Everyday Life Questions

Everyday Life Questions

Lately, I’ve found myself evaluating in greater depth what I’m spending my time and attention on. I’ll ask myself questions like: What is the most important thing for me to do today? Why am I interested in this post? Will this help my family in the long-term? These questions aren’t born out of a struggle with guilt, by the grace of God. And I am not operating under a system of rules that I think will add to my favor before the Lord, by the grace of God. The reason for why I’ve been asking these questions isn’t complicated, it’s simply learning to guard the little time I have within the 15 or so hours that I am awake within a 24-hour period. But these series of questions have led to more questions like: What do I find myself obsessed with? What would I like to do this year? How can I serve my neighbors better? What have I done for my church lately?

Thus, the start of a new series…

Over the summer, I’d love for you and me to explore questions together. These questions won’t likely be theological questions, rather I want to explore practical everyday life questions that might be actionable, or they could lead to confession and repentance in an area, or maybe the questions will help to stir love and affection for the Lord. They will likely be questions that I’m asking myself or asking my friends. They may even be questions based on a trend I see via social media.

And I’d love for you to participate.

If you feel compelled, I’d like to hear your answers to these questions either via the comments section of this blog or on my social media posts. I hope you would join me as we think and reflect on various aspects of life together. Every now and then, I’d love to feature your answers on my site. I’m going to give you a bit of a head’s up for next week’s question, which is: What Am I Truly Obsessed With?

I was inspired to ask myself this question after seeing someone quote a friend who said she’d like to be obsessed with the thing she’ll be obsessed with for eternity (paraphrasing). Next week, I’ll seek to answer honestly about my obsessions and then share why I hope to be more obsessed with the person I will have the joy of being obsessed with for eternity.

Until then, are there any questions you’d like for me to explore? Any questions you think would be useful to consider as an online community?

Proclaiming Jesus or Ourselves?

Proclaiming Jesus or Ourselves?

Recently, I watched a hilarious video about a couple pretending to visit churches looking for what might “fit them” the most. The parody has been viewed almost 200,000 times and counting, and it’s for good reason, it’s just that funny. And like most satire and parody pieces, there’s an element of truth to what it’s poking fun at. In this case, this satirical video touches on a problem.

There are many possible lessons or ideas we might be able to discuss from the video, but the thing that struck me the most was the fact that we do have churches with different DNA. I have had the joy of visiting various churches around the country and although many of the heart struggles of the men and women I’ve interacted with in those churches are the same, each individual church has its own overall unique feel, and every culture has its own emphasis. And for this reason I think it’s good for each of us to ask ourselves, when we talk about church life, disciplines, godliness, or living for the Lord, are we proclaiming ourselves and our culture, or are we proclaiming Jesus?

If you are a Christian, you have a ministry to others whether it’s “official” or not. We have a “job”, so to speak, to proclaim Jesus. As I was writing this post, I began to add scripture references to support that we are ambassadors for Jesus, I quickly discovered that there were too many to count. But perhaps the greatest commandment is enough: to love God with all of our hearts, minds, soul, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). If we truly believe the gospel to be true, there’s no greater gift and no greater way we can show love than to proclaim Jesus.

But, if we are honest, how often do we proclaim Jesus? When you look at the blogs and articles that are written, and at our organizations and even our churches, would it be easier for someone to point out all the things we are for besides Jesus? Now, please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying if you have an Etsy shop you need to make sure it’s blatantly about Jesus. Instead, I’m thinking specifically of church cultures and what comes out of our mouths when we are living out the Christian life and interacting with others. And do these various church cultures and norms actually shutout people who need Jesus? Do we have a desire to proclaim matters that are grey in the Scriptures such as: working moms vs. stay-at-home moms, homeschooling vs. public schooling, diversity vs. less diverse, traditional services vs. contemporary, etc. What are we more likely to proclaim about ourselves, our churches, and our communities—the culture or Jesus?

In Michael Reeves’s excellent book, Rejoicing in Christ, he says,

“The center, the cornerstone, the jewel in the crown of Christianity is not an idea, a system or a thing; it is not even “the gospel” as such. It is Jesus Christ.… He is not a mere topic, a subject we can pick out from a menu of options. Without him, our gospel or our system—however, coherent, “grace-filled” or “Bible-based”—simply is not Christian.

