Friday, August 29, 2008


"I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith..." (Jude 1:3)

Recently I began studying the book of Jude with a group of women at church. I'll be honest, Jude is not one of my favorite books of the Bible, but it's been good for me to dig deeply into Scripture again. Last week, one of our assignments was to do word studies--one of the parts of inductive Bible study I most enjoy. The searching that various women did led to some interesting insights as we shared.

The verse I quoted above is probably the best-known verse in this little book; many people, when they think of Jude, think of "contending for the faith." And that would seem appropriate in light of the dangerous people about whom Jude warns his readers. The word "contend" conjures images of apologetics, defending the faith, fighting for what you believe.

But someone suggested on Tuesday night that we need to contend for the faith even when we're alone. Often contending is not about arguing with an atheist--it's about fighting the enemy within. It's about overcoming the sin in your own life; it's about struggling to cling to what you know to be true, defending the faith against your own unbelief.

The NIV Study Bible describes "the faith" as "the gospel and all its implications"--and those implications are deeply personal. It's not some abstract set of facts; it's about how the death of Jesus on the cross changes me. "The faith" says I am a new creation...I am God's beloved daughter, with full access to His throne of grace...I am free of guilt and condemnation...I am no longer a slave to sin...I will live forever with the King.

And so "contending for the faith" starts with my internal monologue. It means preaching the gospel to myself daily; it means fighting to become what the gospel says I am, to trust that God keeps His promises.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 82

Thanking God this week for...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Ungodly

When you read the book of Jude, you can't miss the word "ungodly." Over and over Jude describes, in vivid, harsh terms, "ungodly" people and the evil they commit. And so we paint a portrait of these appalling, dangerous sinners; we note their wicked deeds and motives and place them in a category all their own.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I studied that word "ungodly." The Greek word is used only a handful of times in the New Testament, and guess what the first two are?

"And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness" (Romans 4:5)

"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6).

We're quick to point at "the ungodly": those awful, immoral people who commit atrocious sins. But WE were "the ungodly"--and Christ died for us. WE are "the ungodly" whom God justified through His Son.

May this knowledge make us humble--for we are not better than "the ungodly"; any righteousness we now have that "they" lack is Christ's righteousness on our behalf. We didn't earn or achieve it ourselves; but for His grace, we would still be where they are. And may it give us hope--for if God would justify "ungodly sinners" like us, perhaps He will also yet justify those who oppose and reject Him as we once did.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Birthday Party

We had to go home last weekend for the wedding of one of Steve's favorite cousins, so we decided to wait and celebrate Elijah's first birthday a few days late, with our families. Our little guy was blessed to receive lots of love and generous gifts from doting grandparents/great-grandparents/great-aunts & uncles...and then he got his very first taste of chocolate. His cake was pretty lame. I made two little 6-inch cakes and a bunch of cupcakes; my first attempt at decorating one of the cakes for him looked ridiculous (we had safari animal decorations for the party, so I attempted to use melted chocolate to make zebra stripes...not pretty) so I just outlined a simple "1" in green icing on the other cake and gave him that one.

The hat lasted all of about ten seconds.

He really didn't know what to think at took some coaxing to get him to taste it. It didn't help that the frosting was extra-sticky (again, my bad).

First taste of Pops's famous homemade ice cream...

...and he was definitely a fan.

He had no trouble eventually making a big mess. After this it was straight to the tub...with, unfortunately, lots of screaming, since it was bedtime and he was overtired.

Thanks for Your Patience

Hang with me...I took waaaaaay too many pictures at Elijah's first birthday party over the weekend, so it's taking me a while to sort through them, delete all the so-so ones and find a couple of the best ones to post. I'm hoping to have something up later this afternoon.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Short, But Very Sweet

There is just nothing like old friends...especially old friends who will take red-eye flights to come see you for a short visit!

Maria Lail, one of my dearest college friends, arranged her flights home from a trip to see her family so that she could detour through Nashville and spend an overnight layover at my house on Tuesday. What an awesome blessing!

Elijah and I picked her up on Tuesday morning and we headed downtown to Centennial Park, then walked to Qdoba (yum!) for lunch. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening at home catching up; we hadn't seen each other in almost two years, so we talked and talked and talked for hours. I love it when you can instantly go deep and pick up where you left off, even if it's been a while. Then we got up at 3:45 yesterday morning to head back to the airport. If you know me, you know how much I hate early mornings and need my sleep...but it was TOTALLY worth it. Such a sweet and satisfying time of fellowship.

Maria has been such a wonderful friend to me over the years. She has let me talk her ear off more times than I can count, and has provided so much encouragement and challenged me to grow into a godly woman. She is beautiful inside and out and I treasure her friendship!
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Thankful Thursday, Take 81

Thanking God this week for...
  • Maria's visit
  • the Olympics, and the incredible abilities of the human body
  • the fact that His power would make the feats of human athletes look weak and pathetic
  • my faithful, loving, attentive husband
  • giving Steve and me the grace to somehow develop great communication skills
  • cooler weather to take walks
  • sleeping wiith the windows open
  • our box fan
  • an unexpected discount at the party supply store yesterday
  • long and honest conversations
  • friends I feel safe being vulnerable with
  • the word "mama"
  • justice perfectly satisfied and mercy abundantly given at the cross
  • grace greater than all my sin
  • the promise of resurrection

Sunday, August 10, 2008

First Birthday

One year ago today, my beautiful son entered the world and turned our lives upside-down. What a year it has been.

