hope of escaping the wrath and justice of God. But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son to redeem us. And FINALLY, NOW there is no condemnation for us who are in Him!
At some point in the future, we will stand before the throne of God for judgment. We are sinners. But on that day, we will not be condemned, because Jesus was ALREADY condemned in our place. And we walk in that freedom from condemnation NOW!
Friday, August 25, 2006
What a perfect illustration of how all attempts to conquer sin without applying the gospel are shallow--they do not have the power to inspire us and make us more like Christ! If I am struggling with jealousy, and so I memorize a verse that tells me "thou shalt not covet," how does that help me to overcome the jealousy? I already knew that my jealousy was wrong. Reminding myself that it is a sin doesn't change the fact that I feel hurt, left out, whatever. Even nine-year-olds recognize the impotence in these laws and commands!
That's why the Christian life can't be about a list of dos and don'ts. We're no longer under law, but under grace. And so the part of God's Word that has the power to defeat jealousy in my heart is not the part that tells me, "don't be jealous, it's wrong." It's the part that promises that God will satisfy all my needs--that He alone can give life--that He works in all things for my good and His glory.
When I need to battle jealousy, I find "thou shalt not covet" less than compelling. But "Christ's love compels [me]" (2 Corinthians 5:14). I find great comfort and joy in promises like these:
"He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32) --God went to radical extremes to provide for my greatest need: forgiveness of my sin, justification before a holy God, reconciliation with Him. How can I doubt that He will provide for my much smaller needs, which are that much easier for Him to meet?
"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3a) --God is all-powerful, and He has already given me everything I need to live fully and to honor Him this moment. If there is something I lack, it is because He in His sovereign wisdom has determined I don't really need it to live an abundant life that brings glory to Him!
I pray that these precious girls will learn now what it has taken me twenty-four years to learn--that we are not only saved by grace; we live by grace every day--that the gospel is not just a story for unbelievers; it is the good news that enables us to stand before God and receive His blessings every day of our lives as His children.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Check out the links--there are some fantastic people over there. In the great wide world of blogs you just never know who you'll run into.
Ironically, the college friend who introduced me to blogging and inspired me to become a blogger--his was the first blog I ever read regularly--is no longer blogging, it seems. How about a new post in honor of my blogiversary, Jeff?
Our hearts are active. We are always trusting something. If we're not trusting the Savior, we're trusting a false savior, an idol. Idolatry is to say, "I need 'X' in order to be happy, in order to really have life." But in reality, 'X' has no power. Plug in your electricity and there's no power.
I was thinking on this last week when I read Romans 8:11: "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you."
I am committing idolatry when I believe, or live like I believe, that I need "X" in order to be happy, or in order to "really live." But the truth is that "X"--whatever it is, if it is not Jesus Christ--has no power! It cannot give life! Only God, the Creator and Sustainer of Life, has the power to give life. Only God, who raised Jesus from the dead, can breathe new life into dead things. And so only God is worthy of my trust, my belief that if I have Him I will really have LIFE. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is living in me--and when I allow Him to reign in my heart and put my trust in Him, He will give me LIFE--not just at the Resurrection, but abundant life here, now, today! Christ did not just come so that we could have "fire insurance" from hell; He said--
"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
One of those sources is a series of messages by Mark Lauterbach called "Gospel Centrality: So What?" Fantastic. I cannot recommend them enough. You can download them for FREE here--please go over there right now and get started. Burn them onto CDs, or your iPod; listen in the car or while you run or while you do dishes. It will revolutionize your understanding of the gospel. Go. I'll still be here when you get back.
Okay. Now that you've done that, let me try to flesh out the whole jealousy-is-idolatry thing a little more, in this post and the next. The foundation is that God is the only one who deserves glory. What is glory? In the Old Testament, it's a Hebrew word that carries the sense of "weight" or "heaviness." Eric Schumacher explains, "To speak of someone’s glory is to speak of their worth, it is to declare what is excellent about them. ...When we speak of God’s glory, we speak of his greatness, his beauty, his worth or his excellence. Everything about God is excellent and weighty and beautiful. God’s glory is the display of his excellencies."
