Thankful Thursday

ThankfulSunset

It’s 9:31pm and therefore not too late for Thankful Thursday!

  • I’m thankful for the way the LORD has been taking care of my mom so completely since my dad passed away. In the midst of pain there have yet been so many blessings.
  • I’m thankful for the snow we’ve gotten this past week. Our high and dry state desperately needs it.
  • I’m thankful for my boss and for my job – this week he went to bat so I could keep it. Very thankful for that.
  • I’m thankful for referrals to this blog from unexpected places on the web. That might sound weird, but oh well, sorry. I pray those folks that stumble their way over here are blessed!
  • I’m thankful for the Amazon giftcard I received for a birthday present that has enabled me to buy BOOKS! Oh how I’ve been craving new ones!
  • I’m thankful for the love of my Heavenly Father, my husband, family, and friends. What more could I ask for?
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Moldy Bread

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a loaf of bread growing mold. I was completely disgusted and remember saying something to the effect of: “Ew! It’s rotten bread!” Then I remember my dad explaining:

“Actually, if it’s molding that means it was good for you. Things that spoil quicker are better for you than things that sit on the shelf for years and years. If they don’t get rotten that means they have artificial preservatives.”

Moldy_old_bread

I couldn’t understand this at all. If I compared a strawberry-flavored gummy snack to an imperfectly-shaped, browning-on-one-edge, actual strawberry, as a kid I would have picked the gummy snack every time. Not just because it’s sweeter, but also because it looks prettier and lasts longer. I’ve never seen mold grow on a gummy snack. But of course we all know my dad was right: the less attractive real strawberry is better for you because it is natural and (hopefully) chemical-free.

I was thinking about this concept of perishable things versus imperishable things and Jesus’ promise of eternal life. I think our inclination toward beautiful, imperishable things (like gummy snacks) is an illustration of our eternal nature in a fallen world. We want things to last forever, but we’re forced to manufacture ways with chemical preservatives. Like the Twinkie, who along with the cockroach is said be the only thing that could survive a nuclear holocaust.

Jesus has a fascinating conversation with some of the folks from the group of 5,000 he miraculously fed in John 6. They’re basically looking for another bread handout, but Jesus says to them, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” They don’t get it and ask Jesus for a sign from heaven like Moses manna in the wilderness. So he says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you to the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to this world.” They still don’t get it. They ask him for a piece of this magical, beautiful, nonperishable bread. So finally Jesus hits them with the kicker:

I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Jesus is the imperishable bread. He is his own perpetual nutrient source – no artificial preservatives needed. Unlike a Twinkie or a gummy snack, Jesus is both imperishable and eternally nutritious. What we long for in a fallen world is found in Him and in Him alone.

Black and White

Black&White

“You know, there is nothing greater than deciding in your life that things maybe really are black and white!”
      –Drew Baylor, Elizabethtown

When I was a child, I thought of everything as black and white. There was clear right and wrong, justice and injustice, in or out. Unfortunately this attitude tended to spawn harshness and judgementalism in my little Pharisaical heart. Morality existed cogently, but the grace of God hadn’t gripped me yet. I began to realize that my heart posture was wrong.

Early in college, I started questioning this “black and white” worldview. I waded into the murky waters of questionable theology, allowing “right and wrong” to be flexible in certain circumstances. I listened my Christian friends from high school explain to me their new, liberated views on sexuality outside of marriage. I read books about how God wants us to feel loved and happy. I started believing that God wants us not to judge anyone for any reason and that Christianity is about never telling anyone they’re wrong. I watched the news and listened to the radio and started wondering if maybe I’d been wrong all along and things are actually quite gray. I also genuinely believed this “questioning” was liberation from my “black and white” judgmentalism. Now that I was free to think for myself about these issues and not have a religious institution, and especially not an ancient document written for a different culture at a different time, do the thinking for me, I could finally be okay with myself and at peace with the world.

After a series of events leading to God’s grace gripping my heart, I started actually reading the Bible. And you know what’s funny? It is black and white. There is right and wrong, justice and injustice, in or out. Life is exactly as black and white as I thought it was when I was a child and the answer to all of life’s problems is both glaringly obvious and paradoxically simple:

We need a Substitute.

