Monday, December 30, 2019

God will accomplish His purposes

From p112 of J.D. Greear's new book Above All:

God will accomplish His purposes.
It is the unbreakableness of His promise that is the hope of the church.
Of course, that's no license for complacency. Because while we are sure God will accomplish His purposes, what is not guaranteed is that He'll use us to accomplish those purposes.
It's not like He needs us. Evangelicals would be wise to realize that if God chose to use another group of believers to accomplish His mission, we would not be the first people God has set aside. The Jews' of Jesus day assumed God would never set them aside. God needed them! Right? But Jesus warned them, "The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruit" (Matt. 21:43). 
He gives the same warning to us. 
The grace of God is amazing, but woe to us if we ever take it for granted (Rom. 2:4).
The recent acceleration of Christian leaders falling from ministry is, I believe, God trying to wake us up. He will not allow sin to go unchecked in His church, and if we don't repent, He will take His hand off of us and our children. He will not abandon His purposes, but He will find someone else.

Monday, December 23, 2019

things about downtown dc

Things I will not miss about working in downtown D.C.:
  • paying D.C. prices for things that cost significantly less in Arlington
  • the traffic
  • presidential motorcades that add to the traffic
  • being stuck on the bus in traffic
  • being stuck at the bus stop because the bus can't get to it because of traffic

Things I will miss about working in downtown D.C.:
  • the overwhelming number of good lunch options
  • the overwhelming number of good coffee options
  • working only a few metro stops away from friends, and being able to quickly ride over to their apartments after work
  • walking around the city before work when it's still quiet

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

week before christmas





a few festive week-before-Christmas sights //

+ world's largest light maze
+ gingerbread houses
+ christmas lights
+ quiet weekends in front of the tree

Thursday, December 12, 2019

depression = suffering

In truth, depression is a form of suffering. Thus, all of God’s promises and exhortations that apply to suffering apply to depression as well. This gives great hope to strugglers. In fact, it gives all of the hope of God’s promises. - Dr. Jim Newheiser
A verse for some encouragement:
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:19)
And finally, some truths to remember in the midst of sadness can be found here

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

how will you respond?

Re-constructed excerpts from Hannah Brencher's Advent study, day 10:

Mary’s response is faith, never fear, throughout the entire story. I love that she never questioned her place in the story. She thought it through and asked some hard questions but ultimately her response was, "I am the Lord's servant so I will go wherever he leads me." 

***

Another faith giant from the Bible, Moses, had a completely opposite response to God using him in such a big way and I want to emphasize it for one second because there is something there for us today. When God outlined his plans to use Moses, Moses responded by saying, "Who am I that you would use me?" He doubted. He responded out of fear. 

But do you know what God said back to his question? He simply said, "I will be with you."

Not "you are the right one."
Not "you have it what it takes."
But "I will be with you." 

He did not stroke Moses' ego or build up his self-esteem. He pointed back to himself to remind Moses that his power would come through the One who was with him. 

***

Every day, I can choose to glorify God for what He's doing or I can script a solo story where everything is left to weigh upon my shoulders. One path leads to peace. The other path? Well, it’s not only a false story but it's also a lonely one. 

In your own story, you will often be faced with the same choice: faith or fear. Faith that God will do it or fear that it's all up to you.

He makes no mistakes. He never gets it wrong. He’s not playing head games with you. He does not spoil his children only to pull the rug out from underneath them. 

He walks with you. He covers you. He goes before you and follows behind you.

***

You have a choice though. Every single day. Faith or fear. How will you respond?

Monday, December 9, 2019

asking for forgiveness is key


Emma Green: If you were talking to a young person who feels anguish about what Christianity has come to mean in America, what would you say to him or her?
N.T. Wright: For goodness’ sake, read the four Gospels. That’s what they’re there for. And recognize that in the prayer Jesus taught us to pray: “Forgive us our trespasses.” You don’t just say that once, at the beginning of your Christian life. You jolly well say it every day, because you will need to. The trouble is that the Church is far too good at hoping that everyone else will be asking for forgiveness for their trespasses. Self-critique is part of the Gospel. And where the Church forgets that—oh boy, things go badly wrong.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

lewis + coffee


coffee date just to discuss lewis' mere christianity. both of us show up with the same edition that we found while separately shopping in different used bookstores.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

when depression feels safe

The final paragraph, full of hope, from Christine Chappell's article "When Depression Feels Safe":