Schumacher goes on to say:
"Sin is giving to someone or something else the glory that God alone deserves. ...Sin is exchanging the glory of God for the worship of something lesser. Sin is taking God’s glory for oneself. The wages [of] sin is death. Those who refuse to glorify the great King are guilty of high treason and must be executed to uphold the worth of the king’s name. To allow the dishonoring of God’s name to go unpunished would be to say that God’s name is not worth much. It would be to say that dishonoring God’s name is no big deal, because God is 'no big deal.' That would be a travesty of justice."
When I am jealous of someone or something, I am giving that person/thing more "weight" than God. I am saying all He is for me in Jesus is not enough--this other thing is worth more, is more excellent. I am giving created things the glory instead of giving glory to the One who alone deserves all glory.
Of course, the good news is that although I deserve death because of my refusal to glorify God's name--because of my persistence in giving glory to other people, or attempting to claim it for myself--Christ already bore the curse for my treason. He was executed so that I could be justified--so that I could be delivered from the power of sin and glorify God for all eternity!
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Monday, August 14, 2006
"My text for this morning’s sermon is the entire Bible. Sometimes I fear that while we do a lot of teaching the Bible's stories, we do very little to communicate the Bible's story. The Bible is one unified story, in which every little story plays a part."
A great bird's-eye-view of the wonderful story of redemption and the glory of God. Long, but worth the time to read. Check it out!
Friday, August 11, 2006
Needless to say, beautifying the inside is currently a much bigger priority to us. I hope our neighbors don't mind too much :)
UPDATE: The wall has since been moved to lean against our shed in the back until we figure out what to do with it. Steve is currently outside as I type (a thunderstorm last night broke the heat wave) working on one of the half-finished projects: breaking up concrete so he can re-route the drainage on the side of the house. (We were thinking if the rainwater went around the house instead of pouring down the foundation and making our basement damp, that might be nice.) Right now he is wondering why someone put a foundation under our sidewalk. The concrete is a foot deep instead of a few inches like a normal sidewalk. We are hoping there's not a body under there.
Always an adventure :)
Last weekend we decided to tackle the bedroom closet. You can see in the picture that it only has one door--so although it goes all the way back to the wall, the clothes beyond the doorway are impossible to access. Plus, we've been spoiled by a year of apartment living with walk-in closets. So we thought, if we put double doors on the closet and hung two poles instead of just one, we could really expand the usable space in there.
The project got moved up in priority for a couple of reasons. First, we had a second door available for free. We ordered a new, wider door for the basement (since the old one was so narrow that the entire doorframe--not just the trim--had to be taken off in order to get the washer and dryer downstairs) and the old door happens to match the existing closet door exactly.
Second, our conversation last Saturday went something like this:
Amy: So what project do you want to work on today?
Steve: Well, I could start weatherproofing the windows, or I could work on the bedroom closet.
Amy: Which would you rather do? It doesn't matter to me.
Steve: It's so hot outside, I'd rather not be out working in this weather. Let's do the closet. (pause) We will need to go to Lowe's so I can get a sawzall.
Amy: Ah, I see how it is. "I'd rather work on the closet because that means I get to go buy a new saw," not "I'd rather work on the closet because it's too hot to work outside."
Steve: No, that's not it at all!
You judge from this picture whether that was the real issue or not:
Anyway, after the trip to Lowe's, he spent the rest of the day covering our bedroom in three inches of dust. Lovely. But seriously, the closet is going to be great. My wonderful handyman has been building shelves on both sides and hanging two poles so we can use every last bit of space. I love that he knows how to do all this stuff! But, it's taking longer than I anticipated...a week later and all our clothes are still draped all over the living room furniture. Not his fault though...problems from working with old plaster walls.
Ah the joys of living in an old house :)
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
This morning at women's Bible study we were in Colossians 3. The leader handed out a copy of the passage in the NKJV (which I never, ever use) just so we could all read from the same version. Imagine my surprise when the word which the NIV translates "greed" in verse 5 showed up in this translation as "covetousness"...
"Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5).
Friday, August 04, 2006
Earlier this week I felt prompted to listen to one of C.J. Mahaney's more well-known messages, "Cravings and Conflict." I'd heard about it before but hadn't ever listened to it myself, so I found a site with free downloads and started it up. Can I just say that I love C.J. Mahaney? Anyway...
First of all, I highly encourage checking out the message, which is taken from James 4:1-2. His stick-with-you main points were: Conflict is worse than you think. It's simpler than you think. And resolving it is easier than you think. Excellent message. The core is that all conflict is caused by sinful cravings. All of it. You're in a conflict? That's revealing the cravings of your heart. You fight and quarrel because you don't have something that you want.
As I reflected on the message and applied it to my heart, I began to reflect on the situation that's prompting me to be jealous. I was amazed as once again, God began tying together all sorts of wisdom I've gleaned recently from this sermon and several other places to address the sin in my heart.
Basically, I realized that the reason I was jealous (a relational conflict, in a sense--though the other person is oblivious) was because I was craving--and feeling like I was not getting--this person's attention/approval/acceptance. Well, what's wrong with wanting someone to pay attention to you or accept you? Nothing, it would seem, unless you examine a little more closely. The truth is, when I was not getting what I wanted, I was becoming jealous and bitter--obviously sinful. And these sinful reactions were revealing a deeper, more serious truth.
My jealousy was saying, in effect, "I am not satisfied with all that God is and promises to be for me in Jesus" (a little Piper for ya there :) I was saying, "Christ is not enough to satisfy my soul; I cannot be truly joyful unless I have X." ("X" being, in this case, another person's attention/acceptance.) And in essence, this is idolatry.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? I felt pretty stupid when I said all this out loud to my husband after the Holy Spirit began to clarify it all in my mind and heart. How dumb does it sound to say, "I am worshipping so-and-so's attention and approval instead of worshipping God"? I'd rather just gloss over my sin and say, "I'm jealous" (which is hard enough and embarrassing to admit!).
But that's exactly my problem too much of the time: I like to minimize my sin. I like to pretend it's not really that big of a deal. I'm not a murderer, after all. I don't commit adultery or steal. I'm not so bad, right?
If my sin isn't so bad, I'm not really in desperate need of a Savior. For me to say my sin is no big deal is to say that Christ's sacrifice wasn't really necessary--and no statement could be more insulting to the One who died to provide the only way for me to be reconciled to a holy God. The truth is, my jealousy is serious--more serious than I realized. Jealousy was just the tip of an iceberg called idolatry: treasuring something or someone else in place of God. And it's so serious to Him that it called for a radical solution.
In his book When People are Big and God is Small, Ed Welch says over and over that we need to "need people less and love people more." As I began to identify the deeper roots of the sin in my heart, I realized how foolish my "needs" were. I don't "need" this person's attention--the King of Kings, the Sovereign Creator and Ruler of the universe hears my every cry and His eyes are on me at all times. I don't "need" this person's acceptance--the perfect, holy Son of God died on a cross to purchase my acceptance before God for all time.
Praise be to Him. Nothing in this world can ever truly satisfy. Earthly treasures will rust and burn and fade away. Even the most wonderful people will disappoint. But God will keep all His promises--in Him alone can I be satisfied and find abundant life.
Alcorn suggests that it's not at all silly to wonder whether we might see our beloved pets again. Of course we can't know for sure, and it goes without saying that Heaven will be no less Heaven if our pets aren't there. Nonetheless, Alcorn says, God is the Giver of all good gifts, and He created them. Think of how many ways He has used animals to touch human lives! We know there will be animals in Heaven, and it would be a simple matter for God to re-create certain ones we knew and loved on earth. He includes this quote from Joni Eareckson Tada:
"If God brings our pets back to life, it wouldn't surprise me. It would be just like Him. It would be totally in keeping with His generous character. ...Exorbitant. Excessive. Extravagant in grace after grace. Of all the dazzling discoveries and ecstatic pleasures heaven will hold for us, the potential of seeing Scrappy would be pure whimsy--utterly, joyfully, surprisingly superfluous. ...Heaven is going to be a place that will refract and reflect in as many ways as possible the goodness and joy of our great God, who delights in lavishing love on His children."
