Thursday, December 26, 2013

The sweetest letter from 2013

This year marked the second annual birthday lunch with my dear friend Allison. 


As I approach the end of this year, I look back on the letter she wrote me as one of the most precious parts of 2013. 

"Dearest Rebekah: Happy birthday! It's September, which means your birthstone is sapphire! Did you know?:

  • Sapphires are created from materials found in the deepest parts of the earth's crust (18 miles deep!).
  • Sapphires are created through compression and furnace - like temperatures of at least 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Brought to the surface of the river beds by what Christian geologists agree was the Biblical flood.
  • Is one of the hardest gemstones, second to diamonds.
  • Used to cut, polish, refine and shape gems of lesser strength.
  • Is more precious than diamonds in Scripture.
  • Used as the foundation to the New Jerusalem.
Is that not what God has done through you? Taken a lost soul from the deep, miry clay, called you, continues to burn away impurities through the fiery furnace of trials and catastrophic events, strengthened you to polish, refine and shape others. He calls you most precious and then uses you to help build his kingdom?!

Sapphires are treasures because of physical catastrophe. 

This year has been hard, but you are a more pure follower of Jesus because of it. You lost nothing in the furnace of this past year except what God wanted burned away in an effort to make you more pure and holy for Himself. 

So, when you look at this gift, know that seemingly dark insurmountable conditions are necessary in order to create a more holy and radiant child of Christ! I love you so much!

Revelation 21:19-20: "The foundations of the wall were adorned with all kinds of precious stones [...] first foundation jasper, second sapphire."

Allison and her husband gave me a breathtaking ring covered in sapphires and rubies. It's gold and has an antique setting. I could go on and on describing how beautiful it is, but the fact is that one day this ring might be lost... a gem might fall out or it might get scratched or stolen. But one thing that will remain in my heart forever are my friend's precious and timely words. 

For now, I have the privilege of seeing it glisten in the sunshine, and remember these promises. God truly intends for all trials to bow to his gospel purposes in our lives (Gospel Primer). Trust him. Count on him. 

Thankful for 2013. Thankful for my 29th. 




Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Jesus: All for love's sake, becamest man

Merry Christmas!

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love's sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love's sake becomes poor.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love's sake becamest man;
Stooping so low, but sinners raising
Heavenwards by thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love's sake becamest man.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
Make us what thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Law vs. The Gospel

"The law repels, the Gospel attracts. The law shows the distance which there is between God and man; the Gospel bridges that awful chasm, and brings the sinner across it."

Spurgeon

Monday, December 23, 2013

Don't settle

A reminder:

"Can I say something to young ladies here? I'm trying to pick my words carefully here. Your husband, whoever he is, single ladies, will have an unbelievable amount of influence over your sons and daughters in regards to spiritual things. If you want your children to love Jesus deeply, hold out for a man that is godly. And let me tell you this: I am well aware that Godly men are rare. Lots of neat Christian boys, not a lot of Godly men. And we're working our tails off for you to try to develop some into that. But don't settle, because it's better that you be lonely now than you be married and lonely later. Are you tracking with me? It is better that you be lonely now than for you to get married to a man that will teach your kids everything but the way of Jesus."

Matt Chandler, pastoring his congregation in Dallas

He never forgets

"We cannot look too often upon that face which we love; we desire always to have our precious things in our sight. It is even so with our Lord Jesus. From all eternity 'His delights were with the sons of men' [...] the Son of Man visited His people. Because His soul delighted in them, He could not rest away from them, for His heart longed after them. Never were they absent from his heart, for he had written their names upon His hands, and graven them upon His side. [...]

We may often forget to meditate upon the perfections of our Lord, but He never ceases to remember us. [...]

Lord, paint upon the eyeballs of my soul the image of thy Son."

Spurgeon

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Puritan thought on real love

The Puritans used to say you got married in order to fall in love. They reasoned: How can a man and woman possibly hope to know the wonder, joy, and depth of real love - the kind where you are truly known and truly loved at the same time - without making those two lives into one thing?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Let the thrill go

"This is, I think, one little part of what Christ meant by saying that a thing will not really live unless it first dies. It is simply no good trying to keep any thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go — let it die away — go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow — and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time. But if you decide to make thrills your regular diet and try to prolong them artificially, they will all get weaker and weaker, and fewer and fewer, and you will be a bored, disillusioned old man for the rest of your life. It is because so few people understand this that you find many middle-aged men and women maundering about their lost youth, at the very age when new horizons ought to be appearing and new doors opening all round them. It is much better fun to learn to swim than to go on endlessly (and hopelessly) trying to get back the feeling you had when you first went paddling as a small boy."

