for now, over coffee

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The first post I ever wrote, five years ago now, was called As if over coffee. At that time, I yearned to meet with women (one-on-one, over coffee!) and talk about Jesus’ faithful love in our desperate need. I wanted to speak of the Lord’s sure and constant compassion for His children. I wanted to proclaim His goodness on sunny days and also on days when dark clouds of trial and fear threaten. But I worked two jobs, and with three children still at home and our son in cancer treatment, I couldn’t carve out time to spend with hardly anyone.

So. I began writing (at 6 a.m. and midnight, and in carpool lines and hospital waiting rooms). I asked God to use just one post/month in two different women’s lives (small goals)!

These five years later, though, I’m finding I have time for face-to-face conversations. And so it seems that the moment has come for me to quit blogging. For those of you I’ve never even met, who’ve read my words in countries on the other side of this huge world, I look forward with immense joy to the moment we’ll actually meet face-to-face. When Jesus returns — and we see the new heaven and new earth — oh, what joy it will be to meet you in the beauty of that place! Thank you for reading and being part of my life through your comments on this blog.

I pray for each of you — those I’ve never met and those I know well — that you will walk in a manner worthy of our Lord, finishing the race He sets before you, that you’ll be held by Him, and given the honor of bowing in amazement and humility as you hear “well done, good and faithful servant” on that glorious Day.

It’s been a joy to write! Thank you for reading!  God helps me in my walk with Him when I pray, search scripture, and then write about His goodness, so I’ll probably still post from time to time. But until then, with a heart full of immense thanks for each of you, I pray for you:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

(Romans 15:13)

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church isn’t a class you go to

I had to apologize to my son recently. We were on our way to church one Sunday, and he said, “I think I know all the Bible stories now.” “Really?” I said. “All of them?” “Just about,” he replied. “And I know all the songs we sing in 9C94A2CF-000F-4AB7-8755-060CAC3ACE13church too.” That should make it easier for you to sing along,” I said.

“I don’t know why we keep going over the same stories and singing the same songs. Don’t they think we’ve got it down by now?” he asked. “I’ve been studying the Bible and singing songs for a long time…I get something new from God’s Word every week,” I answered.

By this time, we were getting out of the van and walking towards the worship center. That’s when he said, “I don’t think we need to go to church every week. Why don’t we just wait until there’s something new to learn?”

I mulled over that conversation the rest of the day. We discussed it over lunch…

And then, it hit me. For months (maybe years), I’ve conditioned him to think that attending a worship service is all about learning. From our Saturday night prayers (“Be with us tomorrow, Lord, as we go to church and learn more about You”) to after-church conversations 77FEE588-6341-41B8-A5B2-3C1B5B712279(“What did you learn in Sunday School today?”), our way of talking about church is predominantly educational. No wonder he thought we should move on. If church is school, then eventually, you graduate, right?

So, that night as I tucked him into bed, I apologized for not being clear on the reason we gather with other believers. “It’s not just about learning,” I told him. “It’s about worship. The learning is connected to our worship.”

“Is that why we sing the same songs?” he asked.

“Yes. When it’s easy for people to sing, they can concentrate on what they’re singing instead of struggling to learn a new song. Do you know how you like it when all the instruments fade away and you can hear everyone in church singing the same song as loud as they can – all of our voices harmonizing? That’s not about learning… it’s about worship. All of us together, worshipping God for how awesome He is.”

“We did David and Goliath today,” he said. “I already knew all about it.”…

“Yes, that is pretty cool…But the point of hearing the story again and again is not so that you learn more facts about the story. It’s that you are amazed again at God using a little guy like David to do something big for His people. That’s the way God is. That’s why we sing songs like, ‘How Great Is Our God’ in church…We are worshipping Him for what He has done.”

I like those songs.”

“Me too. And next time we sing them, think about the story of David and Goliath, and how powerful God is.”

“So it’s not just about learning.”