God doesn't rescue from the pit on occasion. Predictable is his faithfulness—He is for you (Romans 8:31)! Constant is his care—He is present with you (Isaiah 41:10)! Commiserating with you is Jesus Christ, the Man of Sorrows (Isaiah 53:3), who sits on high yet comes down close to hear your lament and to comfort you in your pain though his Spirit (John 14:16). Depression’s predictable, constant commiserating leads to death—yet with Christ, we are lifted to life, abundant and everlasting (John 5:24, John 10:10). This is the soul-satisfying safety we crave—and must reflexively retreat to—when walking through periods of despondency.

unconditional love vs unfailing love

A long but excellent quote from George Sinclair's recent article "Good News! God Does Not Love You Unconditionally!":

I do not know who first coined the term “unconditional love”, but I do know who popularized it—Carl Rogers (1902-1987)... Rogers developed the idea of unconditional love to separate “love” from “moral judgments”. In other words, to truly love, you need to separate love from “the good,” our beliefs about what is right and wrong. We need to show unconditional love, with no moral judgement. To make any moral judgment means you are not loving unconditionally.
But this is very untrue. To give but one of countless examples, sit down and read Ephesians 5:1-6. We have a clear command to imitate God and walk in love. But then, in the very next sentence, it tells us to forsake all sexual immorality, impurity, and covetousness/avarice. You cannot love apart from seeking the true good. To turn your back on the good, is to turn your back on love, to stop imitating God. There has to be a better way to phrase the real love of God.
A better expression is “unfailing love”. Think about God; He is pure, unfailing love. But He is also pure, unfailing goodness, justice, truth, mercy. There is no tension in God in this. He never has to choose between love and goodness. He is always only love; always only good; always only just. His love is unfailing, nothing can stop God from being love and loving, but His love it is not separate from His goodness, so His love is not unconditional.
If you go back and read the end of Ephesians 4 and the beginning of Ephesians 5, you will see that it is because the triune God loves us unfailingly (not unconditionally) that Jesus came to save us. The Lord saw that my mind was darkened; my will was bound; I did much wrong and habitually failed to do what is right; my sexuality and identity were bent; I gave myself to idols; and I could not help or save myself. God did not say, “Oh well, who cares about justice and the wrong he has done, I love George unconditionally.“ No. “In love He came and sought me”. “In my place condemned He stood”. Perfect love. Perfect justice. Perfect mercy. The Gospel.
To love someone has to involve a selfless concern for their flourishing in true good. So, “love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, ESV). Be gripped by the Gospel and seek to imitate God, who is unfailingly good, unfailingly true, unfailingly just, unfailingly merciful – and with no tension, loves unfailingly.

the waiting

Struggling through understanding the bigger picture of God's timing; coming from the incorrect perspective that God withholds good things until we've perfected ourselves, and trying to step out of this flawed view. 

Then, this excerpt from Hannah Brencher's Advent series, day 4:

The waiting changes us. 
It turns us into different versions of ourselves. 
God is a God who does not dismiss us when the waiting feels endless. He is a God who does not walk out on us or use the waiting to punish us. 
You need to know this— the waiting period for Zechariah and Elizabeth was not because they’d messed something up years earlier and now they were walking out a barren punishment. 
Our God does not keep tally of our mess-ups and wait to dole out punishments. Quite the opposite, he is near to those who are brokenhearted. He is close to those who have yet to see the promise in the land they’ve been trekking through for days and months and years. He is a constant companion — there right alongside you. He does not grow weary.
There is more to the story, friend. The story doesn’t end in the valley. 
Let’s keep moving forward and see what happens next.
More thoughts to come. 

Monday, December 2, 2019

coffee "mate"



multi-day trip home with coffee-loving boyfriend = caffeine-fueled errands every day

forgiveness

From Josh Radnor's most recent, always thought-provoking "museletter":

I once heard forgiveness defined as essentially "giving up the idea that the past should be different than what it was." At its heart forgiveness is a radical acceptance of what was and is, a clear-eyed acknowledgement of the truth of what happened married to a prayer that the future needn't recreate the past. 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

why advent?


Advent is about feeling the weight and need for Christ to have been born in human flesh to save us from our sins. It’s about slowing down to savor His goodness amidst a world of things and messages that vie for our attention. Advent is about treasuring Jesus above all other things. 