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Sunday, September 22, 2013

C.S. Lewis on committed love

"People get from books the idea that if you have married the right person you may expect to go on ‘being in love’ for ever. As a result, when they find they are not, they think this proves they have made a mistake and are entitled to a change — not realizing that, when they have changed, the glamour will presently go out of the new love just as it went out of the old one. In this department of life, as in every other, thrills come at the beginning and do not last. The sort of thrill a boy has at the first idea of flying will not go on when he has joined the R.A.F. and is really learning to fly. The thrill you feel on first seeing some delightful place dies away when you really go to live there. Does this mean it would be better not to learn to fly and not to live in the beautiful place? By no means. In both cases, if you go through with it, the dying away of the first thrill will be compensated for by a quieter and more lasting kind of interest. What is more (and I can hardly find words to tell you how important I think this is), it is just the people who are ready to submit to the loss of the thrill and settle down to the sober interest, who are then most likely to meet new thrills in some quite different direction. The man who has learned to fly and become a good pilot will suddenly discover music; the man who has settled down to live in the beauty spot will discover gardening."

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fly to his arms

Spurgeon on August 26 - reflecting on Jesus' transfiguration:


"Reader, it may be that just now you are blinded by the dazzling brightness of the law of God. You feel its claims on your conscience, but you cannot keep it in your life. Not that you find fault with the law, on the contrary, it commands your profoundest esteem, still you are in nowise drawn by it to God; you are rather hardened in heart, and are verging towards desperation. Ah, poor heart! turn thine eye from Moses, with all his repelling splendour, and look to Jesus, resplendent with milder glories. Behold his flowing wounds and thorn-crowned head! He is the Son of God, and therein he is greater than Moses, but he is the Lord of love, and therein more tender than the lawgiver. He bore the wrath of God, and in his death revealed more of God’s justice than Sinai on a blaze, but that justice is now vindicated, and henceforth it is the guardian of believers in Jesus. Look, sinner, to the bleeding Saviour, and as thou feelest the attraction of his love, fly to his arms, and thou shalt be saved."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Assurance: your sin lies not on you

"Beloved, can you feel assured that he carried your sin? As you look at the cross upon his shoulders, does it represent your sin? There is one way by which you can tell whether he carried your sin or not. Have you laid your hand upon his head, confessed your sin, and trusted in him? Then your sin lies not on you; it has all been transferred by blessed imputation to Christ, and he bears it on his shoulder as a load heavier than the cross."

Spurgeon

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

His love frees us from stinginess

"The Father prefers to keep us on the edge. His plan is to liberate us from our defensive, hoarding, tight-fisted, miserly ways, and to teach us that when we have been given the kingdom - the kingdom! - stinginess is unnatural and unbecoming. When you are confident that you are the Father's treasured possession, you are also confident that his loving care will continue forever."

Ed Welch

Monday, August 19, 2013

Disrespectful speech comes from an arrogant heart

"So, if you are disrespectful toward others with your speech, don’t start by trying to listen to the person in front of you who drives you crazy. Start with meekness before God (1:21). Your problem is not poor interpersonal skills; it is arrogance before God himself. You only listen to him when there is a happy coincidence between your desire and his words. Don’t even think about talking to another person until you have heard the word of the Lord and are silent before him. No backtalk. No grumbling or complaining. Simply rest in the certainty that he is God and you are not, and life is not about the satisfaction of your desires or the supremacy of your will."

CCEF Blog post by Ed Welch

Ouch. Super convicted by this and need God's help to change. He is the only one who can change my heart, and therefore, my speech.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Resurrection love

"Bring thy sorrow and watch for the sunrise of the resurrection. Yea, verily there cometh always a resurrection - a morning when hope is reborn and life finds new beginning. Wait for it as tulip bulbs anticipate the spring. The rarest blooms are enhanced by the coldness of winter. The snow plays her part in producing the pageant of spring. But when the blossoms break through, we do not then turn back to thought of winter, but instead, we look ahead to the full joys of the coming summer. 

So ye must do also. Thy God is thy maker. He is thy defender. And He is mighty to save. Yea, He is not only mighty to save from sin, but He is mighty to save from despair, from sorrow, from disappointment, from regret, from remorse, from self-castigation, and from the hot, blinding tears of rebellion against fateful circumstances. He can save thee from thyself, and He loveth thee when ye find it hard to love thyself.

Let His peace flow in thee like a river, carrying away all the poison of painful memories, and bringing to thee a fresh, clear stream of pure life and restoring thoughts."

Come Away My Beloved, Pg. 34-35
Frances Roberts



A simple question about faithfulness


“What will you do in the mundane days of faithfulness?”
Martin Luther

Lord, help me to be faithful in the small things and the big things. 
In the things seen and things unseen.
In my words, thoughts and deeds.
Teach me what it means to be faithful to You each and every day.
Amen.