Yes! No Jesus, no Christianity. No Jesus and we are just stuck with culture. But, “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:28). Our only boast is in Jesus our Lord in whom we find our wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption (verse 30). If we are to proclaim, let us learn and grow in proclaiming Jesus: For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (1 Cor. 4:5). It’s not about us. Our living for the Lord isn’t about us. Our worship isn’t about us. Our desired practices aren’t about us. If we are going to proclaim anything, let it be this: Christ and Christ crucified.

Preaching to Myself, Too

If you’ve been around here long enough, you know I’m not telling you something that I have not myself already been convicted by or wrestling with. It can be tempting for me to place a great deal of hope in the diversity of my church, for example. I long for it and we are praying for it (and, by God’s grace, we are seeing growth! I have an awesome pastor!). But as I seek this diversity and as I encourage others to do the same, my prayer is that I’d do so because of Jesus. I’d like to say that I always proclaim Jesus, but who does? So, I’m in this struggle with you. Let’s grow together in making sure that our church cultures, mom groups, women’s ministries, you name it, are filled with the grace of God and the name of Jesus. Let’s ask God to help us make him our focus and not our culture.

Oh, and here’s that hilarious video for your enjoyment:

Jesus Paid It All

Jesus Paid It All

Over the weekend, my friend Thabiti Anyabwile tweeted a link to a clip produced by Together for the Gospel. I watched it, rejoiced, and then wept. The clip is a short section of one of Elder D. J. Ward’s, the then pastor of Lexington’s Main Street Baptist Church, sermons. He had pastored the Lexington church for 19 years before his death in 2008 due to complications from lung cancer. I have only found a little about him (John Piper’s tribute and a pastor attempting to collect his sermons) but what I’ve heard is worth learning more. His sermon will make your heart sing because the gospel makes our heart sing.

Below, I’ve attempted to transcribe most of this video, but please take a moment to listen and watch this clip from T4G. You won’t be disappointed!

Transcription:

I contend this morning that the death of Christ was not an attempt; it was an accomplishment. And now brothers and sisters, when one accomplishes something it means somewhere they had to have an assignment.

Well, what was the assignment? His name shall be called Jesus. For He shall save. Not attempt to save. Not try to save. Not hope to save. Not want to save. But He shall save His people from their sin.

Now I hear this, I hear this on television and I hear it in churches…that God has done all He can do. The rest is up to you. If the rest is up to you, then He didn’t accomplish it. If anything is up to you, He didn’t accomplish it.

I’ve even heard this: you’ve got to help God save you. He can’t do it by himself. If God cannot do it by himself, then He didn’t accomplish it. He’s a false god. He’s a liar and you best not trust Him. If He didn’t do it, then we ought to stop singing ‘Jesus paid it all’. Sing, ‘He paid some of it.’

Now brothers and sisters, if He did not accomplish it, we are here in vain. And you can have all the religion you want, if this was not accomplished, we are going to hell. It’s just that blunt, it’s just that simple, it’s just that clear.

But if He did do it. He doesn’t need your best and your works need not speak for you. If He did do it, you can leave here rejoicing that your sins are now under the blood. And He stands as your substitute, your mediator before God this morning. Pleading the blood. Pleading His blood. That perfect sacrifice that holy attainment, He’s pleading the blood. You can rest that all of my sins are under that blood.

Did He accomplish it? Did He fail? Do we need more having to come after Him? Do we need another prophet after Him?

I declare this morning He paid it all! He paid it all. Every drop of it. Every sin I was going to commit. Every sin I thought about committing. He nailed it to His cross and I bear it no more! Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

It is well with my soul.

Please watch and be encouraged, friends. Jesus did pay it all and it can be well with your soul!!

“On Christ Alone” — Elder D.J. Ward (T4G 2016) from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

Are You Afraid of the Future?

Are You Afraid of the Future?

My husband’s job sometimes takes him away on trips that last a few days or even a week at a time. Each time he leaves, I battle the fear that he will never return. He boards a flight, and I imagine the plane bursting into flames. He rents a car, and I pray he doesn’t get into a car accident. The truth is, these things could happen (okay, the plane isn’t likely to burst into flames, but go with me). I know women who have lost husbands in car accidents; I know there are times when people walk out the door for something routine and never return; but I can’t live constantly worrying about a future that hasn’t happened.

I’m not sure if there is a greater fear for women than the fear of what’s to come (or what won’t come). You and I rightly pray for our husband, children, schools, and whether to pursue a career, but we don’t often come to God in peace. Instead we come anxiously awaiting our fate. Goodness will follow all the days of her life, or her life, or maybe her life, we might think, but surely not my life. It’s hard not to have control, and one thing that we can’t ever determine is what lies ahead. Thankfully, God’s Word is packed with sweet promises that smash all our fearful thinking.