“Nope. The church isn’t a class you go to, son. It’s a people you belong to. It’s about worship. I’m sorry, son, if I’ve made you think otherwise.”  (Excerpt from “Dad, I Think I Know All The Bible Stories Now” by Trevin Wax)

Related: skydivers, haircuts and truth-infusion 

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the places doors take us

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Exploring historic cities with their hundreds-year-old cobblestone streets and gazing on their old-world architecture stirs my heart. I could spend all day meandering around corners and discovering unexpected treasures. And I always find myself drawn to the beauty of antique doors.

I stand and gaze upon their ornate beauty and I wonder: Who was the (usually now unknown) craftsman who carefully chose and carved those massive wooden portals? Who decided on that particular inscription, and then carefully designed and positioned its letters, carving its elegant calligraphy into the lintel above the exquisite entryway? Who, hundreds of years ago, first painted those golden letters? Who first walked beneath that lovely arch?

Can you read the golden inscription over these stately doors? The words are from Genesis 28:17, spoken by Jacob after he flees from Esau. Jacob has stolen his brother’s birthright, fled, dreamed of the ziggurat, and now, as he awakes from his dream, he exclaims:

This is none other but the house of GOD and this is the Gate of Heaven.”

What does Jacob mean? What did his crazy dream mean? And what does God mean for us through Jacob’s words?

“…Jacob saw heaven opened, and a stairway linking heaven with earth…what Jacob saw was not really a ladder but a ziggurat — a massive stone structure with a winding staircase not dissimilar, so archeologists have argued, to the Tower of Babel. Nor was it a structure enabling Jacob to climb upwards (as a ladder might suggest). Rather, it was to allow God to come down!

God came and stood by Jacob and reassured him of his presence and of his covenantal faithfulness to him and his family. He came to “bless” wily Jacob: “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Gen. 28:15). Can you imagine more comforting words than these to a man who is fleeing for his life and isn’t sure if he’ll ever be safe again?

When Jacob awoke, he confessed that God had been with him: “‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.’ And he was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven’” (Gen. 28:16–17). He called the place where he had seen God “beth-el,” meaning “the house of God.” Babel had been man’s attempt to reach God and make himself equal with God. It had been a symbol of man’s idolatry and self-justification. Bethel, by contrast, was God’s initiative to fellowship with man — a sinful man!

Jesus explains Jacob’s dream further. When he calls Nathanael to be his disciple, he tells him:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51). The One whom Jacob had seen was a pre-incarnate revelation of Jesus. Nathanael is being given a glimpse of the second coming. Just as the Lord came down to Jacob, so, too, at the end of the age, “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels” (2 Thess. 1:7).

At Bethel, Jacob was being given a glimpse of the scope of redemptive history: God takes initiative to rescue sinners by coming down and eventually taking them to be with Himself…

No wonder Jacob saw Bethel as “the gate of heaven.” God had come down to make His presence known among His people. The curse of Babel will be lifted — in a way that Jacob could not have realized. The very One who descends will descend even further — “into hell” as the Apostles’ Creed puts it, meaning that he will experience all that the sin deserves — the abandonment of God in the darkness that descends at Calvary. And He is made “to be sin who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). For us. In our place. As our substitute. Bethel stands as a signpost to Bethlehem, and Calvary, and Pentecost, and heaven.” (Derek Thomas)

On this day, in this historic city, I’m thankful for doors that take us places we don’t expect. I’m thankful for the people who chose Jacob’s words to crown their magnificent entryway. I’m glad they carved, in order to remind themselves — and now us, all these years later — of God’s incredible unfolding plan. Thank you, Father, that Bethel and Bethlehem, Calvary and Pentecost are part of my history. Thank you that heaven is my future.

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though I oft left Thee

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Thou on my head, in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious, and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, though I oft left Thee,
On to the close Lord, abide with me.

(Abide with me, Henry Lyte, 1793-1847)

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I love teaching children

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I love teaching children at my church. I love their bubbly answers and their eager, serious faces. I love that when we talk about Jesus and His love for them, they — even the wiggliest ones — suddenly sit still with anticipation. They want to marvel that Jesus told his friends where to throw their net to find fish, and that He had a charcoal fire ready for them on the beach. They want to hear about the Lord’s kindness toward Peter — even after Peter denied, three times — that he knew Jesus. They sit still and quiet, moved by Jesus’s plan to restore three-times-denying Peter with three questions. Jesus does it that way — fish, fires, questions meant to restore — because God is “the very best” they tell me.