Friday, August 16, 2013

It is done in love. It must be well.

"Remember the words of Paul: 'He who spared not His own Son—but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?' (Romans 8:32).  

See in every sorrow and trouble of your earthly pilgrimage the hand of Him who gave Christ to die for your sins! 

Say to yourself,  'This also is ordered by Him who gave Christ to die for my sins. It cannot be wrong. It is done in love. It must be well.'"

A tough word to swallow from JC Ryle, but an amazing reminder that God orders all things and is fully committed to us in love and hope and joy and glory - because of Jesus. It's our sure promise.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Gladdening us with Divine nearness and help

"God does not give us everything we want, but God does fulfill all God's promises, i.e., God remains the Lord of the earth, God preserves the Church, constantly renewing our faith and not laying on us more than we can bear, gladdening us with Divine nearness and help, hearing our prayers, and leading us along the best and straightest paths to holiness. By God's faithfulness in doing this, God creates in us praise for God alone."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Recipients of Mercy

"...the Gospel is good news for Christians because it tells us of a God of both love and justice. The wrath of God doesn’t cause us to cower, or to judge our neighbors. It ought to prompt us to see ourselves as recipients of mercy, and as those who will one day give an account. If that’s true, let’s sing it."

Russ Moore

Monday, August 12, 2013

Left to ourselves, we are undone

"As an evangelical, I would argue that it’s necessary to sing about the wrath of God because we are singing not just from and to our minds, but to and from our consciences. There’s a reason why evangelical congregations reach a kind of crescendo when they sing out that line in the Getty's song. [Moore references the hymn In Christ Alone where a verse states, "'Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied, for every sin on him was laid, here in the death of Christ I live."] It’s not because, per the caricature, we see ourselves as a “moral majority” affirming our righteousness over and against the “sinners” on the other side of the culture war.

Instead, it’s just the reverse. When Christians sing about the wrath of God, we are singing about ourselves. Our consciences point us to the truth that, left to ourselves, we are undone. We’re not smarter or more moral than anyone else. And God would be just to turn us over to the path we would want to go—a path that leads to death. It is only because Jesus lived a life for us, and underwent the curse we deserve, that we stand before God. The grace of God we sing about is amazing precisely because God is just, and won’t, like a renegade judge, simply overlook evil."

Russell Moore on why Christians shouldn't neglect to sing about the doctrine of the wrath of God. 

Emphasis and additional notes are mine.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The whole work is His

"Faith is the acknowledgment of the entire absence of all goodness in us, and the recognition of the cross as the substitute for all the want on our part. Faith saves, because it owns the complete salvation of another, and not because it contributes anything to that salvation. There is no dividing or sharing the work between our own belief and Him in whom we believe. The whole work is His, not ours, from the first to last."

Horatius Bonar

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Monuments of grace

“Well did the Apostle declare that the righteous scarcely are saved. It is no child’s play to be a Christian. The Christian life is beyond the poet’s meaning, real and earnest. The hills of difficulty which lie before us are no molehills, and the giants and dragons with which we must contend are no phantoms of a disordered brain. When we reach Heaven, what monuments of Grace we shall be, and how shall we throughout eternity emulate one another’s praises, each one feeling himself to be the deepest debtor to Sovereign Grace.”

Spurgeon

Monday, July 8, 2013

A hope and prayer for my nephews

“So what is it then? What is masculinity? Simply put, masculinity is the glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility. A man who assumes responsibility is learning masculinity, and a culture that encourages men to take responsibility is a culture that is a friend to masculinity. When a culture outlaws masculinity, they soon learn that such outlaws are a terrible bane to them, instruments that destroy civilization with their mutant forms of masculinity. Every society needs masculine toughness, but it needs a toughness that lives and thrives and is honored within the boundaries of the law. And if we want this kind of toughness in the men, we have to teach it to the boys, and cultivate it in them. Like a concrete foundation, masculine toughness has to lie underneath masculine tenderness.”

Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their Families
Douglas Wilson

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Another thought on beauty

“Truth is beautiful, falsehood is ugly. If there was nothing beautiful there would be nothing ugly. The ultimate example of this is hell itself. Hell tells us what God is like, even as it breaks our hearts to consider it. Hell speaks the truth of God’s love and beauty by displaying how ugly its absence is. In this way, hell tells us what God is like. When art is anti-God, the Christian worldview stretches to see it for what it is — a lie — and to view the lie as an opportunity to glory in the beauty of truth. Ugliness helps make the good and beautiful more desirable.” (142)

Eyes Wide Open, Steve DeWitt

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Shadows

“Physical beauty is a shadow. Food is a shadow. The security of money is a shadow. Health is a shadow. Family is a shadow. We long for a relationship with someone greater than us, and we settle for cheap substitutes — race-car drivers and football players and movie stars admired from afar. But the real desirability is found in Christ. God made every created beauty in this world as an expression of Christ’s beauty and the beauty of the Father’s love for the Son. All beauty is a breadcrumb path that leads us to Christ.”