My first thought is, "How is it possible that he is a year old already?" My second thought is, "We made it." I was not committed to a mental hospital...and Elijah survived my mothering, seeming none the worse for wear.

I am enjoying my little man SO much more now than I did a year ago. Steve and I have concluded that we're definitely NOT newborn people. I am thrilled that we're past the baby stage and enthralled by the toddler he is becoming! Almost every day there is something new to laugh at, and I never get tired of his charming grin. And so as we celebrate this incredible gift God has given us, I look at Elijah not with nostalgic sadness, wondering where my baby went, but with relief and anticipation, glad that it keeps getting better and eager to see what fun changes the next year will bring.

Happy birthday, Elijah!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Thankful Thursday, Take 80

Thanking God this week for...
  • the grace to get out of bed early
  • a patient husband who helps me do so
  • slightly cooler weather to make morning walks at least somewhat bearable
  • a long phone chat with my best friend
  • catching up with a college friend last weekend, and her willingness to share her heart
  • getting to see my roommate in one of my favorite musicals ever
  • the chance to celebrate with Steve's cousin and his wife as they began their marriage
  • the fabulous homemade pizza crust recipe a friend from church gave me
  • a new recipe that Steve raved about on the first try
  • the Bible read on CD
  • the ability to read it for myself
  • the fact that God does not require our complete understanding before He saves us or uses us
  • the One who bore my sins in His body on the tree
  • the healing and peace with God His wounds provide

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Trusting for a Straight Path

If you've been in the church very long, you've heard this bumper-sticker Scripture: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." The next two verses, though usually not included, are equally helpful: "Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones" (Proverbs 3:5-8).

Why is trusting God so important? The answer is right there on the surface; it doesn't take a theology degree to uncover it. When you trust God, He makes your paths straight. When you trust Him and not yourself, you'll be healed, whole, refreshed.

I have plenty of life goals, plenty of things I aspire to be--many of them, I am firmly convinced, in line with God's desires for me. How can I come to these appointed goals if my path is not straight? And since I cannot see more than a few feet ahead of where I am walking, how will I know I am walking in a straight path, unless He guides and makes it so? How many hikers or sailors, unable to see their destination in the distance, have pressed on thinking they were headed due north, only to find themselves far off course?

And how can He guide me if I will not trust Him? How will the blind person navigate a road she has never traveled if someone with eyes is not showing her the way? She cannot hope to reach her destination at all without a guide. Her journey will be marked by injuries, missteps and detours if she does not trust Him.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Angry Baby Revisited

Over the weekend, I received a comment on an old post that perhaps warrants a new post of its own. I wrote in May about how motherhood has revealed sin in my heart, specifically related to anger. An anonymous commenter suggested that I was wrong in classifying anger as a sin. The commenter cited the example of Jesus driving out the moneychangers in the temple, pointing out that Jesus was pretty angry then, and yet He was sinless.

Anonymous is right, of course; anger itself is not necessarily a sin. If it were, we wouldn't have verses like Ephesians 4:26, telling us, "In your anger do not sin"--which implies that you can simultaneously be angry and not be sinning. Maybe there are other readers who misunderstood or disagreed with my original post, so let me try to clarify.

When I described my anger as a sin, I was referring to two things:
--the way anger leads us to sin (we treat other people poorly, lashing out at them because we are angry)
--anger that is based on sin (the anger is really stemming from pride, selfishness, or other sinful attitudes and beliefs)

Both have happened in my case. For me to be rude to Steve because I am feeling irritable is wrong. And for me to feel angry because I am not in control, because things aren't going the way *I* want them to go, is also wrong--because it means I am longing to be God.

I recently read a booklet about anger by Robert D. Jones that included this helpful quote:
“Anger is a function of our judgment. We perceive something or someone to be wrong, and we respond accordingly with our whole being. …Anger against God is wrong because it accuses God of wrongdoing. To be angry with God is to perceive some wrong in God, to apprehend some evil in his ways.”

I had never heard it stated this way, but it makes a lot of sense. If I am angry about my circumstances, the annoyances and inconveniences that pop up, the tasks set before me, then in a sense, the root of my anger is anger with the sovereign God who is in control of my life and placed me in these circumstances. And this is an ugly sin--how appalling and foolish for me to declare in my feeble, limited human mind that God is wrong, that my way would be better.

Anger isn't always wrong; certainly there is such a thing as righteous anger, as Jesus proves. But I am certainly far from being like Him, and for me, anger is very often sinful. How thankful I am that His death on the cross covers all my sin--even the selfish, prideful anger that dishonors His goodness, wisdom and sovereignty.