Tuesday, April 26, 2011

God's Sacrifice (Easter weekend thoughts)

I hardly know where to begin. Each day during Holy Week, as Good Friday drew nearer, the more I thought about everything. I attended no services until Friday, but the Easter story was very much on my mind. Thursday night (Maundy Thursday) I came home from work and tried to pray before bed. I dissolved into tears thinking of all the sins I have done counted against Jesus. The God that created the universe, dying for me. I am guilty, and He has paid.

Friday morning I got up and went to the traditional three hour service at the Episcopal church. It was different this year. It was the entirety of J.S. Bach’s "St. John Passion" – in German – built around a liturgy in English. I could read the English translation of the German songs much faster than the choir sang them, and this gave me a LOT of time to simply ponder and pray. At one point they brought a cross forward and we were invited to pray at it, then later we took communion.

At the end of the service I did something I haven’t done in a long time, since I lost my ring a year or more ago. My sister gave me a garnet ring – my birthstone – as a present. I’ve been wearing it on my right ring finger as just plain old jewelry. There, in my pew, I felt impressed to take it off and slip it on my left ring finger, like a wedding band. My heart is bound to God, for this life and forever. Good Friday gave me a sense of deep gratitude for what God has done for me.

As some of you may remember, my church has been going through a DVD series called "The Mission of the Church Matters." After my Dad died, while I was in Seattle, I missed watching the second DVD. Last week I borrowed it from my pastor, and on Good Friday night, since TV felt so banal on so holy a day, Brad and I watched it. It was Matt Chandler preaching.

At one point he spoke of Galatians 2:20 ("I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" [NASB]). He explained the verse and some of the ways that might express itself in the Christian life. It hit me how many vain pursuits I spend time and money on, things that aren’t bad in and of themselves, but take time and (especially) money from things of lasting value.

I decided I need to cut back on online games and not spend anymore money on them. For Café World, this will mean no more catering orders and slower progress on the goals. It will mean I make less visits to Starbucks and Jamba Juice. It will mean considering the best uses for the money God gives me. Yeah, a simple sermon by some guy I never heard of before can effect me that much.

Saturday at church was good and fairly normal. After church and the next DVD in the series, Brad and I went for a walk in Wildcat Canyon. It was misting, but I was desperate for exercise. The rain got harder as time went on. We went as far as we could before the path got too muddy with puddles of water to continue on.

The thing that struck me the most was that the beginning of Wildcat Canyon is an old road, paved and broad. But 1/4 mile up the trail the heavy winter rains this year have taken their toll. A mudslide has covered almost the entire road. There is a very narrow path through the mudslide to the other side, and it was very muddy.

The county has blazed a path on the other side of the road from the mudslide. It will very likely be permanent since I can’t imagine what the cost would be to remove the dirt from the road. Photos here. We got wet, but for once I didn’t mind walking in the rain. I just gloried in God’s beautiful creation, even the rain.

Easter Sunday morning we went to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (the same place I went on Good Friday). We did NOT sing "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today!" Blasphemy! It’s not Easter without that song! In the whole service we sang only one song that I knew the tune to, At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing, which was used as the closing hymn.

After church there was a potluck luncheon, nicely done, and including champagne and cake. Brad and I sat and chatted with en elderly gentleman. It was the last straw for med as far as going to that church anymore. He spoke about how "open" the Episcopal church was in accepting gays and lesbians and ordaining women. I knew I had to find another church, and plan to look into Anglican churches, since they tend to be more conservative. I know I cannot go back to St. Paul’s anymore.

But overall I was happy all day Sunday. The sadness of Good Friday dissolved into the Sunday morning light of Mary finding the tomb empty. He is risen! Our God and Savior didn’t stay dead. He overcame death! And because of that I can have life, now and eternally.

Now Holy Week is past, and I thought the emotional roller coaster of the last week might fade and disappear. But Monday at work I was browsing through John Piper’s Facebook page when I came upon a link: The Father’s Cup: A Crucifixion Narrative.

It’s a 25 minutes retelling of the Easter story. I dissolved into tears. I wept when the narrator listed all the sins placed on Jesus, and he mentioned my own. I was barely holding the tears back until he got to "divination and demon worship." That did it. I know the things I worshiped were demons, and it hit me all over again that those were counted to Jesus as if *He* had done them - my Lord! He drank the cup of the Father’s wrath for me! I am overwhelmed all over again.

I have often wondered if sometimes my tears when I pray are influenced by having a glass of wine before bed. But when I listened to this I was at work. I hadn't had anything to drink except unsweetened green tea, and I still cried.