Eyes Wide Open, Steve DeWitt

Friday, July 5, 2013

Real beauty - not what the world will tell you

“Jesus is the Beautiful One. His beauty is a tapestry of divine and human perfections harmonized in subtlety and majesty. This is one reason His beauty is missed; it is so different from anything we ever come across. Jesus’ beauty wasn’t His physical appearance. By human standards, He didn’t look like a Messiah. Isaiah 53:2 tells us that ‘he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.’ Significantly, the New Testament includes no description at all of Jesus’ physical appearance. . . . Scripture doesn’t put a face on the Lord so that His real beauty can shine through."

Eyes Wide Open, Steve DeWitt


Thursday, July 4, 2013

He is the beauty behind all beauty

“Creation speaks to us — every day, all the time, constantly shouting truths about spiritual reality. Did you hear it this morning as you got up? Did you feel any truth about God this morning as you took a hot shower? Did you taste any truth as you delighted in your morning coffee? Did you hear any divine reality as you heard a bird singing? Did you see any truth as you saw the blue of the sky? What have you actually felt, tasted, touched, seen, and heard today? The whole earth is filled with His glory. Every day creation shouts to us, God is glorious! God is creator! God is provider! God is love! God is there! . . . Everywhere I look, everything I feel, hear, smell, and taste transmits the beauty of God through the beauty of creation. He is the beauty behind all beauty.” (63–64)

Eyes Wide Open, Steve DeWitt

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Nature: God's self portrait

"Christianity’s answer to the question of why creation is so beautiful is that it flows from the character of a beautiful creator. Nature is God’s self-portrait. It is not God, since God transcends what He has created, but it reveals in physical form what He is like spiritually. God creates beauty so we can know what He is like. Since He is and always has been glorious and beautiful, creation reflects this with seeable, tastable, touchable, hearable, and smellable reflections of His glory and beauty. This is what Isaiah heard the angels exulting. The whole earth is filled with His glory, and it is a ‘song about God."

Eyes Wide Open, Steve DeWitt

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The bouquet of his perfections

“Try to conceive of this. God is absolute perfection: perfect power, perfect love, perfect justice, and perfect faithfulness. He is perfect everything. All He is matches every good desire we possess. God’s beauty is the bouquet of His perfections in His person, unveiled in His purposes, and displayed in His glory. Wow.”

Eyes Wide Open, Steve DeWitt

Monday, July 1, 2013

The chief end of beauty

“Created beauty eclipses God’s beauty in the desire factory of man’s heart. It is a case of mistaken identity. Every created beauty was created by God to lead our affections to Him. That’s why He made the pleasures of earthly beauty so fleeting — so that on the other side of the pleasure we might experience either wonder and worship and ultimate satisfaction in God or the pursuit of the pleasure that beauty provides for its own sake. If we choose the latter, we will only be disappointed again.”

Eyes Wide OpenSteve DeWitt

Friday, June 28, 2013

A song about Psalm 23

Revisiting old school Caedmon's Call this week. I've been loving their song "Walk With Me," which is about Psalm 23. Here's Sandra McCracken's explanation of what the song is all about:

This song is about friendship and Psalm 23. It is a beautiful thing how we were made for community and how our relationships are one of the primary means of our sanctification. These are the places where we see both our sin and God’s mercy, and these are the places where we learn to extend grace and service to others. Because of the fall, however, we find that even our greatest love here will fail us, and our greatest work is still filthy rags by God’s standards. In great contrast, we find our righteousness, perfect rest, and all we need in Jesus.

A few of my favorite lyrics from the song:

Walk with me empty, walk with me strong
The hush of our voices, when the day seems so long
It is like a balm, it is like a jewel
It unravels all I thought I knew


Will you lead me, beside the still waters
Where the oil, it runs over, and my cup overflows
You restore my soul


"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."
Psalm 23

Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Never"

The words of a friend who is placing her confidence in the Lord:

"But I know God's timing is perfect and faith in Him requires faith in His timing. And He's never failed before - never broken a promise - never treated the lives of His children cheaply - never turned His ear from me."


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Resounding Truth: He is better than his gifts

"You created nothing that gives me more pleasure than You. 
You won't give me something that gives me more pleasure than You." 

