To whom it may concern

I’m slowly counting down the days until I finally know your name…

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:12-17, ESV)

A borrowed prayer

By Cynthia Heald in Becoming a Woman of Faith

Lord, this is your life. I have prayed and I know that it is Your will that I make this trip. I know that you are always with me as my shield, and I know that it pleases You when I wholeheartedly abandon myself to You. My circumstances ultimately don’t matter; what matters in my profound confidence in You as my loving Father. I know You desire to prove my faith so that it grows deep enough to bring praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. My heart is set on the eternal, so I will choose to walk, fly, run, wait, and rest by faith. Strengthen me to fix my eyes on Jesus so that at the end of my life I will be able to say with Paul, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’

O Father, may the mustard seed of my faith put down deep roots in order to endure patiently the trials I will encounter. May its trunk be strong and sturdy to deflect Satan’s attacks. May this tree of faith flourish in my heart so that there is no room for doubt or fear. May its branches produce fruit that will testify to Your faithfulness. May others who see this tree be encouraged to run their race by faith alone. Lord, strengthen my faith and make it genuine, so that its leaves may shine pure gold. May my faith, which is precious to You, bring You praise and glory and honor. Amen.

He understands

Are you lonely? Jesus understands… all too well.

Jesus Understands Loneliness

by Jon Bloom | October 12, 2012

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3)

Sometimes we feel alone in the world. Jesus understands this feeling. In a very human sense, he was alone.

Imagine what living in this world was like for Jesus. He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). That might sound like a pleasant problem to deal with. I don’t think so. I think it was tormenting. Peter described sinful Lot’s experience in Sodom as being tormented day after day by the “lawless deeds that he saw and heard” (2 Peter 2:8). How much worse was it for sinless Jesus living in a world of sin?

Imagine what his childhood was like. He would have been odd, sticking out morally like a sore thumb, never quite fitting in with any group, even his own family.

Even his loving parents wouldn’t have fully understood him. Nor would they have been able to protect him from others’ stinging remarks and maybe cruel mocking over his unsullied strangeness.

I wonder how much came from his siblings? His brothers and sisters (Matthew 13:55–56) would have grown increasingly self-conscious around him, aware of their own sinful, self-obsessed motives and behavior, while noting that Jesus didn’t seem to exhibit any himself. What resentments accrued? All was not harmonious because Jesus’s own brothers didn’t believe in him (John 7:5), possibly until after his resurrection (Acts 1:14).

Jesus was a sinless person living with sinful parents, sinful siblings, sinful extended relatives and sinful neighbors. No one on earth could identify with him. No human being could put an arm around him as he sat in tears and say, “I know exactly what you’re going through.” His sorrow and grief (Isaiah 53:3) began way before Gethsemane.

But Jesus’s loneliness reached its apex the moment he became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) on the cross and was “forsaken” by his Father (Matthew 27:46). First he was estranged by sinlessness and then from being sin. Jesus knew supreme rejection and loneliness.

Which makes him perfectly suited to understand yours. He is a high priest who can sympathize with this weakness (Hebrews 4:15).

But Jesus doesn’t just understand your loneliness; he’s destroying it. Because he died on your behalf, you are no longer truly a stranger or alien, but you are a fellow citizen with the saints and a member of God’s family (Ephesians 2:19). Because Jesus was alienated from God and man, you will enjoy the full family fellowship of God and all of his redeemed saints forever.

Child of God, your loneliness is passing away. The day is nearing when you will know as you have been fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12). And the fading loneliness you still feel Jesus understands.

So “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that [you] may receive mercy and find grace to help” with every lonely need (Hebrews 4:16).

The heart of a fervent missionary

I came across this portion of Acts 20 this morning while reading. Something about Paul’s character in these verses spoke straight to me. Perhaps it’s his sacrificial love for the Church, or maybe it’s the “hearty” personality in him that I admire, or possibly his fervent passion for devoted missional work to grow His kingdom. Might even be all of those things combined. 😉 Nevertheless, I wanted to share the verses with you all. It is a farewell note to the Ephesian elders… a hearty message to encourage and say goodbye to those who would carry a part of the Body after Paul’s eventual and foreknown imprisonment… good stuff.