And now I am at that time of year when I recall what God did in my life. In one week I will celebrate my 15th spiritual birthday. I can’t even begin to comprehend that or why God chose me – someone who didn’t want Him, someone who hated Him, someone who was happy worshipping things she thought was divine, but weren’t. How do I comprehend God choosing me and dying for me? And yet the Bible says, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8, NASB). Thank You, God, for dying for me and holding onto me these 15 years.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Glory, part 2

I've been mulling this over ever since I wrote the original "Glory" note back on April 3. At the time I said I didn't understand how His glory is part of Christian theology and I hadn't had time to even begin figuring it out.

Over the last couple of weeks I have come to believe that it was the voice of God I "heard" (in my head, not audibly), or at the very least, the Holy Spirit was bringing to mind what I have already read (John 14:26).

God is not seeking greater glory. There is no greater glory than that which He already possesses. He seeks to show that glory through everything created to everyone looking on - angels and demons and humans. And for those of us who are saved, we see the greatest revelation of that glory through Jesus Christ. Eventually every single person who has ever lived will see it, too, and bow the knee and confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). And what is the reason given there for this bowing of the knee and confession with the tongue? "To the glory of God the Father"!

Every time I have turned around recently, I have been confronted with this topic again and again. After I wrote the original note, I remembered part of a verse in Romans 9, and went to look it up. "What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory" (Romans 9:22-23, NASB). There is "glory" again, twice in v. 23. After I posted these verses, someone directed me to two John Piper sermons on this passage. As of the time of this writing, I have not listened to them yet, but I look forward to them.

God has been asking me to show His glory in me by making certain changes, specifically what I wear and what I listen to. Then yesterday a Facebook friend posted that he felt convicted to unfriend all his single female friends. That is hard for me to hear, but I respect him for following the call of God, that God would be better glorified in his life.

This has felt like a series of little deaths - giving up my choice of clothes, giving up my choice of music, losing my friend. And why? For the glory of God.

And all this is percolating in my mind during Holy Week, when God's greatest show of glory ever is remembered - God dying in our place for our salvation. I feel a bit overwhelmed at all God has done and is doing - and it's all for His glory!

I have been catching up on "Dividing Line" podcasts this week, and one of the programs I listened to had a reference to glory:

"The heart of Christianity is the self-glorification of the Triune God: the demonstration of His glory, His power, His majesty, His holiness, His justice, and in light of all that, His mercy and His love." ~James White, April 12, 2011 "Dividing Line" program

Dr. White is saying that God's glory is the very heart of Christianity!

And then just last night my Facebook friend Andrew posted the following, and it's given me lots to think about:

"Before I became a Calvinist and before I began listening to Piper, I thought Christianity was about guilt, sin, forgiveness, and living right. Now I realize Christianity is only about one thing: God's Glory. Everything else is there to lead us to this and help us enjoy it."

Leaving the Calvinism aside for the moment, Andrew is saying much the same thing Dr. White did in the quote above, and much the same as I have heard John Piper say: God's glory is the most important thing. He will be glorified in everything and every person, whether that person is saved or not.

Just today my Lenten devotional also mentioned glory, in the New Testament reading for the day:

"Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus said, 'Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately'" (John 13:31-32, NASB).

Lastly, guess what the "Share Day" theme is this month at Family Radio? "...do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31, NASB).

There have been too many coincidences that have occurred since God first spoke to me on April 3 for me to ignore this. God is trying to make a point to me, and He's driving it home strongly.

I have long believed that God's glory is above all. But it has never gone beyond an intellectual accent. Perhaps what is happening now is the outworking of that - putting theory into practice.

Some people have sought to invalidate my experiences. I guess that comes with the territory when I open myself up like this. What has surprised me is that all the attacks come from fellow Christians. The inevitable result is that it just drives me all the more to seek out people who will validate me.

I am not crazy. I am not manhandling Scripture. I am not seeking attention. I am seeking to share what I am learning with others, and the lesson I am learning right now seems to be that God's show of His glory is His highest purpose, and the reason everything exists. What could be more glorious than the most glorious Being creating all things - both visible and invisible - to bear witness to His glory?

If I choose to participate, He will also be glorified in me. And if what I am learning is correct, then my whole purpose for existing is to glorify God. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Back on April 3 (in the comments section of the note I wrote: "I'm not going to say that's the be-all and end-all answer to everything. I'm sure it's not." Now I'm not so sure. Maybe His glory really IS the be-all and end-all of everything.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Thoughts on Holy Week, modesty, and music

I apologize for how long this is. Please bear with me. I have a lot I need to say.