You Created, Caedmon's Call

Psalm 113 

"Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, you his servants;
Praise the name of the Lord.
Let the name of the Lord be praised,
both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
The Lord is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes,
with the princes of his people.
He settles the childless woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.
Praise the Lord."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Miracles

Every day miracles that encourage my heart to trust God's good work in my life. Here are a few:


  • Love in my heart for someone who has hurt me.
  • Patience while driving, and consideration of the other person's situation.
  • Desire to pray for and seek out my family.
  • Laughter, and lots of it.
  • Delighting in the innocence and beauty of children.
  • Choosing to say no to fear and anxiety.
  • A song that pops in my head randomly (today was the hymn A Sovereign Protector I Have).
  • Peace about big decisions.
  • A smile from a stranger in passing.
  • An encouraging email from a friend.
  • A beautiful walk outside in God's creation.
It's the little things :)



Monday, June 24, 2013

Gratitude: a sign of a surrendered heart

"An evidence that our will has been broken is that we begin to thank God for that which once seemed so bitter, knowing that His will is good and that, in His time, and in His way, He is able to make the most bitter waters sweet."

Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Working for the best

O Lord, how happy we should be
If we could cast our care on Thee,
If we from self could rest;
And feel at heart that One above, 
In perfect wisdom, perfect love, 
Is working for the best.

Book of Common Prayer highlighting Romans 8

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

His help: timely, wise, effective

"His help is timely, for he is a very present help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1).

His help is wise, for he knows how to give what is good for us.

His help is effective, though futile is the help of friends.

His help is more than help, for he carries all the burdens and supplies all the needs.

"The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6) 

Because he has already been our help, we feel confidence in him for the present and future."

Spurgeon on Psalm 137 & Isaiah 41

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Grace: Turn to him

"Walking on water is not an essential characteristic of faith, but it is essential to pray when you begin to sink. Doing great things for Christ is not indispensable to salvation, but to have the faculty of turning your heart to him in distress is a mark of divine grace."

Spurgeon on Peter's cry to Jesus
Beside Still Waters, p. 196

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rescue through trials

"I can bear witness that trials are a great blessing. I would not have learned much except for trouble. When in painful difficulty and unable to see my way, I knew that the Lord was God when he appeared and broke the bands of my yoke. With a song I have magnified his surprising grace and blessed his delivering love."

Spurgeon on Ezekiel 34:27
Beside Still Waters, p. 160

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Prayer is better

"Peter's faith was a living thing. It might not always walk on water, but it could always pray. Prayer is better than walking on water."

Spurgeon, Beside Still Waters, P. 196


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hidden jewels in the vault of his power

"The Lord Jesus keeps his people the same way. They are his jewels. He delights in them, and they are his honor and his glory. They cost him a greater price than can ever be realized. He hides them in the vault of his power and protects them with all his wisdom and strength."

Spurgeon, Beside Still Waters

Friday, June 14, 2013

All we need to trust him right now

"God rides upon storms. The dreaded clouds come, yes, but they actually bring mercy for God's people. Behind God's frowning providence is a "smiling face." Unbelief cannot see all this. It is blind. But we can expect that God will make his purposes plain in due time, and he will give us all we need to trust in his goodness in the meantime."

Mark Dever on the book of Ruth

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Prosperity & Success: wolves dressed like sheep

Sometimes living in this city really stresses me out. When I advise friends who are considering a move to DC, I always tell them that this city will seek to eat you alive, so intentionally plan how you will care for your soul / mind / body (ie: find and commit to a local church). 

Quick aside: August will mark my fourth year in this crazy place, and my heart is filled with gratitude. There's nowhere else I'd rather be! I honestly believe every point in my life has been purposed and carefully planned to bring me to where I am now. I have no other choice than to believe that! God has been completely faithful to me. 

So, even with intentional strides to care for myself in this place, I have still struggled with the anxiety that this city of  (fellow) type-As brews. I see no problem with working hard and building a career (especially in our 20s and 30s - now is the time!). I do, however, see a major problem when I give in and believe the messages that the world is telling me to believe  that my work defines me and gives me my main identity, value and worth. I often hear:

 Achieve. At all costs. 

You are what you make.

You can do more.

Climb that ladder. 

Gain approval and respect. 

Win. 

Stay late(r) - even when you don't need to.

Get to the top. 

Be the best. 

These chants of prosperity fly at me and sometimes throw me into despair! When they come in rapid succession, and come from others and from within my own head and heart, I tend to get overwhelmed. But for the grace and mercy of God in my life, I would not be able to identify and resist them. Resisting is an active struggle for me, but the big picture of the gospel and the future keep me doing so. 