I also love listening to their spontaneous bits of info about their own lives. I’m always completely enriched after a story they tell. This morning, for instance:

Her: “I saw three planets in the sky last night! Well not last night. I mean the other night.”
Me: “Three planets? That’s amazing. I want to see three planets at once!”
Her: “They were Venus and Mars and Jupiter!”
Me: “Wow. I love that God awes us with his night sky!”

I love that my little Sunday School friend got to be wowed. How kind of God to let her see three planets at once. But of course, He’s the very best like that. He let her experience what we grown-ups might say with words more like this:

“You can’t open your eyes in this universe without seeing a theater of divine revelation.” (R.C. Sproul, 1939-2017)

From now on, I’ll remember her happy night-sky story when I remember R.C. Sproul and his words, and when I marvel at night-sky moments myself.

Yeah, I love teaching children at my church.

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Buckets that leak

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My bucket leaks. My bucket forgets. My bucket even quarrels and questions: “God, why don’t you make life easier? Why don’t you arrange my circumstances so that I don’t lose heart? Why can’t I just grow more like you without all the trials?” My hope fades so easily. I lose heart so quickly. Oh Father, I need help:

“…we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

“Notice the implications of this word renewed. We are being “renewed” every day. If you are being renewed every day, what does that imply? It implies: hope fades, encouragement wanes, your bucket leaks. I find it unbelievably encouraging that the apostle Paul says, “I’ve got a secret, and it isn’t a secret of how never to need renewal. You can have an experience, and you don’t need renewal anymore.” That’s not the message. In fact, the message is unbelievably realistic.

Day by day, renewed, which means every day you leak, every day you fade, every day you get depleted. That’s what it says. You wouldn’t need to be renewed day by day, if you could run your car on yesterday’s gas, if your metabolism could function on yesterday’s meal, or if the pain in your head can be relieved on yesterday’s dosage. You can’t run today’s life on yesterday’s newness…you have to find ways to put the air under your wings every day.

And Paul says, “I know how to do that.” That’s the secret I’m after here. I don’t want to lose heart — not a day. I want the secret of being renewed every day — not a week, not a month. Every day I want to figure this out so that I can walk like this. I know life is going to be a battle. That’s the application of “renewed.” So Paul, I really, really want what you say you have. And you say it takes renewing.

This is what Jesus meant when he said in Matthew 6:34 that each day has enough trouble of its own. “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Have you ever thought about that phrase, “its own trouble”? Like, what is today? Friday. Okay, there’s Friday trouble. Guess what? There’s Saturday trouble…

But you know what else? Lamentations 3:22–23 says the mercies of the Lord “are new every morning.” I don’t know how many years I’ve been using these texts for my soul. On the one hand, every day has its own trouble. But on the other, every day has its own mercies. This is Lamentations 3:22–23, and this is Matthew 6:34. God has matched them. That’s part of the secret. Tomorrow will have its Saturday troubles, and tomorrow will have its Saturday mercies. And those Saturday mercies must be tapped into by the secret here of renewing because I had some mercies this morning, and they’re not designed for tomorrow. They were designed for today, and I’m feeling them right now.

Tomorrow there are going to be new mercies, and the secret that Paul’s got here is: How do you get under those? How do you get in those? How do you experience those?…

I asked God, “Is there something in this text that would just give me a clue for why you set it up this way: that I have to be renewed every day? I mean, you could have just bumped me up to maximum sanctification and kept me there.” You know how I know he could? Because he’s going to do it when Jesus comes back. I’ll never sin again after Jesus comes back. So why am I sinning now? “I mean, Lord, just do that. You’re going to do it then; just do it now.” And he says, “Not the plan.”