Things have been crazy. I am not used to God speaking to me as much as He has these past several weeks. When He called me back to Him - back to my first love - in December, I was in love. For the first time in my life I felt close, sweet fellowship. I didn't have the words for it at the time, but I believe this is what John Piper would call "Christian Hedonism." I loved it, I loved God. All was well in my little world.

Then Dad died and I entered a dark time. My faith got me through the first couple of weeks, but shortly after I returned from Seattle, I hit the "anger" stage of grief, and targeted God. Thankfully, He is big enough to take it.

Even though I was angry, I didn't sense that He was angry at me. Like a storyteller who knows the ending, He didn't return anger for anger. I never knew that you could both hate and love someone at the same time. It's possible, because now I have been there. I tried to sit in judgment of God and put Him in the dock. What pride! What arrogance! And yet He continued to love me and treat me gently.

I don't know how I would have gotten through this had He not drawn me so close right before. That was a saving grace in this situation.

I asked questions, questions I thought had no answers and were wrong to ask. I am now reevaluating that. Perhaps these questions were given to me by God because He wanted to give me answers. And He has! Even when I stopped talking to Him for a while, He continued to speak to me, and made it clear that He wanted me to speak to Him. Who am I that You want me to talk to You, God?

And so I finally bowed the knee once again and said, "I don't understand everything I want to, but I will follow." I also asked Him about all the pain in the world and the pain we cause Him. Those thoughts are summed up in my note, "Glory". Please read that first if you haven't.

That brings me up to last week, and the focus of this note. Last week I finally felt myself coming out of this dark tunnel I have been in since Dad died. When it first happened I said, "I'll be okay, but I'm not okay now." Well, I'm okay now. Dad's death rocked my faith to its very foundations, but He has brought me through, and the overwhelming grief is subsiding.

As we head into Holy Week, I am still mulling over the content in the "Glory" note. In church today we sang "All glory, laud, and honor," and I lost count of the number of times "glory" was used during the service. I'm beginning to understand that it is truly all about His glory. Nothing else matters, even if I have a hard time accepting that. He does all things for His glory.

I find welling up within me a desire for God like I haven't felt in years. For the first time in a long time, God has my full attention, and for the first time in a long time, I want to listen. Last week, He began talking to me about other issues, and I have also come to understand that He is done talking about hell. He has given me all the answers He's going to, and is ready to move on to other things.

Last week I found myself listening to a sermon on modesty. God convicted me - strongly. I had NO IDEA that I was doing half the stuff I was. I found myself having to repent for failing to follow God's commands on this.

Then, just a couple days later, I got a somewhat inappropriate comment on one of my photos on Flickr. It was a full body shot of me wearing my half marathon shirt and leggings. Clearly, the leggings are too revealing and God was telling me not to wear them anymore, at least on their own.

I didn't have any money, but was thinking I could get something when I got my tax refund or something. Yesterday, I broke from wearing leggings and a shirt to church, and wore a dress (I only had one that still fit after my weight gain). None of my jeans fit anymore. My wardrobe options were extremely limited. My money was eaten up in tax prep. I'm in the hole and digging deeper.

So I have to give a shoutout to Jane for giving me $60 yesterday to help buy new clothes. THANK YOU! Brad added an additional $5. I knew this was a sign that God wanted me to do this NOW, not at some point down the road when I have the money.

And so today after Palm Sunday services, Brad and I hit WalMart (useless except for a tight pair of bicycle shorts that I have to wear beneath dresses and skirts to keep my thighs from chaffing). For the first time, I looked at clothes with an eye to pleasing Him, not myself, and found myself passing up a pair of jeans that fit me perfectly. We couldn't find jeans that didn't show my curves (though I would still like to get a pair for hiking).

Then we went over to Old Navy. Again, difficult to find anything. We finally settled on an XL (am I that fat?!?) white dress that I can wear leggings under. As we walked in I observed a Muslim woman wearing jeans under her dress - very modest. I saw it as an object lesson from God to choose my clothes wisely.

Then over to Dress Barn. Pricey, but they had a couple nice skirts - one full length, one knee length, both very colorful. That used up all $65 and I ended up paying for one skirt out of my own money.

I'm not sure how I am going to like this. Will I ever be able to wear jeans again? I don't know right now. What will I wear to the gym? Again, I don't know. I can only take solace that as I embark on this, my only concern is to please Him. Like when He convicted me of headcovering, I thought I would hate it since I am not a huge fan of hats. But I find the lace and cloth coverings are hardly noticeable, and I have found I don't really mind it.