And when they came to him, he said to them:
“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.

(Acts 20:18-38, ESV)

May we all have a heart of sacrifice and a life of purpose like Paul.

“holier-fied”

A recent post from Fabienne Harford on her blog, thoughts from fabs:

Desiring God: Sanctified

October 2, 2012 in other people’s thoughts with 1 Comment

This past week I was at the Desiring God Conference which was focused on the process of sanctification.

Sanctification is one of those churchy words.  It sounds weird and sterile, and we could throw it out and replace it with something more cuddly, but there’s really no other word that means the same thing.

John Piper kicked off the Conference by unpacking the word sanctification in a way that left my head spinning.  Basically, if we want to be sanctified, it literally means, we want to be ‘holier -fied”;we want to be made more holy.

I’m scared of the word holy.  I’m fine with God being holy, but I get nervous about someone asking or expecting me to be holy.  I guess, in my head holiness makes me think of nuns washing my mouth out with soap.

But holiness is so much more than an outward conformity to a moral law.

God is not common place.  He is one of a kind.  And His holiness is the fact that his actions, thoughts and feelings line up with the value and worth that is His alone.  He invites us to share in His holiness by calling us to use all our faculties to display how crazy precious He is because He’s God.

In Piper’s words:

Sanctification is the action by which we bring our thoughts, feelings and actions into conformity with the infinite value of God’s transcendent fullness.

Or, in my words:

God isn’t like us.  He’s God.  And that means He’s worth more than anything in the world.

As we are sanctified, our feelings and thoughts and actions will reflect that reality more and more each moment until finally we’ll be perfectly holy.  And we’ll spend eternity using our minds and hearts and hands to display how infinitely valuable God is because He’s the only uncreated being; He alone is God.

Holiness is when all your thoughts and feelings and actions line up to accurately reflect the value and worth that God has because He is God.

I love that.

It means that my process of sanctification is not about ‘sinning less’.  Sanctification doesn’t mean I wake up every day thinking: ‘don’t be angry today! don’t lust today!‘  Sanctification is about echoing more and more who God really is; reflecting Him more clearly: hollowing out your soul to make room to display to the universe the truth of His worth.

And for those of us who are in Christ, sanctification is not just a word, it’s a promise.  It’s a promise that God will spend every ounce of His fierce power on us, pouring a refining fire over us and melting us its heat.  Sanctification is a promise of His gentle modeling, as He patiently  softens us like water washing over a stone.  It is the obsessive and painstakingly loving promise that God will not rest until He has finished what He started. He will remake us in the glorious image of His Son who spent every thought and feeling and action displaying the Father’s unique value.

I’m going to try to summarize all I learned into the following posts, (but this is defo subject to change)…

  • Sanctified or destroyed
  • Sanctified by singleness
  • Sanctified in broken bodies
  • Sanctified by discipline
  • Sanctified by one another
  • Sanctified by blood
  • Sanctified by God’s Word
  • Sanctified by works
  • Sanctified by faith

College favorites

I love looking back at sections of verse (and song lyrics) that have spoken so boldly into my life. They’re each little snippets of the emotions of my heart and thoughts of my mind during past struggles and joys. They’re real and raw–full of truth and grace. Realizing all that God has taught me through each text during those phases of life is incredibly affirming to me. He is a mighty God who was there with me then, and He is here with me now.

teaching. guiding. speaking. loving.

____________________________

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
(John 14:1, ESV)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death… For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”… heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ… For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us… the Spirit helps us in our weakness… What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?… Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?… we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8, ESV)

Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:27-31, ESV)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:4-9, ESV)

Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10, ESV)

When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.
(Psalm 73:21-28, ESV)

____________________________

True brokenness, yet oh so beautifully hopeful in Christ.