A ‘Forever’ Mind-Set For the Here and Now

Since the news of my grandmother’s passing last Thursday, I haven’t been able to not think about her. I’ve been restless through the night and lethargic during the day. I know it is natural that her death is affecting me this way, but what is not natural is death itself.

Death is unnatural because it is not how God created it to be. The world He spoke into existence was perfection, full of abundant life for forever. But when sin entered the garden, everything changed. The life of perfect peace and communion with God and one another was perpetually altered by the invasion of sin.  No longer would it be possible to experience lasting happiness or complete satisfaction here and now.

But God had a recreating plan for forever. A plan to restore what was broken and to reinstate what was lost. A plan to reconcile us to Himself so we could be fully and competely satisfied for forever.

My grandmother knows this wholeness now. But the hole left by her parting has put forever on the forefront of my mind. Actually – providentially – the book our Small Group is currently reading is about forever. It’s Paul Tripp’s book Forever. It’s not just a book about the after-life, but about living here and now with a forever perspective.

“Most people think that living with eternity in view makes you a spiritual person, but living with forever in view is how God designed all human beings to live. Grace frees us from our bondage to the here and now and enables us to live in the freedom that only eternity can give. The forever life, which Jesus purchased by his life, death and resurrection, begins now.” (Paul Tripp)

This is good news for eternity and good news for now! This grants a grander view when all that is readily seen here seems to be sin, brokenness, trials, suffering and death. But with a forever view I can rest knowing this is not all there is nor how it will always be. It’s temporary with a promise of all things new!

This forever mind-set helps me persever, endure and to be content in all things with hope. Instead of my present happiness, comfort, ease or enjoyment ruling as an idol trying to secure heaven on earth, I can rest knowing this is not my true home.

Tripp puts it this way:

“…if present joy is all the joy I will ever have and someone takes it away from me, the impact is devastating…”

This is when we makes good things the ultimate thing. Things like a spouse loving perfectly, children behaving, performing and obeying perfectly, friends treating and caring about us perfectly, security in our finances, jobs that satisfy and provide, health that doesn’t fail us and on and on. But if these things become ultimate (idolatrous) then we will grow bitter, angry, frustrated, demanding, self-absorbed, discontent and on and on.

“But if I know that this is not all there is, that God is moving me toward my final destination, then I know that this moment of pain is temporary. Living in light of eternity doesn’t remove my pain, but it allows me to have hope in my moments of pain…The God of forever daily blesses me with his presence and his promises…the gift of forever means that I have been freed to approach life with joy.”

Joy inspite of whatever my circumstances, disappointments, fears and frustrations because of the hope I have in Christ, knowing only He can satisfy fully.

By His grace may I fix my eyes on Him and be okay with all that is unfixed, here and now. By His grace may I find my rest in Him even admist the unrest and chaos, here and now. By His grace in making a forever plan may I continuously be led to the cross to crush my “self-focused and shortsighted life” with a mind-set of eternity!

My Real MVP

If you live in Oklahoma or even keep up with the world of sports you will likely recall Oklahoma City Thunder player Kevin Durant upon accepting the NBA’s MVP award last season redirecting the attention to his mother as “the real MVP.” It was a touching tribute honoring the one who sacrificed greatly to raise and shape him into the man he is.

His speech was replayed across the networks, YouTube and social media millions of times over I think because we long for more “heroes” like he and his mom. Those who are honored first for their character, commitment, love and sacrifice over their abilities, achievements or attractiveness. It’s the same reason my nearly-ninety year old grandmother is My Real MVP.

For the past ten years my “Nanny” has cared for my “Grandaddy” with Alzheimers. It has not been easy and it has taken a toll on her health. But when she said “I do” sixty-nine years ago, she said I do “for better, for worse, for sickness and in health…until death do us part.”