Just like Jesus’ birth was not what the Israelites were expecting or looking for, know that God will work in ways you are not expecting as well. The amazing thing is, God had revealed how He would send His Son, like a sacrificial lamb, all throughout the Old Testament. Mankind, however, did not have eyes to see or ears that could hear or fully understand. We now have the big picture—the whole story of Scripture—and we can trace His work, knowing His ways, plans, and promises. 

Since Advent is a season of anticipation, a time when God turns our expectations upside-down, expect God to do a great renovation in your heart, but also expect it to be different than you thought it would be. Look for Him in the mundane, in the things that seem to be “going wrong,” and in the everyday occurrences of life.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

fur family



vacation at home for a week = a week of cats

Thursday, November 21, 2019

hillwood



a visit to hillwood estate in nw dc on a cloudy + cold day. some favorites were baby citrus fruit in the conservatory and socks w sandals from the 1950s.

no extraordinary means

From Samuel D. James' most recent post "There Are No Extraordinary Means"

Recently in my reading I came across this sentence from a theologian and it stopped me in my tracks: “There are no extraordinary means of grace in the Christian life.” I lingered over that line for a while as it delivered a broadside to most of my Christian walk. How many years have I spent as a believer earnestly, diligently, even tirelessly, seeking an extraordinary means by which I would finally feel the intimacy with Christ I desire and the temptations that beset me just fall off like sawdust? The matter-of-factness of that sentence pummeled me. That one book, that one sermon, that one conference or that one conversation I’m looking for to put all the jagged parts of my spiritual life into an incandescent whole…it does not exist. There’s always something else to do, but there are no extraordinary means of grace. 
Extraordinary means are what most people want: in their spiritual lives, in their careers, and even in politics. Most political discourse, at least in the US, can be reduced to the following formula: 
My unique solution + my unique implementation – the obnoxious, interchangeable input of others = the outcome you want. 
What we want are extraordinary fixes to ordinary problems. In this desire we miss the reality that there’s always something else to fix, there’s always something else to do, and there’s always something we’ll miss. Looking for extraordinary means is a roadmap to variously intense levels of personal frustration.

national cathedral



glimpses of the national cathedral in nw dc, taken over a long holiday weekend

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

enjoyment is praise

From John Piper, as he explains facets of "Christian hedonism":

"God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.  
It’s not enough to say that praising God is the completion or consummation of enjoying God. In fact, that doesn’t go to the heart of the relationship between God’s glory and our joy. The heart of the matter is this: Enjoying God is the essence of praising God. Enjoying God from the heart is essential to glorifying God from the heart. Where God is not enjoyed as he ought to be, he is not glorified as He ought to be. That’s the essence of the relationship."

sinful goodness

Thoughts on virtue as seen in non-Christians vs Christians, from James McGlothlin's article "Can the Godless Do Good?":
"The apparent goodness of non-Christians can sometimes confuse Christians. Is this apparent goodness actual goodness — and if so, how does it fit with the Bible’s teaching that, apart from God, “no one does good”? Pastor-theologian Jonathan Edwards provides the categories for making sense of non-Christian virtue. According to Edwards, the apparent goodness of non-Christians is not merely apparent, but nor is it “true virtue.” Rather, it is limited virtue, which, though similar to true virtue from the outside, falls short of participating in the triune goodness of God...
Edwards helps us to explain how Christians can affirm that the virtue and love they correctly recognize among non-Christians is indeed good and virtuous, though only in a limited way. With Edwards, the Bible attests that a non-Christian never pursues or exemplifies anything with the goal of glorifying God (Romans 3:10–12; Matthew 22:37). But Edwards suggests that we reject the tempting inference that all of a non-Christian’s seemingly good actions and character are never good or beautiful in any sense. Rather, their seemingly good actions and character are indeed morally good, but only in a limited way — that is, they are short of being done or lived for the glory of God."
Edwards so clearly explains the intersection of thoughts I struggle with: how morality differs between believers and nonbelievers, the main aim and motivation of good works, and how nonbelievers can seem to be genuine in their giving and acting even while maintaining a state of unbelief. 

nothing lasts forever (thankfully)

Encouraged by Samuel D. James' newest newsletter (one of my favorites to see in my inbox):
There are two principles that have become incredibly valuable to me as I’ve gotten older and everything, from jobs to relationships to amount of sleep, has been transformed. They are:
  1. Life is seasonal.
  2. Remembering this is the key to enduring.

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