Monthly Archives: March 2012

Chex Mix: John Piper

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During my freshman year of high school, my sunday school class went through John Piper’s book “Don’t Waste Your Life”. As you probably know, John Piper is a brilliant theologian, and therefore, sometimes a bit hard to follow if you’re a concrete, feet-on-the-ground, just-give-me-something-practical person like me. Summarized version of the book: God’s glory ↔ Our joy. Since we have been made in God’s image, and since we’ve been made new people (2 Cor 5:17), we find the deepest joy when we glorify God. And God, our Father, is honored and glorified when we find joy in Him. It’s a circle: We get joy by glorifying God, and God is glorified in the joy we find through it.

In class last week, we went studied 2 Thessalonians, and the first chapter gave this concept a whole new flavor to me. Paul’s addressing a seriously discouraged church, one suffering from persecution and wolves in sheeps’ clothing (aka, not trustworthy “experts” throwing their deceptive 2 cents in), so this whole book is filled with various encouragements.

” We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters,and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you  and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.  He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thess 1:3-12

Ok, so what does this passage have to do with God’s glory ↔ our joy? What exactly is joy? Based on the majority of the ways we see “joy” used in the Bible, we could give it this definition:

Joy = the resolute assurance that God has neither lost the interest nor the power to deal with my problem.

Through the Holy Spirit, Paul comforts the Thessalonian church by saying things like, “We constantly pray for you”, “God is just”, and “they [the persecutors] will be punished”, assuring them of God’s power and sovereignty over the situation. He is not ignorant of what’s happening them, nor is He powerless to stop it. Why, then are these people God loves suffering?

The answer is a long one, but, simplified it all comes down to God’s glory. God made us with free will, because He wants us to choose to glorify Him; He gets more glory that way. The trouble is, a choice always has at least two options; in this case, it’s glorifying God or doing our own thing. As you well know, we often pick the second choice. Adam and Eve made that choice thousands of years ago, and that changed things forever. Now, even if our sufferings aren’t the direct result of a “do your own thing” choice (ours or someone else’s), they might be a natural consequence of living in a broken world. Disease. Hurricanes. Food Allergies. God cares about us, so much so that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die in our place so we could have a relationship. But He cares about His own glory more, so He gives us the choice to choose Him or our way.

Back to 2 Thessalonians… Paul comforts the Thessalonian church by reminding them to be joyful, to remember that God is neither ignorant or powerless in their pain, even though it may seem like it. And if they stay true their calling, choosing joy over despair, God is glorified. Paul encourages them to stay strong till the end, so “the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified”.

Not only does glorifying God bring us lasting fulfillment and the overflowing peace/love/energy/happiness we often associate with joy, but in those moments when we’re really struggling, in those times when life seems to be our enemy, those seasons where the hard just keeps getting harder… In those times, when we choose joy, God is glorified. God’s glory ↔ Our joy.

Chex Mix: Singleness

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It seems like we’re always talking about marraige at “the Institute” (as the locals call my school.) Not only in class, but even just sitting around in the common room. Many of us think that we’re going to get married someday (however far away that someday is), and so we end up talking about it often. About what Biblical marraige looks like, how our culture views marraige, our own experiences with marriage (namely, our parents’ relationship), our dreams and fears, all of it. I believe that God wants me to get married, and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been diligently praying both for my someday-to-be-husband and myself, that we God would grow and mature into the people He wants us to be, for us to have a Godly relationship. But last week I realized something…

With all this dreaming, talking, praying and anticipating, maybe I’ve lost sight of a true gift: singleness. Though it is temporary, this single state I find myself in really is a gift from God. Take it from 1 Corinthians 7:34, a single woman “can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband.”

As a single woman, I can be spontaneous, just pack up and go whenever I hear of an opportunity (which I LOVE). I can be sacrificially generous, since I only have to support myself. I can pour myself into the lives of others, since I have fewer responsibilities at home. And, most important, I can truly devote myself in digging deeply into God’s Word, flushing out the old-self-sin issues that still have ties in my life. Not that a dating/engaged/married woman cannot have a thriving walk with Jesus, but as a single woman, I don’t have any other major time-consuming relationships at the forefront of my life. In many practical ways, Jesus can be first.