We will see where this goes. I only want Him to lead me. I really want to follow.

And that brings me to my last point, something that has been niggling at my mind for a while. I heard a Piper sermon a while back where he challenged people to pray before and after everything they did. How would that change things? He specifically mentioned music, and I know I have some music on my computer that is not God-honoring. At some point I need to make some time to go through it and delete the "bad" songs. God, give me discerntment as I do this. Help me to keep only You in mind and give me strength to get rid of what You want me to. The music is backed up on my flash drives, but that's something to deal with later.

So that's where I am. God is done talking about hell, but I am absolutely thrilled that He is continuing to speak to me. Who am I that the Lord of the universe would say anything to me? Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Man-centeredness vs. God-centeredness

I posted this because in a very real way I have been struggling with the issues discussed here - God's fairness, putting Him in the dock, judging Him by my human standards. God spoke to me through this phone call on the program. More and more I am beginning to see my problem is not so much about questions I am asking, but that the questions themselves come from a worldview that is not consistent with the Bible.

This something I have prayed about - that my heart would be in sync with the Bible. And it's not. I'm beginning to see that I am following a man-centered Gospel instead of a God-centered one. God showed more of Himself to me last year - that alone took a divine work - but all the intellectual learning never went on beyond that. The world made sense, God made sense; let's not rock the boat.

My Dad's death rocked that boat. It capsized it. All of a sudden the world didn't make sense, God didn't make sense, nothing in my entire life made sense. Since then I have been drowning is a sea of my own doubts and questions about God's goodness.

Why? Because what I leaned last year never got down to my heart. I still think in a man-centered way instead of a God-centered way. Maybe He is trying to change that and make that head learning travel the long 18 inches from my head to my heart, to really change how I view things. What lens will I see the world through?

The Dividing Line
March 31, 2011
Dr. James White
Excerpt from 59:54 though 1:05:43, talking to a caller, Daniel
Full audio here.

Daniel: In having a proper foundation for defending our being born with a sinful nature, I’m looking at how that relates to Adam being our just representative and trying to articulate that in a faithful way. I’ve heard everything from "well, sometimes we get Presidents we didn’t elect and their decisions effect us" to "we were actually sinning in Adam" to "we had him on our fantasy football team and so when he lost, we lost." I feel like that has to bear a lot of weight because that relates to the justice of having inherited corruption. So I’m just wondering how you would articulate that.

JW: I would articulate that by challenging the direction of argumentation behind the question. In other words, you just said it bears a lot of weight because of the issue of justice. Yeah, if you’re willing to put God in the dock and judge His justice and how He has dealt with mankind, as if we are even invited to do so, yes. But I think the Biblical response is that this is what God has done, and since it is God doing it, that’s what defines justice. Fundamentally, Adam’s role as the Federal Head of the race is an act determined by the Creator Himself. God has determined that Adam is to represent us in the same way that He has determined – without asking our permission – that Jesus be the Federal Head of those who are in covenant with Him.

And so the issue is "Are God’s acts just?", and by definition they are, and we live in Western culture where that has been reversed, to where - at one point that would not even be questioned – now we actually think that there is some standard outside of God by which to judge His actions as to whether they are just or not, and honestly I would challenge that on a presuppositional level.

...We do know how (these things) work in the sense that the Judge of all the earth will do right, and in essence the foolishness of the question is that we could actually pick somebody better. If God created Adam so as to function the way that Adam did so as to bring about His greatest glory through the redemption of a particular people through Christ Jesus, the whole idea of putting God in the dock and saying, "Well, we’re really not sure that we like the way You did this," is really more of a fundamental rebellion against the creatorship of God as it is anything else.

There is a sense in which we struggle today because so many are so infected – including within the church – are so infected with a humanism that lowers God and subjects Him to external criteria, that it’s really hard to talk with folks who have been infected that way, and they’re in the church. That’s why we need a lot more...preaching on the transcendence and holiness of God...Just to be taken with the "otherness" of God is normally enough of an answer for us to realize, "Wow, that’s a dumb question to ask."

I’m not saying “dumb” in the sense that we shouldn’t deal with this, but that if we recognize our creatureliness, and recognize His creatorship, we will actually be staying on the proper grounds to understand the Biblical response. If we have dragged Him down to where He’s standing on the same ground we are, I’m not sure we can answer the question in a meaningful fashion.

Daniel: I think the big problem is [people say], “Well, I was born this way and I can’t control it. Now it’s not my fault; it’s Adam’s.