“We have this treasure in jars of clay” for a reason — clay that needs to be renewed every day, clay that can’t stand on its own longer than 24 hours or on yesterday’s grace for 24 hours — all so that the surpassing power will belong to God (2 Corinthians 4:7). You can get in God’s face about this and say, “I don’t like the plan. I don’t like the plan that you leave me unsanctified and battling every day with depletion, having to be renewed on grace every day. I don’t like the plan. I’d just like to be done with the battle.”

And God would say, ‘Well, that’s the plan. And the reason it’s the plan is I’m going to get some glory in your life. If I didn’t do it this way, you’d get uppity about it. You’d think you had it made. You’d think your strength was coming from you. The fact that you’ve run out of gas every day puts you in the station — and the station is me.’

So God has his reasons for why he saves us in stages, sanctifies us slowly, and makes us fill up every day at his pump, lest we forget where the gas comes from.”

Lest we forget Him.

(From John Piper – you can read more here.)

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Who is the Holy Spirit?

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“…I think the fundamental reason [people don’t take the Holy Spirit seriously] is that they don’t think of him as a person…But the Bible is very clear that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the three persons who live in the unity of the Trinity. And each is as truly personal as the other two…the Holy Spirit is sent by the Lord Jesus to carry on his work of making disciples.

How does the Spirit do that? By helping people understand the teaching of Jesus, making them aware of the reality of Jesus, and actually confronting them and inviting them to himself.

Then the Holy Spirit allures them…to Jesus. The Spirit makes them realize Jesus is wonderfully loving, wonderfully upright, and glorious as a model of human life. The Lord Jesus shows us what life ought to be, and he offers himself to us all as a Savior who will transform us into his own image. How will that happen? Through the agency of the Holy Spirit.

Now, once the Holy Spirit has established the link between us and Christ, he keeps out of sight. (I sometimes say that the Holy Spirit is shy.) He is fulfilling his ministry, but his ministry is to point us to Christ the whole time. And you are enjoying the ministry of the Holy Spirit when you are enjoying Christ the whole time.

I hope the Holy Spirit will lead you into that life where you are close to Christ the whole time — that will bring joy to the heart of the Holy Spirit, who has made it happen; just as it will bring joy to the heart of Christ himself, who will embrace you in his love.

So, do take the Holy Spirit seriously, and open yourself to having him point you to the Lord Jesus to be your Savior, your Master, and your Friend.”

(J.I. Packer, aged 91, explaining who the Holy Spirit is. Watch the complete video at https://www.crossway.org/jipacker/)

Related: The hidden floodlight ministry. _________________________________

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Are you walking at a distance from God?

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“In the military, nobody doubts what’s meant when the order is given, ‘Halt! About turn! Quick march!’ It means the soldiers are being told to turn their backs on the direction in which they are going and to start marching in the opposite direction from the way they were going before.

You see, that’s what repentance is.

But human beings, by instinct — and this is our fallenness finding expression — by instinct, we walk at a distance from God. And God says, ‘Turn around. Face me, and walk towards me.’ The basic problem with our fallen human nature is that we all want to be independent of God. And God says, ‘Stop it!’

And the reason why the theme of repentance is neglected, not only in modern, secular society, but in the church, is because it’s a costly thing to repent. It does mean reshaping your life in quite a radical way. And people, just because they find it too costly as a prospect, try to devise a way of being Christian without anything as radical as, ‘About turn! Quick march!’ …

The end, of course, of walking God-ward, is that fellowship with God becomes a real and rich reality, more and more, as one lives the life of repentance. And those of us, who by God’s grace, have begun to learn to do it, testify, if asked, to the joy of the new life of being closer and closer to the Father and his son Jesus Christ.

Until one begins to take repentance seriously, this is going to be a closed book to you. So, I beg you, start taking repentance seriously. Will you do that?” (From J.I. Packer, at age 91. This transcription is taken from “What is repentance?” at the website J. I. Packer: In His Own Words. Other wonderfully wise video explanations, in his own words, can be found here.)