(quoted in Heaven by Randy Alcorn, Tyndale, 2004)
Thursday, August 03, 2006
It was twelve years ago this summer that we traveled to the pet store to get a new dog. Our miniature schnauzer had died of old age a while back, but she had been my dad's dog since before he married my mom. So this would be our first family dog. I don't remember how we decided that we wanted a cocker spaniel, but at the store, we were greeted by three adorable blond cocker puppies.
She was the runt of the litter--tiny next to her chubby sister and brother. I fell in love. She was undeniably the cutest of the three puppies, and I guess since I was the
She cried when we left her in her room at night. She "piddled" every time she got excited; we got used to telling guests, "Don't talk to her! Just ignore her until she settles down"--because if they stooped to scratch her floppy ears or tell her hello, we'd be rushing to the kitchen for a paper towel.
Thankfully she grew out of that phase...eventually. But she still had a thousand endearing quirks. This dog had more personality than any dog I've ever met, no contest. She could sing--I kid you not. Any time my family started singing "Happy Birthday," she would start singing along with us. I have no idea why that song was a trigger, but it definitely was. Simply saying, "Sing! Can you sing?" would do it too, as well as various other words that were significant to her, in good or bad ways: "puppy hotel" (bad), "bath" (bad), "Eukanuba" (her dog food--good, I think, unless this was her way of protesting being fed the same thing three times a day for twelve years).
We often remarked that we needed to videotape her and send it to Iams--surely we'd get some sort of million-dollar endorsement deal for this brilliant dog who would not respond to "Do you want some Puppy Chow?" but would howl excitedly when asked, "Do you want some Eukanuba?" I kid you not.
If she was in the mood to sing, you could carry on a conversation with her. Dad would come home and ask, "Molly, what did they do to you today?" She'd howl. "Sissy did that?" he'd respond. "Isn't that sad! Why didn't you bite her?" Molly would howl some more. I'd argue, "You're telling stories." She would howl in protest. Her singing/"talking" was at various volumes and pitches, sometimes short, sometimes long. Hilarious. I swear I am not making this up. I so wish I had it on videotape.
She had a decent repertoire of tricks, including "dancing" (turning in a circle on her hind legs), and balancing a dog treat on her nose, then flipping it up and catching it in her mouth. She also knew how to spell popcorn. We resorted to spelling it, as you would in front of a little kid, because the mere mention of her favorite treat would send her into a frenzy. If someone said it, she wouldn't rest until they got up and made some. But eventually she figured out that "p-o-p-c-o-r-n" meant the same thing, and upon hearing the string of letters, she would run to the cupboard where we kept the precious food. Then she'd pace in front of the microwave while it popped, whining if it seemed to take too long. She would jump in the air to catch kernels we threw to her, and would inhale a pile of it off the floor like a vacuum cleaner, so fast there's no way she tasted it.
I've seen a lot of cocker spaniels, and a lot of pictures of cocker spaniels. It is no stretch to say Molly was the most adorable. I know that sounds ridiculously biased, but I really believe it's true. She had the most expressive eyes and enormous floppy, curly ears. I'd post a picture to back up my claim, but the only ones I have are from last week. In them she looks old, sad, worn out.
Molly was playful, full of energy, loyal through and through. She didn't really play favorites; she loved our whole family. After I moved out, it always made me smile to see how excited she would get every time I came home. She didn't have much of a tail to wag (it had been cropped before we got her) so she'd wiggle her whole backside; she'd run in circles, crying, until I'd sit down and she could jump up in my lap.
She won't be there to greet me the next time I go home. My parents had to do the unbelievably difficult and have her put to sleep on Tuesday. I realized earlier this year that all of a sudden she seemed to be getting old, but somehow I didn't really believe it. I'm really going to miss my dog.