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Wednesday, September 28, 2011


"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control." Galatians 5:22-23

I just emerged from a two day fast. Going without food is physically draining, almost to the point of hilarity. There were times where my mind felt so foggy. During a conversation I had with a woman I just met, she said her child's name, said his nickname, I asked her again what his name was, five minutes later realized who she was talking about, and on the drive home, I realized the name and nickname were the same person. Holy cow.

I think about that physical draining and I know that time away from God produces the same mental, emotional weakness. I unequivocally, absolutely, 100% need need need time with the Savior. I never grasped the urgency, the necessity, the absolute criticalness of that dependency. I transitioned from doing it because I felt obligated and 'didn't do enough' to 'I love it because I enjoy learning and being in God's presence'. But these last few days, I have understood that I am oh so weak when I am not fueled by Christ. I need it because I need God. And that is pleasing to Him.

Psalm 63 says, "O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food." There are no empty comparisons in God being our Daily Bread. Every. Single. Day He is our Sustainer. We don't fill up on food at the beginning of the week and hope it lasts. The same is true of our God and Savior.

I've been reading through Galatians 5 this week. Learning about the desires of the flesh vs. walking by the Spirit. When I choose the Spirit, I live by love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self Control. Doesn't that sound so refreshing? The flesh is in direct contrast with that beauty and when we stiff arm our sinfulness and make a better choice, we accept and live by what the Spirit gives. The Spirit not only fights against sin in defense, but in attack through the creation of Godly character. That blows my mind in gratefulness.

The Apostle Paul reiterates again and again that the only way to conquer flesh is to yield to the Spirit. Relinquish, surrender, cede. Not by doing more, not by reading a theology book, BUT BY THE SPIRIT. Every piece of me apart from the transforming work of the Holy Spirit is sin. It can never be good on its own. But Christ has crucified the flesh and Christians have died with Christ to sin. The old order has passed away and our sinful selves that belonged to that order have crumbled away. I am saved from my flesh.

I'll be honest with you, there are hard days. I don't want to tie a nice ribbon around this blog post and call this battle won. It's an every day, constant, continual dependency. Being in receptive communion with the Spirit every. single. day. I still feel 'fleshy'. I do the very things I hate. To borrow from Paul, I desire to do what is right, but I don't have the ability to carry it out. I don't do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. I still struggle with sanctification not having a finish line. But I am refreshed to know there is Someone working in me to tear that flesh away. I'm not on my own in this process of refinement. I am humbled by the work of Christ.

Yielding to the Spirit, going against the flesh, starts with discipline.

Holy Spirit, lead me.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Positioning of My Heart

I've been having a lot of conversations lately with friends about purpose and motive and why I do what I do. Why do I write? Why do I work? Why do I volunteer? Why am I in school? I strip away all the pretenses and knock down all the walls and lay all my actions and thoughts down in front of me and most of the time what I see is ugly.

I carry the question of 'why' with me everywhere I go. I weigh the 'why' answer against every action I do. And not in a 'why am I here in this world' kind of thing, because I know the answer to that (praise Jesus), but more of an examination of my motives. What I am driven by. Am I working for myself? Do I do these things to get recognition? To gain knowledge? Am I being used for something bigger? Do I just like to hear myself talk?

It's been a critical analysis. I have found myself jolted awake by the pounding words to my heart WHY ARE YOU HERE? And I'll answer 'because I love students and I love volunteering.' Or 'because I love to learn.' And the pounding always pushes for more : BUT WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? NO. REALLY. WHY ARE YOU HERE? And it always causes me to pause and think. Is it to make my name great? Am I really in my heart living my life to make His name great?

God will suffer no rival.

I hope I'm not alone when I say it's been hard. Life gets familiar and it's easy to get lost going through the motions. I search for routine and structure and organization and work at getting my obligations down. But I've come to a place of conviction where I realize I don't want to live that way anymore. I don't want to do things just to do them or fulfill duties out of obligation. I don't want my motives to be empty. I don't think it's good enough anymore to answer the 'why' question with 'because I'm needed' or 'because they're good things.' Those may be true, but I think if my sole answer isn't to glorify God and make His name great, well, then what I do is meaningless.

Glorifying God comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes. I love my job because I get the chance to influence kids with the Gospel. I am inspired by volunteers who work hard. I work with a wonderful team who challenges and encourages and prays. I love going to class because learning stimulates me to grow. I love writing because it's been an incredible discipline for me. I want to be a counselor because I want to pour out Jesus Christ. I love volunteering with students because I think high school is such a formative time and I want girls to have positive influences and to know what matters.
I look at all those things and think God can be glorified through them all. But I know I can say one thing and do another, say one thing and feel another, and I pray fervently for a pure heart that remains rooted in keeping God first and foremost centered in my mind. I want to be a vessel of the Spirit, but it's me that gets in the way. Sometimes it's so subconscious! It's an uncomfortable process to tear away the inner gunk called sin nature, but through that process, I count myself grateful for a God who changes gunk to refinement.