“…produce fruit that is consistent with repentance [demonstrating new behavior that proves a change of heart, and a conscious decision to turn away from sin]” (Matthew 3:8 AMP)

“The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!” (Rev. 3:19 MSG)

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no matter when or where you’ve lived

7E566B77-C3E2-4715-9620-5C5A51E151C1“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.

Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, forIn him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

EC80F37A-B4DE-4340-9F92-C3C231AA6FA1…now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising Jesus Christ from the dead.” (Acts 17)

No matter where you live: in an ancient city, or a log cabin, or a modern metropolis. And no matter when you’ve lived: in ancient times, or in the 21st century. No matter where, and no matter when, he determined the place and the time, and he did this for his grand and sovereign purpose: that you would seek him. That you, you, would seek and find him. This day, no matter where you are, seek him!

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Why do we respond to beauty like we do?

When we see beauty of all sorts:

F5003B10-AC04-4197-985B-67EE0039CCA5autumn leaves,

B73DABA8-898E-4C79-A62B-DACEDF8D2423spring flowers,

5B868CEE-7A3C-4C02-BA5B-A5AE6626C5DCsummer fruit,

we yearn for something which can hardly be put into words. We record beauty —  in our minds or through paintings or by photographs — because beauty speaks, with significance, to our soul and spirit:

“We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words — to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” (C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory)

We’re yearning for — in that moment when our hearts and eyes are caught by the sight of beauty — a place we’ve not yet been, a love we’ve not fully known, the radiating beauty we’ve not yet been able to gaze upon:

“God made the heavens—royal splendor radiates from him, a powerful beauty sets him apart.”

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord…”

(Psalm 96:6 & 27:4)

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self-hate, or what God says about you

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“…Relationships are our life context. People are our environment. We live before the eyes of others, and they live before ours. We take our cues from them, and they from us. We evaluate, and we are evaluated. We size up, and are sized up. We compare, and we are compared. Within our desperate striving to be “ok,” “acceptable,” “adequate,” “legitimate,” “worthwhile,” and “satisfactory,” self-hate spins a seductive lie—our thoughts about others and their thoughts about us are the ones that really count. We are tempted to believe this and live out of it. Thankfully, this is not the true arrangement of things.

We do not live in a world where our evaluation of ourselves and others is ultimate…God, too, is our environment and we also live before his eyes. We live before the maker and sustainer of all things…

Liberation from the clutches of self-hate and the endless striving to be “ok” is available only in our relationship to God through Christ. Liberation begins by giving ear to what the loving voice of God says about us. We don’t have to guess how he thinks or feels. In the Scriptures, he tells us clearly…Whereas the voice of self-hate proclaims “I am a piece of garbage,” or disgusting and unwanted, the voice of God announces,

I want you, you belong to me. (Psalm 18:19)
I love you and my love does not have strings attached. (Deut. 7)
I cherish you. (Psalm 8)
I will do what is needed to save you. (John 3:16)
I have given you a true and lasting name. (1 John 3:1; Isa 43:1)

…This does not mean our failures and sins and limitations and struggles are not real or insignificant, but rather, despite the presence of all of these things in our lives, our “ok-ness” does not change. Our spiritual status is not up for debate. It is permanently established through Christ.

The voice of God proclaims an alternative to the identity that self-hate argues for. Because you cling to Christ, you can repeat what God the Father says about you. Because you cling to Christ, you can own what God the Father thinks about you: “I am ok.”

Excerpt from “I am not ok” at CCEF, by Todd Stryd. Read the full piece here. Painting: The Mirror by William Orpen, 1900.

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if you haven’t read it…

4FCB20FA-C7BF-4A05-85A7-2B613DCFCD1AOur children were 6, 5 and 3 the first time I read Don’t Waste Your Life. I’d gone along on a work trip with my husband, and for the first time in years, with our children at their aunt’s house and my husband at his all-day conference, I sat and read and read. I can still remember the exact location and the sounds and the smells around me as, hour after hour, I devoured John Piper’s words. I was gripped by his writing, and his words reignited a yearning in my heart. That day was 15 years ago. That original copy has since disappeared from my shelf. So today I ordered a new one. I need to re-read a book so full of challenging truth — truth I easily forget, and many in my affluent culture avoid.

