Thursday, August 9, 2012

If You Were A Boat

I'm back, today anyway, beating the same drum I hope I have from the start: where our hope is.  Our hope is in Christ.  Today, I've got a question that's been rattling around in my head.  For context, I could refer to JD Greear teaching that a believer's life should have absolutely no explanation for how it's lived, except for the gospel.  I can testify that the gospel-defended life is most likely one characterized by much sin and suffering, as is the gospel, but much more so by grace, healing, restoration, mercy, love and joy.  There is no gospel-centered life without sacrifice, as there's no gospel without suffering, and sacrifice wouldn't be sacrifice if it were easy.  

I could also say that a recently, Matt Papa shared this little gem: why would God give you what you've always wanted, if what you've always wanted isn't Him?  Indeed, there's no corner of our life, not even the happy, good, God-pleasing corners, that is not to be laid on the table as a willing sacrifice, for His glory and our good.  When our happy lives and all of their pleasing, or at least pleasurable, corners are offered up, the glory revealed and healing and knowledge of Our Father and His Son, who already sacrificed more than we ever could while we still hated Him, are sweeter blessings than we could have known absent the opportunity to give over what we thought was so sweet.  

I can also say that truly loving people - hurting, hurtful, sinful people - with the love which we have received is hard.  But for the gospel, there is no explanation for loving someone when that love appears to be of absolutely no benefit to us, and in fact when it is most painful and costly.  The gospel is that while I was still a sinner, while I was still a long way off, while I was hostile, stiff-necked, proud, stubborn, covetous, gossiping, mean, defensive, defiant, unfaithful, unrepentant, selfish, dispassionate, fearless, lying, and blind to my need for Him, Christ died for me.  I am the beneficiary of a gift I needed so desperately I couldn't even ask for it.  As a response, I am charged with loving the way that I have been loved:  selflessly, sacrificially, repeatedly, patiently, with endurance and kindness and with no other explanation.  We don't love people because they are worthy; we love people because Christ is worthy.

So, here's the question and I think the answer, which in fact are related to having only the gospel as an explanation for one's life or one's response to suffering and to offering up what's good for what is better: of what benefit is it to the wind to fill the sails of a boat and move it across the water, but to give glory to the One who commands the wind?  Of what benefit is it to the tree to harbor the bird in a storm, but to demonstrate the power and provision of the One who sustains its branches and makes it strong?  Of what benefit is it to the moon and stars to guide lost sailors, but to testify to the glory of the One who spoke them into creation with a word?  Of what benefit is it to a sister who at great cost suffers alongside her brother, bearing up his burden in his season of weakness, but to point to the One who sustains her and is the refuge where she hides, that she can show His promises of healing fulfilled.  I confess:  I am a boat with sails full of wind I don't deserve.  Hopefully, sometimes, I'm the wind.

Friends who know and are beneficiaries of the gospel:  it is my hope that you would recognize lives defended and explained only by the gospel as just that, and give your Father glory.  Be grateful when you are the beneficiary of gospel love.  Live out the gospel in your life, for the benefit of redeemed sinners and for the glory of God.  Do not shrink for fear that no one will understand; if inexplicable love is your testimony, then tell it.  It's not explanation that makes the gospel known; it's revelation, and that's not your job.  Leave yourself no other defense for how you love but that the love and mercy you have received is so much greater than what you could ever give.  Every life, with all that is good and bad in it, a living, willing, paltry, joyful sacrifice in response to the most glorious and highest price paid for us, for our good and God's glory.

Also, I love this song.  For goodness sake, listen to it.

With gratitude for inexplicable love in my life and for being loved for no reason other than the gospel, thanks for coming back, and thanks for praying.


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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Radio Silence

I realize the blog has been quiet for some months, but I'm breaking the radio silence...sorta. It's been on my mind. The kind few who encourage me in my writing here have been on my mind. I have lots I want to share, in due time. But I wanted to update the blog, since I've had some folks lately asking when I'll be back writing here again. While this season of life is not one where I'm writing here frequently, I still want to maintain this as a way to communicate with the people who have prayed for, financially supported and loved our family, particularly as we entered our adoption journey and thanked God for the gift of and mourned the loss of two babies during pregnancy around that same time. The Lord has been moving in big and little ways throughout the last year for our family. Here's a little update.

We are still in the process to adopt a child or siblings from Ethiopia. The picture above is part of our application requiring family photos, and my amazing sister-in-law Anna took the fantastic pictures. The process has grown a great deal slower than what it was when we began in 2010. We are encouraged that the authorities and systems which oversee that process there are improving it and that so many caring people are working very hard on behalf of the children who wait for families there. We pray daily, more than daily, for the children the Lord will bring to our family and for the children who wait. Our oldest son is a particularly fervent advocate in prayer for these children, and for this I am very grateful. Our wait is not in vain; we are seeing the Lord grow our boys during the wait, even if lately they are impatient for "baby sister." I am also seeing the Lord answer some of my very specific prayers for our family, creating changes that only He could make. He has done this faithfully on a grand scale since He established our family, and I've been very slow to realize His pattern of faithfulness. I repent, and I now know and want to declare that God is good and faithful to hear and answer clearly my prayers for my husband in particular.