The Gospel has brought me full circle. My heart posture was wrong, but the answer was not to compromise and question, it was to fall back on the seemingly childish truths of scripture. I am a sinner; God sent Jesus; He died for my sins; now I’m called righteous. Questioning biblical morality is not freedom from judgmentalism – grace is. A small God who serves my whims or current circumstances is not liberating – a big God who sovereignly controls everything is. We are wrong and God is right, it’s that simple. And incredibly, He provides the answer.

Thankful Thursday

Today is “Thankful Thursday” and wouldn’t you know it, I’ve thought of every reason to not be thankful today, which is the very reason I have written this post.

  • I’m thankful for one working vehicle and a handy husband who is able to fix the other. I’m thankful to have two vehicles even though one is out of commission.
  • I’m thankful for the “together time” for my husband and I created by only having only one running vehicle.
  • I’m thankful that the LORD is our healer and that He hears our prayers. I’m thankful that He preserves life and brings bodies back to wholeness.
  • I’m thankful we were able to spend time with family from out of town over President’s Day weekend while my cousin competed in a hockey tournament. I’m also thankful my cousin’s team won the tournament! What fun it was to see them in action.
  • I’m thankful for the exceptionally beautiful weather we enjoyed over the weekend before the snow hit.
  • I’m thankful to have celebrated another birthday this week and for all the gifts/texts/tweets/Facebook messages I received. This was the first birthday I’ve celebrated without my dad and it made me terribly sad, but I am thankful for the gift of life he and my mom gave me. And I’m grateful for all the birthdays I got to celebrate with him during his life.

See, who am I kidding? I have oodles to be thankful for. Thank you LORD for your many blessings.

Oh give thanks to the Lord

Beyond the Best…

…there is a “Better.”

I first heard this phrase from a phenomenal teaching by Paige Benton Brown at The Gospel Coalition 2012 National Women’s Conference. The teaching is called “In the Temple: The Glorious and Forgiving God” and in it she traces the motif of the temple through the entire Bible, using 1 Kings 8 as her launching platform. I’ve been so blessed by this message – I’ve listened to it multiple times.

What I loved the most about it was that she took me from the Old Testament to the New Testament to the present and into the future without making me feel dumb. When people start talking “types and shadows” I admit, I get a little nervous that I’m not going to know enough background and end up nodding dumbly pretending I understand. Not so with Paige.

Her mantra leading you through the exposition is this: “Beyond the best, there is a better.” She’s talking about redemptive history and God’s providence in all of His creation. It’s everywhere in the Bible, if you’re looking for it. The concept is similar to people talking about reading the Bible “to see Christ” or “with a “redemptive historical focus” (check out Trent Hunter’s Bible Eater Reading plan). This concept has helped me tremendously.

Redemptive history has been leaping out at me especially in the theme of the Sabbath. It’s been on my mind quite a bit and I’ve already posted about it here and here. I don’t have time here to fully flesh out the concept through the whole Bible, but just to give you a rough and dirty example of what I’m talk about:

Beyond the Best there is a BetterIn Genesis we see that God takes a day of rest on the seventh day after creating the universe and everything in it. Soon thereafter, God makes it a commandment that we should take a day of rest, a holy day set apart for the LORD. In the Levitical law, an entire Sabbath year is commanded for the land (to allow it to lay fallow in order to keep producing crops). When the Israelites are exiled by the Chaldeans at the first fall of Jerusalem, it’s mentioned that the “land enjoyed it Sabbaths” for 70 years. This is all good – the Israelites had a literal day of rest, received a double portion of miraculous manna in the wilderness to prepare the the Sabbath day, and even the land itself got a Sabbath. But beyond the best there is a better.

In the New Testament, Jesus is constantly confronted about Sabbath rules. He is accused of profaning the Sabbath by allowing his disciples to eat grain from the field. Jesus’ response is to declare himself lord of the Sabbath. We can fully rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ because he lived a perfect life, was crucified, and rose again from the dead. Jesus died once for all and declared “it is finished.” His coming fulfills the purpose of the Sabbath; and so we rest.