JW: ...We see it all around us. It’s amazing how we have dehumanized ourselves in that sense. [You need to ask], "What do you mean I have no choice about this?" We are human beings, we are created in the image of God, and to recognize our falleness in Adam, to recognize total depravity, is only to make sin all the more guilty, because we know we can control ourselves, but we don’t want to.

This whole idea that people have developed – Oh, we can’t control ourselves; it’s all genetics… The Christian view of man is much higher than that – it is much higher than that. It makes the guilt of man even deeper because we are created in the image of God and we can control ourselves. I don’t buy this "We can’t control ourselves" stuff. Sin, yes – it's our nature – but we do it because we love it. And every single one of us knows when that temptation arises, we don’t have to do it. And yet so many people today have bought into the idea that we do have to.

Alpha and Omega Ministries Facebook page.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


The first two paragraphs are what really touched me, but the rest was too good not to share. :) I did not write any of this; I am simply sharing something I liked.

Mars Hill Church – Seattle, WA
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Religion Saves and Nine Other Misconceptions - Predestination

January 20, 2008
Romans 9
Excerpt from 1:02:30 through 1:06:00 in the sermon.


God is God, and we are not. And we have no right to tell God that He's not doing a good job at being God. We have no right to be like Pharaoh and to say, "Well, that's His opinion, He didn't consult me, I think I could do better given the opportunity. He should inquire of me, seek my wisdom, heed my counsel. He has some errors, He has some folly, He has some mistakes. I disagree with Him, I judge Him, I denounce Him, and I demand of Him to give an answer to me!"

What Paul is arguing for is humility. He says, "Who are you to think that you would be a better God than God?" Ambrosiaster, an early church father, says it this way, "It is a great indignity and presumption for a man to answer back to God - the unjust to the just, the evil to the good, the imperfect to the perfect, the weak to the strong, the corruptible to the incorruptible, the mortal to the immortal, the servant to the lord, the creature to the creator."

Friends, here's the bottom line. There are only three options. Number one, Satan chooses who has sin forgiven and eternal life granted. That means that no one receives grace!

Number two, sinners choose who is to be saved. The result is that we all have already chosen! We have chosen sin, we have chosen Satan, we have chosen rebellion, we have chosen death, we have chosen rejection of God, we have chosen to be objects of wrath, we have chosen hell! Every single human being has chosen! By virtue of sinning, you have chosen! You've chosen Satan, you've chosen death, you've chosen wrath, you've chosen hell!

And the third option is that God, too, would choose, and that God would choose to save some. That God would choose in undeserving, ill-deserving mercy and grace to save some. Not only that, He would come into human history as Jesus Christ. He would live on this earth in humility to be tempted as we are, yet without sin. That He would go to the cross and He would substitute Himself in our place for our sins and that our God would die and would Himself endure the penalty and punishment for sin, and that He would rise and He would give salvation as a gift, not dependent upon pursuing Him, desiring Him, choosing Him, or yearning for Him. Though He invites us, none of us take Him up on that offer. And so He pursues us - vigilantly, mercifully, compassionately, lovingly, and continually.

And some of you will say, "This doesn't sound like God is loving." Yet Ephesians 1 says, "in love He predestined us." The predestination is the love of God in action.

Sunday, April 03, 2011


So I'm praying tonight and I ask God "Why?" Why create this sin cursed world? You didn't create it; we messed it up! We are made in Your image, but use our creative power to destroy Your creation.

So I am back to "Why?" Why create knowing what would happen? I believe one of the reasons behind the Adam and Eve story (besides it being a creation story of course) is the point that any of us, even without a sin nature, would have done exactly as they did. We would all fall for the serpent's lie - every single one of us, without exception. And yet You did not create them flawed. They chose to fall because they wanted to be like You.

So why open Yourself to the pain of Your creation turning their back on You, as every one of us has done. Why endure the pain?

And in the quietness of that moment, He spoke to me. I hope I heard Him right, but perhaps this is at the core, the truth I must accept. "It is for My glory."

I have been saying for quite a while now that "His glory is more important than anything." What if it's not just a pithy saying, but is quite literally true? He is the Potter, we are the clay, the work of His hands. Perhaps everything that happens and every person, whether they accept Him or reject Him, will in the end bring Him glory. With the entirety of creation looking on, He will be shown to be most glorious in THIS world and not any other. That is why THIS exists, and not something else.

Just some random late-night thoughts.

Oh Lord, if this is true, let it sink down deep into my heart, into a place of acceptance, that I may truly believe deep down that Your glory is more important than anything.