I just finished Tim Keller's Counterfeit Gods, in which he unveils the idolatry and empty promises of money, sex and power. He says, "More than other idols, personal success and achievement lead to a sense that we ourselves are god, that our security and value rest in our own wisdom, strength and performance. To be the very best at what you do, to be at the top of the heap, means no one is like you. You are supreme." Keller states that this false sense of supremacy leads us into a false sense of security which comes from, "deifying our achievement and expecting it to keep us safe from the troubles of life in a way that only God can." 

Keller quotes Harriet Rubin's article on Fast Company, where Mary Bell, a counselor whose work is directed to corporate high-achievers, states that "achievement is the alcohol of our time." She continues:

[...] These days, the best people don't abuse alcohol. They abuse their lives. "People brag to me that they're working 80 hours a week, giving their lives to the company store," Bell says. "It's heartbreaking. Those people are prime candidates for self-destruction." The reason is simple: "Our bodies will produce the pain we need to get our drugs."

The demon success has three faces, Bell explains: "euphoria," "normal," and "pain." On a sheet of paper, she draws a chart showing these three terms arranged from top to bottom: "euphoria" above, "normal" in the middle, "pain" below. "You're successful, so good things happen," Bell says. "You complete a project, and you feel dynamite, so you move up to euphoria. That feeling doesn't last forever, and you slide back to normal. You think, 'I've got to start a new project' - which is still normal. But you love the feeling of euphoria, so you've got to have it again. The problem is, you can't stay on that high. A new car is good for six trips around the block, and then it's a used car. The euphoria is gone."
And then there are the events that drop you down to the pain level. "Say you're working on a deal and it doesn't get approved," Bell says. "This time, you don't stop at normal - you fall all the way to pain. Your self-esteem is on the line, because you've been gathering your self-worth externally. Eventually, in this cycle, you drop to the pain level more and more often. The highs don't seem quite so high. You may win a deal that's even bigger than the one that got away, but somehow that deal doesn't take you to euphoria. Next time, you don't even get back to normal, because you're so desperate about clinching the next deal."
An "achievement addict" is no different from any other kind of addict, Bell suggests. In either case, the individual still must choose between bondage and freedom. "Can you live without your junk? I ask CEOs that question all the time," Bell says. "Can you live without the deals that you make just to reach the fantasy state of euphoria? Can you stop trying to please the boss or the board, rather than yourself? Who owns you? Do you own you - or do your projects own you?"
I know that in fifty years I want to be alive and well, whether I am successful or not in the business world. I want to be a woman who loves deeply, even if I don't know how to manage contracts or write a business plan. I know I want my wrinkles to be from laughter and walking alongside friends during trials, not from looking at a computer screen 15 hours a day. I want to work hard, but I don't want my work to consume every part of my life, and certainly do not want it to be my drug and drive in life.
A lot of these thoughts are still coming together, but this is a start... and I am happy to muse on it more in the days to come.  

Dispossess the heart of the old

"The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one [...] 

Thus [...] it is not enough [...] to hold out to the world the mirror of its own imperfections. 

It is not enough to come forth with a demonstration of the evanescent character of your enjoyments [...] to speak to the conscience [...] of its follies [...] 

rather, try every legitimate method of finding access to your hearts for the love of Him who is greater than the world."

Thomas Chalmers' sermon The Expulsive Power of a New Affection. It's rocking my socks off these days.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A prayer of thanks for surgery and scars


A friend wrote me an email, reflecting on her one year surgery anniversary. I was so encouraged by it, I asked her if I could share:

"Yes, Praise Him, praise Him for how He has watched over and protected us both through surgery. It still brings tears to my eyes to think about how He heard each prayer, each groan when I could not pray, He saw each tear and had His hand upon me each step of the way. I was reading Psalm 139 this morning and reminded of how He makes no mistakes in how He creates us… He knew from moment 1 of my life that this would happen 24 years later… and knew from moment 1 of yours that you would have surgery like a month later!

What a good God we serve. Thankful that He persevered me through so many years of pain, when left on my own I surely would've turned angry and bitter. Thankful for this scar…and yours!

Love you friend!"


Monday, April 22, 2013

His works are in weight, number, time and order. All of them.

Last week a friend sent me these promises from a little book our pastor often gives away called Precious Promises of the Gospel.  Let me just say that in trials my biggest temptation is to lean on my own strength and understanding.  But unlike our bodies, our hearts are strengthened and grow not by physical training, but by spiritual training. I learn to trust by God providing opportunities for me to trust. By his grace and through his Spirit, he fans the flame of love and trust in my heart one day at a time (more like one moment at a time!). 

I love the part of this quote that talks about God forfeiting his reputation... his promises and word will never fail. It's like he is saying, "you will fail, but I will never fail to turn this into your good." Isn't that what Romans 8 is all about for the Christian? 

"I know how to deliver the Godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished...

Trust in me with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 

I am God, who performs all things for you. 