Not only did she uphold her promise to him, but together they were a beautiful picture of what God intended marriage to be as a pointer to Christ’s great love for His bride – the church. My grandparents lived for the good of one another above themselves. And my grandmother – especially in this last decade – has shown what it means to die to self and to keep giving and serving and loving, even when her needs aren’t met.Tom's N&G 2

With her inability to continue caring for him alone, he recently moved to a nursing home. I find it interesting that although the burden was lifted, her health actually rapdily declined. It seems as if Oneness in marriage is even more than we possibly see. Her life entwined and connected with his gave purpose and identity, even though enduring through it was hard and stressful. Her life, lived for another, gave her life.

Early this morning life’s curtain closed on her life.

But even in these last months and weeks the same woman I’ve always known was still there – still putting others first. In a recent phone conversation, she wanted to know about my sick daughter. She wanted to tell me how Granddaddy was doing. She wanted to encourage me that death is part of life, that she has lived for nearly ninety years (just 3 weeks shy) and if God took her soon it would be His plan to keep her from suffering.

As I listened, the verse about Moses that I mentioned in a recent post came to mind:

“Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated.”Deut. 34:7

That is her! Vigor, not because of much physical strength left at the end, but because God has been strong for her. Because He has faithfully carried her for all these years – for better, for worse. Because He has upheld her when she was weary or lonely. Because He has promised good even when all she could temporarily see was not. Because He first loved her, she could give that love to others and has.  Now with undimmed eyes she has met King Jesus!

I didn’t want her to go, but how thankful I am for all the years and memories. And what a blessing for my children to have known for all this time their great-grandmother’s spunky personality and love… 

She insisted she was still taller, even if it was just her hair.

She insisted she was still taller, even if it was just her hair.

This note sent along with the entire Dallas Morning News sports section after the Mavericks beat out our Thunder team to go on to win the Finals.

This note sent along with the entire Dallas Morning News sports section after the Mavericks beat out our Thunder team to go on to win the Finals.

A year or two later she did decide she would root for the OKC Thunder too because of Kevin Durant's character!

A year or two later she did decided she would root for the OKC Thunder too because of Kevin Durant’s character!

Her legacy and testimony will live on. Her love for the Lord, commitment, love and servanthood to my grandfather, her family, friends, church and community, makes her the kind of woman I aspire to always be. She is my real MVP.

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Why Sadie Hawkins Is a Disservice to our Sons and Daughters!

imagesWith just a quick scroll through my social media accounts I see the asking has started. Countless pics fill my feed with creative ways my daughter’s friends have asked their dates for the upcoming Sadie Hawkins Fall Ball. Along with the “asks,” I hear chatter from the girls about their pre- and post-party plans.

Ugh. This isn’t how it should be. It’s not the girls who should be doing the asking and planning!

I know they don’t seem to mind and certainly the boys love it. I mean why wouldn’t they love getting asked to a dance by a pretty girl and getting off the hook of having it the other way around?!

But this is exactly the problem. A problem that will follow the boys and girls all the way in to their marriages. You may think that is a little extreme, but let me explain and then I’ld love to hear what you think.

Ladies (married, single or divorced), how often do you or did you get frustrated with your husband/date for not taking the initiative to plan something? Anything! It doesn’t need to be a fancy dinner out – maybe it’s just thinking to call a babysit, picking up dinner to-go or suggesting a night out with other friends.

Isn’t it nice if you do not always have to be the one to think and plan? Does it or wouldn’t it make you feel special? I think so. 

But what are we doing to help our boys learn how to initiate, take a risk, ask a date, make plans – when the girls are always doing it for them?

Naturally, we females, like to control. We have good ideas and want to make plans – and so the world goes around. But then we blame our husbands for not ever doing anything, for being too passive or puppy dog-like. We want it both ways, whichever way is our way of the moment.

So, by allowing our boys to sit back and wait for the girls to take charge, what do you think is going to happen as they enter adulthood and marriages?

You got it – Wives who rule and want to, yet are frustrated their husbands won’t or don’t. Husbands who don’t know or think their wives need this because they are so used to letting them dominate.  Yet I’m sure equally frustrated by their wives’ mixed signals. And these small annoyances often grow into serious issues pertaining to love and respect.