I need God to convict me of irrelevance chosen. I need Him to pierce through the fog of life-numbing distractions I’m daily tempted to choose. If the Lord allows me more decades in this life, one thing is as true for me as it was 15 years ago:

I don’t want to waste my life.

I’ll bet you don’t either. So, we need piercing words. Words written to shake us awake, written to help drag us from a slow descent into wasted living.

Here’s an excerpt:

“I am wired by nature to love the same toys that the world loves. I start to fit in. I start to love what others love. I start to call earth “home.” Before you know it, I am calling luxuries “needs” and using my money just the way unbelievers do. I begin to forget the war. I don’t think much about people perishing. Missions and unreached people drop out of my mind. I stop dreaming about the triumphs of grace. I sink into a secular mind-set that looks first to what man can do, not what God can do. It is a terrible sickness. And I thank God for those who have forced me again and again toward a wartime mind-set…Desire that your life count for something great! Long for your life to have eternal significance. Want this! Don’t coast through life without a passion…whatever you do, find the God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated passion of your life, and find your way to say it and live for it and die for it. And you will make a difference that lasts. You will not waste your life.” (John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life)

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An embarrassment to be hidden, or a door for grace to enter through?

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Depression, or inability, or any sort of lack are not embarrassments to be hidden, but are means of grace and teaching, doors to a deeper faith, doors through which grace enters.

“…the experiences of anxiety and depression make a lot of sense in a fallen world. In one way, you could say the miracle is that everyone is not in a continual panic attack and completely in despair, because when you’re without God and without hope you ought to be anxious and you ought to be despairing. And I think as Christian people we’re not immune to any of the pain and the loss and the heartache.

… there’s a way where anxiety and depression are very human experiences, and that’s very freeing … In humility, you’re a human being, I’m a human being. We both struggle…

I’m not saying it’s a desired thing to be depressed or to be anxious, but that you go through it and you find grace, and it’s a door to a deeper faith … [When we’re depressed or anxious], we want the quick fix…but God is patient: deep problems don’t have quick solutions…

One of my favorite Psalms is 25, and it starts out with David upset about what is happening to him. Then it has a pause and he realizes, “Well, I’ve got a problem, because I’m a sinner, too, and I can’t only pray for deliverance from all these things that upset me and discourage me and make me anxious and distressed.” Then he remembers God’s mercy for himself, and he’s able to candidly bring to God his struggles, the things that make him anxious. He uses words like distress and anguish and trouble…

[And] we never get out of situations where we face things that distress us. The last enemy is yet to come. It’s no accident that Pilgrims Progress ends with the last enemy [death], and the crossing of that final river, and this provokes one last crisis of anxiety in Christians’s life…

This is a human dilemma. We’re in this together. So let’s start by naming what troubles us, and then let’s think through what is true about God. He is near. I can talk to Him. We aren’t alone. Anxiety and depression are very lonely experiences. [But] if we aren’t alone, that changes the experience…

God didn’t make us stones: So when distressing things happen to us, we feel distress. When frightening things happen, we feel fearful; when things are out of our control, we feel anxious; when things seem hopeless, we’re going to struggle.

But, there’s a God who wants to, and can, meet me exactly at that place of struggle.”

So, when I am depressed, or acutely aware of my inabilities; when I am frightened, or anxious, or hope-less; I don’t have to feel embarrassed. I don’t have to hide. I can, instead, be comforted and find hope, because my current experience will be a door through which grace — God’s never-ending, intentional, for-me grace — enters.

(Quotes from David Powlison in How to Care for Someone Battling Anxiety and Depression, an interview with Paul David Tripp. You can listen to the whole podcast here.)

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when I need an attitude check

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“If you mourn the fallenness of your world rather than curse its difficulties, you know that grace has visited you.”