But wait, beyond the best there is a better! After Jesus ascended he left us the Holy Spirit as a comforter. We can have peace that surpasses understanding with God’s spirit indwelling us. He constantly reminds us of the truth of what Christ accomplished for us! We can walk in a Sabbath rest daily, hourly, every moment in fact!

But beyond the best, there’s an even better. In the fullness of time, a final fulfillment of Sabbath rest is promised. Hebrews 4:1-4 talks about a rest yet to come – not only will we, mankind, be at peace, but all creation. There will be a new heavens and a new earth and all things will be made right. The land and everything in it will be allowed to “enjoy its Sabbaths” forever. No more tears, no more sin, no more death, no more pain – just the overarching, brighter-than-sunlight blazing, beauty and holiness of Jesus. This final Sabbath rest for everything and everyone will be a grand and glorious worship service!

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So that’s “redemptive history”! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Not only did I do a ridiculously high fly-over of all the Sabbath has to offer, but there are hundreds more themes in the Bible just waiting to be mined for all their great worth. So have at it fellow Christians, drink deeply the word of life and be satisfied!

Photo Credit: MB Photography

Future Grace

If our waiting begins by quieting the activities of daily life, and being still before God; if we bow and seek to see God in His universal and almighty operation; if we yield to Him in the assurance that He is working and will work in us; if we maintain the place of humility and stillness, and surrender until God’s Spirit has stirred up in us confidence that He will perfect His work, our waiting will indeed become the strength and joy of the soul.

-Andrew Murray, The Believer’s Secret of Waiting on God

Isaiah 64:4

On Growing Up on My Birthday

On Growing Up

Today is my birthday. And on my birthday as a somewhat introspective extrovert, I’ve been thinking about “growing up” and what it all means. I would certainly still put myself in the “young adult” category, as would most people judging by my age and life situation. I think there is “natural” maturity that comes with time and age – milestones like graduating high school, graduating college, getting married, buying a house. And then there is the Christian dynamic of “growing spiritually.” As I get older, I’m beginning to understand some things and realizing that I understand less than I thought I understood when I was an even younger adult.

If you are in Christ, scripture calls you to a life of childlike faith. We are encouraged by Jesus to pray to our “Heavenly Father.” Jesus very adamantly and quite controversially told his apostles, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4). I’ve known these scriptures and concepts since Sunday School, so you would think I would plant my feet and declare with Peter Pan: “I never want to grow up! I want always to be a little girl and to have fun!” But alas, I’ve wanted the opposite in fact. I always wondered what it would be like to see over countertops, to be the teacher or the mom, to be grown up. And spiritually too, I have striven to grow up in Christ – striven to “see over the next spiritual countertop” if you will.

In a certain sense we are encouraged by scripture to mature both naturally and spiritually. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are there to assist young and old alike to grow in wisdom. Paul says that when he was a child he thought like a child and reasoned like a child, but when he grew to be a man he put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11). And the author of Hebrews scolds:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
(Hebrews 5:12-14)

Ought we to strive to “go deeper” into the things of God? Ought we to move on from elementary things like Jesus dying on the cross? Isn’t scripture saying that this is part of growing up?

I think not. What I’ve learned thus far is that while natural maturity is about moving forward, spiritual maturity is more like moving backward, or rather starting over and then being constantly reminded of it. We have been born again into a new kingdom and are called to remain in childlike faith and dependence on the Father. Without this kind of faith it is impossible to please God. We will never move on from the Gospel. Paul says, “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The Gospel is of first importance because it’s everything – it’s my justification, the power for my sanctification, the promise of my glorification, the reason I can forgive, the reason I’m part of the church, the reason I sing. It is my joy!

So as I advance in years, may I continue to “move backward” spiritually. As I take on new responsibilities such as parenthood, may my heart be continually retreating into more and more childlike dependence on Christ. Though it feels like it runs cross-grain with natural maturity where I learn to be more and more independent, each step has also brought with it new trials. And knowing that trials produce endurance, which produces character, which produces hope shows me that it’s all working together for good. At the end of my life, I hope I will declare with Paul that I count everything as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus. That humility is true maturity.

I still have that cow-lick, it's just better disguised these days :)

I still have that cow-lick, it’s just better disguised these days 🙂