I will forfeit the reputation of my wisdom if I do not make you to acknowledge, when you see the end of the Lord

--though at present you wonder at 
and do not understand the meaning of my proceedings--

that ALL my works are 
in weight, 
in number, 
in time, 
and in order;

if I do not cause you to cry out, 

"Manifold are thy works; in wisdom hast thou made them all." 
(Psalm 33:4; 104:24; 145:10). 

Page 19

Lord, help me bear up under various trials. Help me to see them as the testing of my faith and the proof that I am yours forever. Build my confidence in you, and help me to not lean on my own understanding. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Delivered from the cup; delivered through affliction


"...Jesus drank a full cup of suffering for us.  He drank it fully so we need not to.  In affliction we learn what we could not otherwise.  Wax unheated will not receive the impression of the seal...stone is hewed, cut, carved and polished.  So suffering saints are prepared for the highest degrees of glory..."

William Cooper, 1659

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fears, trust, and a promise

For my own heart's sake - a friend wrote out these reminders on a card for me during surgery recovery last year. I have them posted in my room as a reminder. Thought I'd share:

Fears: In a fallen world, some fears come true. Our fears don't always lie to us. Sometimes they really do happen. Fears do lie to us about how important they are. As Christians, they are never the most important thing in our lives, though fear tries to tell us otherwise.

Trust: Who will we ultimately trust? God? Spouse? Job? Wealth? Health? Our helplessness is the door into complete trust in God. That is how we learn what complete trust is. His power is displayed most perfectly in our weakness as we rely on him. He gives us our worst days to rely on him. When you are in time of increasing hopelessness, where do you go? Choose to go to God with your problems.

Promise: God never abandons his people.

Excerpts taken from Mark Dever's sermon on 12/4/11


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

For kicks and giggles

This video is hilarious. and this guy is crazy talented! 

If you ever wondered what really happened to the Disney Princesses, check this out!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/13/after-ever-after-disney-jon-cozart_n_2867739.html

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ten things to remember during suffering



  1. God is infinitely sovereign and kind, even in the midst of difficulty when it doesn't seem like it. 
  2. God is the only One who is control of my life and to desire control is, in effect, to desire to be God. 
  3. To be conformed to Christ who was bruised, necessitates being bruised ourselves. 
  4. It is a good thing to consider [one's own] death. 
  5. It is good not to cross bridges until you have to cross them. 
  6. Physical illness is part of a much bigger spiritual battle. 
  7. God is more interested in building character than giving us explanations. 
  8. The local church is a wonderful instrument in the Redeemer's hands. 
  9. Above all else, guard your heart. 
  10. The weight of glory far outweighs any number of momentary afflictions.
I'm especially thankful for my church and Christian friends who remind me of these things in day-to-day friendship. Trials are for our good, friends. They are reminders that this world is not home, and that one day our King will come back to make all things right. Come Lord Jesus.


Top ten taken from this article.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Nine promises that will never be broken

Borrowed from Parnell's recent article on Desiring God:

By the blood of his Son, God has promised infallibly:
  1. I will meet all your needs according to my riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
  2. My power will be made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  3. I will strengthen you and help you and hold you up with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).
  4. I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
  5. I will not let any testing befall you for which I do not give you grace to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  6. I will take the sting away from your death with the blood of my son (1 Corinthians 15:55f).
  7. I will raise you from the dead imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:52).
  8. I will transform your lowly body to be like my glorious body, by the power that enables me even to subject all things to myself (Philippians 3:21).
  9. I will do this without fail because I am absolutely sovereign over everything and therefore, I can do all things, and no purpose of mine can be thwarted (Job 42:2).
Wow. Lord, help me to trust you! You have never broken a single promise!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spurgeon on friendship

"A man may drag along a miserable existence in proud solitary dignity, but his life is scarce life, it is nothing but an existence, the tree of life being stripped of the leaves of hope and the fruits of joy. He who would be happy here must have friends; and he who would be happy hereafter, must, above all things, find a friend in the world to come, in the person of God, the Father of his people."

Charles Spurgeon's sermon on friendship, 1857

Friday, March 15, 2013

Happy Jenee Day!


"One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,

    but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." 

Proverbs 18:24

Thankful that you have pointed me to the ultimate Friend, Jesus, who has bound Himself permanently through the cross, when he paid for our sins, and drew us to Himself. 
He will one day bring us both home, sweet friend. 