Since we learned that the wait for a match with our Ethiopian child/ren could be years away yet, last summer we completed a training class required by our state for families who wish to adopt a child from the foster care system. This is not instead of adopting from Ethiopia, but in addition and in the meantime, while we wait. We want to be open to adopting whomever the Lord wants us to, and this was part of the process for us in being available to do His work and to receive His blessing of children. We are encouraged that there are currently very few children waiting for parents in our county, but we know that so many more children wait throughout the U.S. If you are interested or curious about that process or about who the children are who are waiting right now for parents, please visit There are photo listings and profiles of children waiting right now to be adopted. I encourage you to go and pray over the children who wait, by name, even if you are not able to adopt. These children need our prayers, and they need mommas and daddies, and they need them right now.

I want to close by sharing a final word about what the Lord is teaching me and my family right now in this season of Lent, as we remember Christ's walk toward the cross and the very great sacrifice He made as a gift to us, which was a matter of love and justice.

In considering all of the changes on the horizon which I'm sure I'll write about here later that the Lord is leading our family into, I find myself checking my motives. Is it possible that I am being selfish? Is it possible that I somehow coincidentally want what I believe the Lord is setting before us? Is it somehow just my biological, natural preference and my clever reasoning that "it must then be what the Lord wants" when my will lines up with what the Lord has called us to do in scripture? In His grace, the Lord has revealed in His word to us that we are absolutely, utterly, unequivocally incapable of doing any good on our own. Praise God! I can be assured that whatever I desire that is glorious and obedient to Him is the work of His Spirit in me. Hallelujah, I am not responsible for or culpable for or guilty of coming up with schemes that please me and only by coincidence please Our Father. He is absolutely, 100% the author of my good desires and my pleasures at serving Him, and my joy in doing the things that I now love as I run to Him are nothing short of His sovereign, loving hand, the outpouring of his Spirit in me. This is amazing grace.

I find the illustrations of Jesus as our lawyer-like advocate before God particularly touching, as I'm a lawyer for poor people who do not pay for services. They can't afford our services, and the only thing they can do to qualify to receive them is to need them and ask. We advertise our services to people who need them; they need them and ask. Sound familiar? No, I don't consider all non-profit law firms Christlike, but I do appreciate the illustration. Here's where the earthly lawyer analogy breaks down (and they all ultimately do). Jesus is our advocate, standing beside us, pleading our case which would be absolutely hopeless absent Him sacrificing Himself on our behalf, absent His perfect life for my sinful one, absent His love for sinners who hated Him before they had any desire for Him and before they knew Him, absent all of God's justifiable wrath poured out on the head of a spotless lamb. My case is, as lawyers say, not meritorious. I shouldn't win. A just judge would not find in my favor. And God is a just judge. However, my Advocate explains on my behalf to the Just Judge that the penalty for my sin has been paid and any further penalty assessed would be double payment, unfair and unjust punishment. There is no double jeopardy in the trial for our cosmic treason. We are sinners who have but one trial and one winning defense. It's impenetrable and reliable and will win for every single one who claims it.

This is what the Lord is teaching and reminding me as He answers very big prayers for me and for our family, as He seems to be setting before us some opportunities that, absent His unfathomable love for us and for His people, make absolutely no since. But we serve at the pleasure of a King who gives and asks things that are beyond earthly comparison. And when we take joy in running after Him with loving recklessness, we can be assured that, though the path we take may not have been taken by many, or any, and though it may appear a mine field, it is nonetheless very carefully laid out before us, and it is far safer than one that does not follow Him.

All of that is to say that the Lord is not failing at making life exciting lately for our family. We are very prayerfully considering how we best follow Him. He has given me great joy in considering all that He might use us for in growing His kingdom. We humbly ask you to join us in praising God for giving His children His Spirit, and that we would listen carefully to how and where it leads.

Lastly, and for a much better explanation of what I'm getting at here, I am happy to commend to you our pastor's first sermon in his current series on the Holy Spirit. I particularly love J.D. Greear's explanation of how Jesus advocates for us, which is the ultimate purpose of the cross: that God's perfect and ultimate justice is served and He is glorified in a heinous yet beautiful reconciliation of us, His wayward children, to Him, whom we will continue to discover every day of eternity.

OK, that's it, friends. I pray that you are heavy and joyful with the reality of sin and the marvel of the cross as we recall how our Champion joyfully, recklessly, lovingly SAVED all who would receive His free gift of a clean slate in exchange for our rap sheet, from an eternity separated from Him.

Admitting that it could be awhile, but until next time, thanks for coming back, and thanks for praying.