This is why I have a problem with the Sadie Hawkins-type dances. There are very few opportunities for our teenage boys, while under the roof of mom and dad, to be trained to step up to the plate.  Why then do we take this seldom opportunity away from them when there is a formal or homecoming dance?

I want my sons to know it’s their job to initiate with a girl. They should be the pursuers, not her. They should be the ones to go in person or to pick up the phone (not text) to ask a girl to the dance. They need to know how to converse with her parents and seek the permission on plans. And they should make the plans.

Even though I can’t change the upcoming Sadie Hawkins event and my daughter will take part in the fun, I do think it is important to raise the conversation. We need to see the wider implications set by the precedent of what seems like a harmless girls ask boys dance.

Let’s help our daughters see the value in a future man who will lead and help our sons know it’s their job!  And wherever possible let this be the practice.

What is Q Commons?

A couple months ago we were invited to join some friends for a Q Commons conference where Pastor Tim Keller of NYC’s Redeemer Presbyterian and New York Times best selling author Ann Voskamp would be giving video presentations along with some local live presenters on the topic of Christianity and culture. That is all I knew about the event, but being that the two forementioned speakers are two of my favorites that was all I needed to know.

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Well, last night was the conference – downtown in our city – and in similar venues across 60 U.S. cities with over 10,000 participants world-wide! Wow- I had no idea of the magnitude nor the ripple effect of where it may lead.

UnknownSo what is this Q Commons and why does it matter?

Q stands for Question with the aim for Christians to Stay Curious, Think Well and Advance the Common Good of our local communities and beyond. To do so we must ask the questions and discuss the issues pertaining to culture, future, church and the gospel that Q movement founder, Gabe Lyons of Nashville, believes necessary to “facilitate deeper engagement and responsibility in each of these areas” not just to the benefit of Christians, but for all people.

I believe he is right. Over time Christians have tended to move in one of two ways – either separating ourselves from the culture to recreate our own entire Christiainized culture and holy huddles or by departing from the truth of the gospel informing our lives, instead conforming to the beliefs of the world.

In this tension we have become more isolated and more individualistic, prioritizing our own experiences, happiness and personal well-being while neglecting community and the common good of all people. Obviously this is not the case across the board because we all know stories of people and churches instituting change by involving themselves with the down and out. But, with so much brokenness all around there is a great need for more to rise up and take action.

To do so though as we heard last night requires Relationships and Community. These were the buzz words, not because they are trendy, but because this is what God’s Word calls us to.

  • To love our neighbor we must know our neighbor.
  • To build those relationships requires investing time and being open to constructive dialogue with opposing viewpoints with the goal of mutual respect and understanding, not being simply agenda driven.
  • To reach across social, economic and racial lines, we must not assume we know what is needed or how someone else feels.
  • To effectively bring change requires more than just charity but to seek justice.

All these points should stir up more questions. That is what last night was about and this is what we should be considering and asking ourselves and each other – What do these things look like? What am I being called to do? How can we build a better community? Where can I shine light into darkness?

These are questions I want to explore more of and will do so in some future blog postings as I think through the implications of some of the speakers’ eloquent and thought-provoking points – so stay tuned. In the meantime visit the Q website to learn more and to start thinking.Unknown-1

‘God’s Not Dead’ in an AP High School Class

thHave you heard of (or seen) the film, God’s Not Dead? Our family recently watched it together and not surprisingly my pastor/husband found lots of opportunities to hit the ‘pause’ button to spark extra family discussion.

In the movie, the main character, Josh, is challenged when a college professor insists all the students write “God is Dead” on a sheet of paper. When Josh refuses, the professor says he must then defend God’s existence to the class over a series of debates throughout the semester.  As the subplots develop and the film advances, we see how one guy’s bold stand for Christ affected the lives of many around him. Not just the professor who he was primarily up against, but those bystanders and classmates who God providentially placed in Josh’s path.