Happy, happy birthday to you, my special Bud-Bud! 
I love you more each year, Jenee!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

The already but not yet

If you are ever discouraged by your sin (as I often am), I hope you are encouraged by these two quotes: 

"'My sin is ever before me' (Psalm 51:3). A humble soul sees that he can stay no more from sin, than the heart can from panting, and the pulse from beating. He sees his heart and life to be fuller of sin, than the firmament is of stars; and this keeps him low. He sees that sin is so bred in the bone, that till his bones, as Joseph's, be carried out of the Egypt of this world, it will not out. Though sin and grace were never born together, and though they shall not die together, yet while the believer lives, these two must live together; and this keeps him humble."  Thomas Brooks (Puritan)

Reassurance: 

"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life."  Titus 3:3-7




Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Take a break and consider these things

A few of my favorites from an article by Piper, where he spoke of an old college professor who had a pastor's heart and a poets eye. Piper said of him, "When he spoke of the tree he saw on the way to class [that] morning, you wondered why you had been so blind all your life."  He encouraged his audience to "stop seeking mental health in the mirror of self-analysis, but instead to drink in the remedies of God in nature."  

  • At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.
  • I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities. I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parentheses in my existence, but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual manhood [or womanhood].
  • I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their "divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic" existence.


Reminds me of a favorite song by Sara Groves called Maybe There's A Loving God, "Maybe I was made this way; to think and to reason, to question and to pray." And indeed, we were.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Notes in the mail

I've never met a person who didn't enjoy getting letters in the mail, and I am among that number. I LOVE writing letters and LOVE opening my little mailbox to see a personalized letter inside. 

Well, the past few weeks some little angel has been sending me anonymous notes in the mail. Each note is written on the same stationery, but each with different handwriting. And when I open the letter, there is just one Scripture on the front. I've received three notes so far and have had the joy to meditate on these verses:

"Therefore, behold I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt."  Hosea 2:14-15


"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. 
Do not be afraid, for I am with you..."  Isaiah 43:2-5

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness! 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him."  Lamentations 3:22-24

Encouraged and grateful.

Monday, March 11, 2013

For whatever purposes He deems best

Dan Allender asks a hauntingly beautiful question:

"Do I believe that God is a loving Father who is committed to my deepest well-being, that He has the right to use everything that is me for whatever purposes He deems best, and that surrendering my will and my life entirely to Him will bring me the deepest joy and fulfillment I can know this side of heaven?"

A few hundred years earlier, John Newton (1767) says something similar:


"It becomes us to say, It is not necessary for me to be rich, or what the world accounts wise; to be healthy, or admired by my fellow-worms [human beings]; to pass through life in a state of prosperity and outward comfort, these things may be, or they may be otherwise, as the Lord in His wisdom shall appoint; but it is necessary for me to be humble and spiritual, to seek communion with God, to adorn my profession of the Gospel, and to yield submissively to His disposal, in whatever way, whether of service or suffering, He shall be pleased to call me to glorify Him in the world. It is not necessary for me to live long, but highly expedient that whilst I do live I should live to Him. Here, then, I would bound my desires; and here, having His word both for my rule and my warrant, I am secured from asking amiss. Let me have His presence and His Spirit, wisdom to know my calling, and opportunities and faithfulness to improve them; and as to the rest, Lord, help me to say, "What Thou wilt, when Thou wilt, and how Thou wilt."

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Wiser than we are

"Indeed we may admire His patience towards us [...] But our gracious Lord is long-suffering and full of compassion; He bears with our forwardness, yet He will take methods to both shame and to humble us, and to bring us to a confession that He is wiser than we. The great and unexpected benefits He intends us, by all the discipline we meet with, is to tread down our wills, and bring them into subjection to His."

I'm on a John Newton kick, okay? :) It's just too good.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Today & Tomorrow: In the Good Shepherd's hands

"Let us cast down the load we are unable to carry, and if the Lord be our Shepherd, refer all and trust all to Him. Let us endeavor to live to Him and for Him today, and be glad that tomorrow, with all that is behind it, is in His hands."

Friday, March 8, 2013

Mercy: a weaning of my will

"It is indeed natural to us to wish and to plan, 
and it is merciful in the Lord to disappoint our plans
and to cross our wishes. 
For we cannot be safe, much less happy,
but in proportion as we are weaned from our own wills, 
and made simply desirous of being directed by His guidance." 


John Newton

Thursday, March 7, 2013

This is what a Christian believes

Upon a life I have not lived, 
Upon a death I did not die, 
Another’s life; Another’s death, 
I stake my whole eternity. 

Not on the tears which I have shed, 
Not on the sorrows I have known, 
Another’s tears; Another’s griefs, 
On these I rest, on these alone. 

Chorus: 
O Jesus, Son of God, I build on what Thy cross has done for me; 
There both my life and death I read, my guilt, and pardon there I see. 

Lord, I believe; O deal with me, 
As one who has Thy Word believed! 
I take the gift, Lord, look on me, 
As one who has Thy gift received.

Upon A Life I Did Not Live
Sandra McCracken