Imagine, if you will, that you are ninety years old. You are most likely frail with gray hair, potentially walking with a cane, though perhaps, these days, spending much of your time in a wheelchair because your once able and strong legs have ceased to perform. Now imagine someone comes to you and says, “Hey, Sarah, you know that child you’ve always wanted? Well, it’s time. You are finally going to bear a child.” You would look at that person in absolute disbelief. You might even laugh. All these years of waiting and longing and then, when every shred of hope is gone, a son is promised.

I am referring to the story of God’s promise of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah. In the pages of Genesis we read of how God promised Abraham a legacy of nations through the birth of one son (Genesis 17:16). Abraham and Sarah laughed in doubt as they heard God’s declaration (Genesis 17:17; 18:12). Sarah, I imagine, must have desired children prior to God’s promise. There’s a host of fears associated with the chance that you might not become pregnant, and, I would guess by her doubtful laugh, she had given up at the age of ninety on the prospect of ever conceiving. Could you imagine actually becoming pregnant at ninety?

With a rhetorical question God challenged Sarah to trust Him, after she had defiantly laughed in doubt that she would become pregnant: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). God fulfilled His promise, and Sarah miraculously became pregnant. But once she did become pregnant, she had nine months of waiting to see how her frail, weak body would respond. Would she be able to carry the baby to term? By means of a miscarriage would God teach her a lesson about trusting Him? I don’t know about you, but those are some of the thoughts I might battle after becoming pregnant at ninety. I would struggle with fear of the unknown. I would want to be in complete control of the situation. Perhaps I would struggle because I’ve had some of these fears come to fruition. I have experienced four miscarriages and have had to fight the fear of losing a child through each pregnancy.

You might be thinking, Yes, but everything turned out exactly the way these biblical characters hoped. Yes and no. Sarah would have loved to have had a child at a younger age (I assume). She died at 127 years old, leaving Abraham a mourning widower, never getting to see her son Isaac marry (Genesis 23:1; 24). And as we know, life continued to be difficult for her descendants. Did it turn out the way the Lord planned? Absolutely! And does God redeem it in the end? Yes. But you can’t see the future in your own life like you get to in God’s Word. We don’t get the whole picture, do we? So we have to trust the Lord because only He knows. But there is one thing guaranteed, which is awaiting you all the days of your life: God’s faithfulness.

Those words—God has been faithful and will be again—appear in the lyrics of “He’s Always Been Faithful” by Sara Groves. In the song she recounts God’s faithfulness through each morning and each season. She recounts, “Season by season, I watch Him amazed; in awe of the mysteries of His perfect ways.”1 Every page in God’s Word shouts of the faithfulness of God. Each story leads to Jesus and to the redemption of the world. And if we look, we can see God’s faithfulness to us now.

Every page in God’s Word shouts of the faithfulness of God. Each story leads to Jesus and to the redemption of the world. And if we look, we can see God’s faithfulness to us now.

In Deuteronomy 32:4, Moses speaks of God as the “Rock” whose works are “perfect” and ways are “justice.” He is “a God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” And we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:24 of Paul’s confidence in the faithfulness of God: “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” And elsewhere Paul writes that God will finish the good work He began in us (Philippians 1:6). Psalm 89, though a lament, still sings of God’s faithfulness: “I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. . . . O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you?” (vv. 1, 8).

You and I have to fight to remember the faithfulness of our Father when we are faced with great fears of the future. Ask yourself, how has God been faithful? This year you can count on the Lord to be faithful again. This doesn’t mean that everything will turn out exactly as you desire. This doesn’t mean each prayer will be answered as you wish. But it does mean that in God’s goodness and sovereignty, He will work all things together as He sees them to be good for you (Romans 8:28). We may not see the evidence of God’s faithful hand until the end of our days, but we know it will be there.

(This piece is an excerpt adapted from chapter 2 in Trillia’s book Fear and Faith. )

Three Benefits of Discipleship

Three Benefits of Discipleship

What happens when you get a group of women in a room to discuss life and the gospel?

Talking. Lots of talking. And questions. More questions than you can imagine. Why? Because we need each other, and sometimes life can be confusing and include insurmountable circumstances. During my time in settings like this, I’m reminded of the importance of discipleship.

Discipleship can take on many forms. It can be as simple as inviting someone into your kitchen for fellowship to organizing a normally scheduled lunch. However it looks, it involves honesty, seeking advice, and Scripture, and someone willing to do all of the above.