Thank you to Pastor Aaron for reminding me of the gift of singleness.

Chex Mix: Leadership

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After 5 1/2 months, I’ve finally experienced a major bout of writer’s block. And to break this awkward, month-long silence, I’ve decided to try out something new. I’m calling it “Chex Mix”. I’ve got a bunch of different thoughts swirling in my head, some are hard and crunchy, some are long and salty, and some are probably more air than actual substance. But I’m hoping that through these blog posts I’ll be able to grasp both the specific individual ingredients mixing inside me, and the ideas of the blend as a whole, resulting in a delicious handful of the sanctification process.

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January 8th. My last Sunday in Alaska was a bittersweet day. Eager to return to school after my three-week-long Christmas break, but also hesitant to leave my beloved church, family and, as I say here, my lovely home-state. So I sat through the Sunday morning service with my church, thinking these chocolate-y thoughts….

We had just started a sermon series on what the Church is called to be in the Bible, and that day’s sermon was about each member using its spiritual gift(s) for the benefit of the whole Body, based on Romans 12. As the preacher spoke (using His gifts to benefit the Body), God was using Scripture to plant seeds inside me that would only start blooming months later.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well…. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously…” Rom 12:6,8

Like many of the things God has taught me this year, the roots of the lesson passed by without a thought. Fast forward two months. Something my Youth Pastor said years ago, regarding spiritual gifts, began resurfacing in my mind. After completing a spiritual gift assessment as part of our youth leaders’ retreat, I asked him about some of my results.

“Jeremy, this says that I might have the spiritual gift of faith. How can that be? I’ve had some seasons of my life where I’ve wrestled with doubt on a major scale. Sometimes I still do…. How could someone who struggles with doubt be gifted with faith? Isn’t that a contradiction?”

I don’t think I’ll ever forget his response: “No, Jessi. That makes perfect sense. You see, people gifted in certain areas tend to think about those things more deeply than everyone else. For instance, I have not been gifted with faith; I take the Bible at its word, and just move on. Jesus resurrected from the dead, ok cool. But someone gifted with faith will take that truth and really chew on it, analyzing all its possibilities. “Is this really true? And if so, what does that mean in life?” That doubt could be the very proof that you’re gifted; the Truth of the Word is so important to you that you can’t help but really chew on it.”

Now, I recognize that this statement can be taken too far, but I think the principle is spot on: Often times you can a gift is seen in someone’s life by the presence of it’s “opposite”.

These past few weeks, I’ve been doing some serious thinking as I lay in bed. Evidently something about being parallel with the floor before you fall asleep and when you first wake up is conducive to deep thought. Thinking thoughts about all my leadership responsibilities…. “Jessi, do you realize how much this will take? The amount of prayer that needs to go into this, before and after? I want to do this right, and that means hours and hours of study…. I need to be developing a plan for what I want to happen through this… My heart isn’t in the right place; I need to be examining my motives, preparing my heart before I do anything…” All kinds of thoughts like this souping around inside me. And about half the time, I’ve found myself thinking: “You know what, maybe I’m just not cut out for this. I must not be gifted in leadership like I thought I was. After all, why would all these responsibilities be so constantly present in my mind if I was a leader? Should it just be natural?”

And now we can pick Romans 12:8 back up again: “If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously…” My Youth Pastor’s statement about spiritual gifts has come back to me…. What if all this thought/worry/stewing is actually confirmation that I’m gifted in leadership? God is allowing me to see these leading roles in the fullness of their flavors (whether or not I’m handling that perpective properly).

Maybe this is why Paul tells the Roman leaders that they need to “take the responsibility seriously”. A leader can respond to responsibility in one of two ways. You can let the intimidation of the task(s) make the decision for you, running from your giftings because, “It’s too hard”, or “I’m just not cut out for this”. Or, you can choose to take the responsibility seriously. All the prep-time involved, all the energy it requires, all the time, emotions, freedom and comfort you need to sacrifice… And you lay it down before God, asking Him to help you take the tasks He’s given you seriously. And then, you just buckle down and do your best. Be disciplined, work hard (and Sabbath hard). Take the responsibility seriously. Sure, you’ll be exhausted…. But what’s more satisfying than a job well done?