I lead with this because when my daughter, who is a junior at a public high school, came home telling me about the discussion in her AP English Language class this film is what I thought of. The scenario was totally different and in no way am I comparing her teacher to the professor nor was she challenging anyone’s views. I want to be clear on that!

The class is studying the Puritans and was taking a look at Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” After reading it a class discussion ensued. And as my daughter has previously discovered through the debates in this class, except for just one like-minded friend, she stands alone in her convictions.

But here’s the deal that I also want to state clearly and is actually my point in writing this: I am thankful for this opportunity and challenge!

She is being exposed to varying view points that attack hers, but instead of shying away not knowing what to say she is being stretched by having to articulate what she knows to be true. As a mom and a believer, this makes me so proud!

It makes me proud to see her understanding why theology matters. If her understanding of Christianity was built falsely on rules and moralism it would be a pretty unappealing case. Because apart from knowing the depth of her own outward and inward sin and great need for a Savior, she may also not see how “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is actually a testimony of His grace.

It makes me proud to see her not staying quiet with what she believes even though she is in the stark minority.  I trust because of these experiences she will be better equipped as she goes out into the world on her own.

It makes me proud to see her passion. Passion for defending the gospel, knowing it is because of God’s great love for His people that He gave His Son! Passion for others to hear the glorious and gracious truths about God.

It makes me proud to see how God is using her as an Instrument in His hands. Like in the forementioned movie, Josh had no idea how the Holy Spirit would use his words to change hearts and neither does she. But God tells us that His Word will not return void.

I have to believe that the exact people who are in this class, who seem like they are all against her, were providentially placed together. And like in the movie when Martin, a foreign exchange student sitting in Josh’s class, converted to Christianity as a result of hearing the Word of God, I believe the heart of someone sitting in AP English Lang could also be turned toward Him.

Whether this happens or not, or she knows it or not, God is not only Alive but He is Life. He sent His Son to experience His wrath so that we could rest in His loving hands. So that we could know His love and grace and find our life in Him. This is what I want most for my kids to know and why seeing it impact her brings me the most joy!

 

 

Why Living a Victorious Christian Life is not the Goal

In my last post I raised the question of why a loving God would leave us in our sin. If you read it you know I gave a few reasons before concluding that “getting better” is about becoming more dependent on Jesus’ perfect life for me than me actually becoming more perfect and sin-free.

Continuing with that thought I want to first say: You cannot achieve the victorious life here on Earth so stop beating yourself up when you fail! In fact, stop making living victorious your mission!

Many Christians believe this is the goal because much of our teaching and preaching focuses on working harder and getting better. The action is placed on us and our eyes directed to self instead of beholding Him – the only One who was perfect for us!

Here is what I mean. We are told to be like Christ, to be holy as He was holy, to love like He loved, to bear much fruit and on and on. Yes, these are commands and what we are called to. But the point we need to see is how we can’t.

That is why we need a Savior! He was holy and pefect for me. He was always patient, always kind, always had self-control, love and joy. He was never anxious or consumed by fear. He who knew no sin was made sin for me because I will continue to struggle and fail to do what I am called to.

These truths about Christ is what must be proclaimed. We need to hear about His righteousness for us. Not more law adding to the burden and guilt heaped upon us.

Being captivated by who He is for us is what leads to deeper worship. And when our hearts are moved in praise we have a greater desire to obey Him out of love, not duty.  Even so, it is His work in us. He changes hearts.  So, we can’t take any credit for our self-control or successes in living the Christian life well.

When we don’t succeed and think we are backsliding, typically what happens is we think we must work harder in that area. But what does that even mean and how do we do that?

It’s not that we need to work harder, it’s we need turn our eyes once again to our Savior who accepts and loves us deeply even in our sin. In fact, seeing the depth of our sin magnifies how great His love is! 

Does this mean we don’t try not to sin?

No, but when we do sin (which we all do) we don’t have to hide and cover it up. We can go boldly to His throne of grace and acknowledge again our need, knowing He does not reject us or demand we pay penance to measure up. Instead, He draws near!