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes writes, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10).

He is writing about the vanity of trying to work alone as a means to outdo another. But labors aren’t the only benefit of working together. Two are also better than one as we live out our faith in Christ. We really need each other, though we often try to go at it alone. We truly need reproof and instruction, though we seldom seek it out. This is why discipleship is so important.

Here are three simple benefits of discipling relationships:

  1. Discipleship builds humility.

Our temptation might be to think we know what is best for ourselves. As you’ve heard, and maybe said before, “we know ourselves better than anyone.” Scripture says that we might actually be more confused than we think. The heart is deceitful and so to trust yourself at all times is probably not the best route to take (Jeremiah 17:9). Wise counsel from a friend, pastor, or spouse could be just the thing God uses for our protection.

Proverbs says that a wise man will hear and learn, and will acquire wise counsel (Proverbs 1:5). So we can safely assume that an unwise man will not hear from others, will shut them down and will not listen, will lack understanding and will not acquire wise counsel. We need to resist the temptation to be wise in our own eyes (Proverbs 3:7). This isn’t so easy! But as we seek to gain understanding, we must first acknowledge that we don’t always know what is best.

  1. Discipleship unites us with fellow believers.

The body of Christ isn’t meant to simply exist for us to gather together on Sundays and then move along with our lives the rest of the week. God’s word paints a picture of believers doing life together (Acts 2:44–47). Seeking counsel and discipleship is one way to invite others into your life.

Most of the time people won’t know the details of your life unless you are willing to share with them. Being willing to be discipled by another provides an opportunity for prayer and mutual encouragement (Galatians 6:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:11). We want to pursue one another because we are members of his body (Ephesians 5:30).

  1. Discipleship equips us for faithfulness.

Paul tells us in Titus 2:3 that the older women in the church should teach what is good and train the younger women. They are to equip other women in how to walk in step with the truth of the gospel. And this isn’t a suggestion — it is God’s instruction for how we should relate to one another.

This is Discipleship 101. It’s yet another proof that we need each other. We can’t obey the commands in Titus 2 without being willing to be discipled (and being available and willing to disciple others!).

Book Giveaway!

As we think about discipleship and relationships, I wanted to make sure to share about Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s newest book Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. As I wrote in my endorsement: Nancy’s instruction, wisdom, and grace will challenge you to not only pray for a woman who you might call a spiritual mother, but you’ll also desire to be the type of woman others might call on—for the good of the church and to the glory of God.

Today, I’ll be giving away 5 copies of Adorned along with 5 copies of my newest book Enjoy. Part of our temptation to neglect to pursue discipleship could be that relationships are difficult. My prayer is that the chapter in Enjoy on relationships called “The Gift of One Another” could help encourage you in this pursuit.

Five people will be sent one copy of each book.

The giveaway begins today, 2/21, and ends tomorrow night, Wednesday 2/22 at 11:59 p.m.

To enter, simply click here or fill out the form below to enter for the Adorned and Enjoy giveaway.

a version of this post first appeared at desiringGod.org.

Being Found by the Deepest Love

Being Found by the Deepest Love

It was the summer of 1998. I was leading a private camp and awaiting the arrival of my assistant. She arrived with her blonde ponytail, blue eyes, and bubbly spirit. She was a few years younger than I — and seemed it. Not that she was immature, she wasn’t, but there was innocence about her that poured out as she spoke and interacted with the campers. Our first meeting would be God’s way of forever changing the whole course of my life.

That girl was Elizabeth Plewniak (Moore at the time). She and I were polar opposites. I was black and she white. I was in college and quite academic and she had decided to leave college early to do campus ministry. Later I would find out that she came from a fairly wealthy family and I was poor (we would have been considered poor to lower-middle class). Most importantly, she was a Christian and I was not.

Growing up, I only attended church on major holidays. When I did find a church my junior year in high school it didn’t end so well. I ended up falling for an unbeliever and left the church. That wasn’t the only reason for my departure, I was also aware that there wasn’t something quite right with the doctrine. Nevertheless, I said goodbye to church and vowed never to return. I didn’t want to have anything to do with organized religion.

But that was not God’s plan.

A Roommate of Faith

So here I found myself in an odd series of events that only God could ordain, rooming with a Christian girl during a private camp. Our first night of camp she plopped down on the bed and broke open her Bible.