(Paul Tripp)

Has a phrase ever helped you in an opposite sort of way from how the author originally meant it? Last month, some friends — who were mourning the brokenness of the world around them — shared this Paul Tripp quote, and it’s ended up being one of those kind of two-fold phrases for me:

  1. As God’s Spirit works in a Christian’s life we begin to more and more mourn for the hurt and pain of our broken world — as Jesus did — instead of defaulting to anger and irritation at the inconvenience caused us by the brokenness around us. God has used Tripp’s phrase to help me understand the sadness I feel when I see the thorns of this world. I think that’s how he (and my friends) meant the phrase to be read.
  2. But, God has also brought the phrase to mind in an opposite sort of way: when I sense I’m headed toward bitterness, stirred up with anger at my own current difficulties, I’m convicted by the phrase. For grace has visited me. The ugliness of my own self-absorption, and my default desire for “no thorns — flowers only!” does not honor my Lord.

When we’re just plain mad, irritated at the trials and complexities of life, our inner thoughts beginning to curse the difficulties of this world, we must fight to remember the grace poured out for us. When we realize that our desire for all things to line up perfectly stems from a demand that we’d only experience ease, we must question our selfish desire for comfort.

When we’re angry because we want to avoid all angst or unrest, we must fight to remember the grace we’ve experienced through Jesus Christ. We must call our attitude what it is: a pity party, a temper tantrum, a dishonoring of our Lord. As we call ourselves out, and pray for help, He does work within us, so that we might become those who mourn the fallenness of our world, rather than merely cursing its difficulties.

O Father, thank you that you don’t leave us as we are. You do use fiery trials, our own, and those we see all around us, to show us our need of you. Please, by your Spirit, work within us fruit that pleases you, that honors Jesus, that fears not to mourn, as He did, the fallenness of our world.

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Were you hired at the eleventh hour?

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“…And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’” (Matthew 20:9-15)

“…The parable focuses particularly on those workers who were hired at the eleventh hour. They were treated extremely generously, each receiving twelve times what he had earned on an hourly basis. Why did the landowner hire these laborers at the eleventh hour? Was it because an extra push was needed to complete the work? More likely, since Jesus was not teaching about Jewish agriculture, but about the kingdom of heaven, those eleventh hour workers were hired because they needed to receive a day’s wages. Laborers of that day lived a day-to-day existence. That is why the Law required land owners to pay hired men at the end of each day (Deut. 24:15).

This is the way God treats us. Over and over again, the Bible portrays God as gracious and generous, blessing us not according to what we have “earned” but according to our needs — and often beyond our needs. He has already blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3), and He promises to supply every temporal need, again in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).

The truth is, we cannot “earn” anything from God apart from His grace. As Jesus said elsewhere, when we have done all that we are commanded, we should say, “We have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17:10). We have not obligated God or earned His blessings. Rather, all blessings come to us “in Christ,” that is, by His grace.

God, however, is not only generous with His grace; He is sovereign in dispensing it. We often speak of “sovereign grace.” In one sense that is a redundant expression. Grace, by definition, must be sovereign. The master of the vineyard expressed it this way, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with my belongings?”

Many are troubled by the apparent unfairness of the landowner. After all, it does seem unfair to pay one-hour workers the same as was paid to those who worked a full twelve hours, who had “borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But the one-hour laborers did not think the master was unfair; rather, they considered him very generous. If we are troubled by the apparent unfairness, it is because we tend to identify with the twelve-hour workers. And the more committed we are to serious discipleship, the more apt we are to fall into the trap of envying those who enjoy the blessings of God more than we.

…it does seem unfair to pay one-hour workers the same as was paid to those who worked a full twelve hours…If we are troubled by the apparent unfairness, it is because we tend to identify with the twelve-hour workers…The truth is, we are all eleventh-hour laborers.

The truth is, we are all eleventh-hour laborers. None of us have even come close to loving God with all of our heart, soul, and mind. None of us have come close to loving our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:37–39). So let us learn to be thankful for all God gives to us and not begrudge blessings He gives to others.” (from Jerry Bridges (1929-2016); read the whole article)

Painting: The Gleaners by Jean-Francois Millet, 1857

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