It also serves as a good reminder when something doesn't go the way I want it to or I just have too much on my plate. I stomp my feet like an impatient infant and wallow in paralysis. And then I hear that voice say WHY ARE YOU HERE. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS. And I'm reminded that it's not about me.

God will suffer no rival.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Unmerited Favor

Hey! Here I am! I'll start off by being honest. I am completely wiped. The only reason I'm awake right now is because the show Parenthood premieres at 10. A lot's been going on and I'm learning a new normalcy and finding a new routine. I know this is a transitional phase and so I cling to the faithful, stable God who provided all these great things! I have been blessed with unmerited favor.

I started my classes at Gordon-Conwell this past weekend (loved it) and I started my new job this past Sunday (also loved it). God has been faithful to provide me with incredible opportunities. One of the coolest things about our God is that He doesn't just drop us off to fend for ourselves once He leads us somewhere. He lovingly provides and lovingly sustains. Oh what a unfathomable God He is!

While I'm navigating through new things, I am thankful for grace. Grace that I'm not going to have a schedule down right away. Grace that I'm not going to always have the time or the energy to blog. Grace that there will be challenges and grace that I will stumble. I learn to praise God for those stumblings because through them, He is glorified and I am refined. Oh what a beautiful God He is!

I know there are incredible learnings coming my way (so stay tuned!). Throughout this new season, I pray my knees get worn out from spending time with my Father, I pray my journal is filled with new wrestlings as I continue to die to sin, I pray my life is filled with meaningful relationships and conversations that glorify our Creator, I pray my work is filled with a passion and a commitment that honors and serves my Savior, and I pray I come away with a greater sense of what Christ's sacrifice has done.

I'm ready for the ride!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Redemption Doesn't Cost Seven Pounds

The tagline for the movie Seven Pounds reads : An aerospace engineer with a fateful secret embarks on an extraordinary journey of redemption by forever changing the lives of seven strangers.

Extraordinary journey of redemption? Redemption?? That's redemption??

Will Smith is Tim Thomas, a gentle, gracious, kind hearted, burdened, tortured man who's got a past he can't forget. He meticulously plans a way to free himself from what he feels. As he steps into the bathtub in the final ten minutes, you realize he's ending his life to save seven complete strangers.. to account for the seven lives lost in the car accident he takes full responsibility for.

As the credits are rolling, I sit on the couch, devastated, thinking there was a better way.

I research the movie and words like atonement and debt jump out at me. The title is named for a reference in the Shakespeare play 'The Merchant of Venice,' in which the debtor must pay a pound of flesh. A pound for a pound. A gift for a mistake. A life for a life. Tim Thomas doesn't want to do it: he has to. He's bound by what happened. He shouts out the names of those who were killed to remind himself of the hurt. I'm a debtor and I've got to pay. I've wronged someone and I've got to atone. I've got to make up for what's been done. I've got a strike against me and I'm indebted to it.

Do I live a seven pounds kind of life?

We all have the secrets and the pasts and the really bad, no good, horrible things that we're almost positive obscure us from God and His love. We tackle them ourselves, spend more time doing good, more time being nice, more time being loving and caring. We make redemption and atonement our project, our assignment, and we work and work until we feel better. And then guilt hits us like an unexpected brick wall. Does the good ever outweigh the bad? That question gets exhausting.


The gospel says, let Me take all your sins and mistakes and things you wish you could take back.. and I'll show you a cross. I loved you so much I died FOR you. I died so you didn't have to. I am the spotless Lamb. I took away 'a pound for a pound' and I have given you life so that you may live it to the fullest! Throw off shame, throw off guilt and torture and burden and lift your hands and your life to Me. I sustain you and I preserve you and I have saved you. Stop trying to save yourself! I already did it! I forgive you, I love you, I created you. COME TO ME.

Jesus has freed us from a Seven Pounds life. We're no longer in chains, our sin doesn't bind us. We don't have to walk around with shame on our backs or devote our entire lives to making things right. He's cleared our debt : we've got clean slates! When we confess and repent and accept Jesus as Lord, He sets us free. And oh what a freedom that is.

So yes, we do give our lives. Jesus wants our lives, our hearts, our minds, our pasts, our regrets, our futures. He wants all of it. Yes, we die to ourselves, to others, to our sin. Yes, it's painful. Will Smith was right, it costs everything. But it costs everything earthly and gives you everything eternal. We don't end it; we give it. And there's a happy ending : it's when our new lives begin!

Here's some redemption:

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith." (Romans 3:23-25)

"In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth."(Ephesians 1:7-10)

"He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14)

"Most of us work and work trying to prove ourselves, to convince God, others, and ourselves that we are good people. That work is never over unless we rest in the gospel. On the cross Jesus was saying of the work underneath your work- the thing that makes you truly weary, this need to prove yourself because who you are and what you do are never good enough- that IT IS FINISHED. He has lived the life you should have lived, He has died the death you should have died. If you rely on Jesus' finished work, you know that God is satisfied with you. You can be satisfied with life." (Tim Keller, King's Cross)