I was seated on the adjacent bed wondering if she would mind if I turned on the television as she began to read to herself. When I glanced at her I could feel the blood rush to my face. My guard immediately went up and I spoke frankly, “What are you doing?” All I could think was what she might say to me.

By the end of the night, we were both crying over my past church experience and my fears. By the end of the night she had also shared the gospel of salvation with me.

It took me some time before I would eventually visit her church. Elizabeth and I would meet together every now and then; but finally in the spring of 2000, after a broken engagement and humiliation over my sin, I came to her church and I stayed.

The Gift That Gives

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Sunday morning and I hadn’t been back to this church in possibly a year. While singing the worship song “Rock of Ages” the Lord began to soften my heart and reveal His grace to me. After the meeting Elizabeth and two friends (Paul and Carel) prayed for me. And I was saved.

I recall later reading Ephesians 2:8–9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” The Lord revealed that He saved me not by my works or anything I had done or anything I could ever do but instead by His grace, His free gift, His own power!

And it is the same power that saved me that enabled my friend, Elizabeth, to boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to me — a stranger and different from her. And it is the same power that will enable you to share cross-culturally too.

The Race-Transcending Gospel

What struck me about Elizabeth was that she wasn’t at all concerned that I was black and older and the leader of the camp. None of that mattered to her. She admits intimidation but not because of my race or ethnicity.

In her own words: “When I met my friend Trillia, I was very intimidated by her, but I don’t think it was because she was black and I was white. I was more attracted to her because she was black. I don’t know if it was common grace or a work of God in my heart. My mother raised me with a value of loving diverse people. I saw black people as very attractive and desirable and gifted in ways that I’m not, and that attracts me to them and I’m just curious about their life and culture. That’s something I’m drawn to.”

Her curiosity led her to become my friend in 1998. But it isn’t what led her to share the gospel with me.

“Trill and I kept getting put on the same jobs and I was totally in faith that this was the Lord’s doing,” Elizabeth told me recently. “Sharing the gospel with her and challenging her on her faith — that was difficult because my flesh was seeking to please her and impress her. But I did feel like the Lord was leading me to do that, to love her in those ways.”

Motivated by love she shared the gospel with me and the course of my whole life was changed — forever. The outcome could have been different. Elizabeth could have hesitated because of our perceived and obvious differences. Sharing the gospel can be scary enough without throwing clear differences into the mix.

But it is genuine, Spirit-filled love for the soul of another that can overcome all the natural oppositions to sharing the gospel. I believe the motivation for that love comes from our own salvation experience. God drew us out of the pit to salvation. We were not seeking God. We love God because he first loved us (1 John 4:10). And we love others, through the proclamation of Jesus Christ, because God lavished that same love on us (2 Corinthians 5:14, 1 John 4:19).

And it is his example of love that transcends all others.

The Supreme Example

Throughout the New Testament, Christ continually related to people who were different from him, be it tax collectors or Samaritans (who were hated by the Jewish people and vice versa. See John 4:9, John 8:48 and Luke 9:51–56). He was bold to share, bold to the point of death on a Cross, bold to his own death because of his love for souls. And with his death came his Spirit, poured out on us to witness to others (Acts 1:8).

God does as he pleases and can use our stumbling speech. Even Paul didn’t share the gospel with eloquent verbosity: “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:17).

The gospel has power to bring even the most unlikely of people together for his glory. God will also give the most unlikely of people the power to share with those unlike themselves.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

And this is true love — a love that shares the race-transcending gospel.

So, on Valentine’s Day I’d like to celebrate the love of the Father. He loved me, sought me, saved me and continually gives of himself to me. That’s amazing grace. Oh, how deep the Father’s love!

 ***

How Deep the Father’s Love

 How deep the Father’s love for us,

How vast beyond all measure,

That He should give His only Son

To make a wretch His treasure.

How great the pain of searing loss –

The Father turns His face away,

As wounds which mar the Chosen One

Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon a cross,

My sin upon His shoulders;

Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice

Call out among the scoffers.

It was my sin that held Him there

Until it was accomplished;

His dying breath has brought me life –

I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,

No gifts, no power, no wisdom;

But I will boast in Jesus Christ,

His death and resurrection.

Why should I gain from His reward?

I cannot give an answer;

But this I know with all my heart –

His wounds have paid my ransom.

 song author Stuart Townsend; Copyright © 1995 Thankyou Music (Adm. by CapitolCMGPublishing.com excl. UK & Europe, adm. by Integrity Music, part of the David C Cook family, songs@integritymusic.com)

 A version of this post first appeared at DesiringGod.org.

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