If this is enough for Jesus, why is there no room for sin and struggle in the church? 

It goes back again to the emphasize of what is taught – law or grace?

So by God’s grace may we see Him as the One who was Victorious for us.  May we hear that truth consistently preached. And may we be a part of a body of believers where grace reigns and we are safe to be deeply loved broken sinners together.

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Why Would a Loving God Leave Us in Our Sin?

With Barbara Duguid

With Barbara at Redeemer Presbyterian in Waco, Texas.

Hearing author Barbara Duguid unpack powerful gospel implications for struggling sinners with such forthrightness and humility at the Extravagant Grace conference was a true blessing.  I felt the same way reading her book of the same name last spring, which is the reason I am recommending it as a MUST READ to everyone.  In fact the book ministered so deeply to my pastor/husband that the application of the gospel truths contained in it ‘hemmed’ him in at a time when he felt ‘wilderness’ all around.

Great clarity was actually given to this ‘wilderness’ type period as Barbara guided us through these mind-boggling questions:

  • If God is sovereign why does He allow us to experience such times of deep darkness and wilderness?
  • If God hates sin why does He allow it and other bad things to happen?
  • If God is loving, why doesn’t He stop us from struggling with sin and giving in to temptation?

Tough stuff.  How freeing though to grasp God’s goodness and grace even in the midst of sin and suffering. To see God hates sin and is not the cause of it, but He does allow it for a good purpose. 

What Can Possibly Be The Advantages of Remaining in Our Sin?    (Let’s look at some of these answers and deal with the wilderness another day.)

1.  The more I sin and do the things I do not want, the more I see how powerless I am to combat it. My only hope is the intervening work of the Holy Spirit to make me strong where I am weak. In my weakness then, Christ is strong for me.

Practically speaking – whatever your recurring sin or struggle is, Jesus was perfect in that area for you! If you struggle with food, Jesus ate perfectly for you. If you struggle with anger, Jesus was perfect by not getting angry for you. If you struggle with patience, Jesus was patient perfectly for you. If you have a hard time loving difficult people, Jesus loved all people perfectly for you.

Jesus was EVERYTHING you are not and EVERYTHING you need. May this cause me to boast in the cross of Jesus and not my own performance.

2.  The more I struggle with sin and see I cannot conquer it, the more I am dependent on Jesus. The more I will go to Him in prayer. The more I will ask for self-control, strength, help and protection. The more I will see my need and His deliverance. Apart from my ongoing sin, I may not see my great need of Him.

Practically speaking – now when you experience a moment of not giving in to temptation or responding the way you normally would by blowing up in anger or demanding perfection from someone else, you will see God at work and go to Him in thanksgiving. You will praise His name more because you will see how He granted you grace – even if it was just for that moment. If the next time you go back to your normal sinful ways, it doesn’t mean He’s left you. He is still there, transforming you – not by making your perfect, but making you dependent!

You can’t out-sin His grace!

3.  The more I struggle with sin, the more compassion I have on others in their sin. While their sin may not be my sin, I know what it’s like to try hard and still fail. Maybe now I will have more grace to give.

Practically speaking – How often are you shocked by someone’s sin and wonder how they could do that?  Perhaps you even think they must not be a Christian or they wouldn’t being doing whatever it is.  But why should sin surprise you? You know your own heart – your own on-going struggles – right?  When I get that, I will better identify with others, showing more compassion in my love and response to sinners.

Interesting side note- throughout the Bible we see how Jesus reached out in love to the sinners and held His rebuke for the Pharisees.

This just barely skims the surface of the treasure trove of His love and grace for us in our sinful state. There is no way I can fully expound on the topic or even share all I heard at the conference in just a short blog post. But I want you to know what Barbara also told us – that it is okay to be conflicted over this. It’s our tendency to think we must be “getting better” so to realize getting better actually means depending more on Him and less on yourself may be new to you. But it’s the grace we need to hear preached and be overwhelmed by.  So, I hope you will wrestle with God’s goodness even in our sin and see this truth as freeing.

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