Friday, January 31, 2014

Christian! Dost Thou See Them?

Christian! dost thou see them
On the holy ground,
How the powers of darkness
Rage thy steps around?
Christian! up and smite them,
Counting gain but loss,
In the strength that cometh
By the holy cross.

Christian! dost thou feel them,
How they work within
Striving, tempting, luring,
Goading into sin?
Christian! never tremble;
Never be downcast;
Gird thee for the battle;
Watch, and pray, and fast!

Christian! dost thou hear them,
How they speak thee fair?
“Always fast and vigil?
Always watch and prayer?”
Christian! answer boldly,
“While I breathe I pray!”
Peace shall follow battle,
Night shall end in day.

“Well I know thy trouble,
O my servant true;
Thou art very weary—
I was weary too;
But that toil shall make thee
Some day all mine own,
And the end of sorrow
Shall be near my throne.”

Words: Andrew of Crete, 660-732 (Tr. by John M. Neale, 1818-1866, alt.)

First tune: St. Andrew of Crete. D. (John By. Dykes, 1823-1876)

Second tune: Greek Hymn (Joseph P. Holbrook, 1822-1888)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Are we allowed to want things?

"Give me children, or else I die."--Rachel (Gen. 30:1)

Do you pray for souls like that?

Do you want spiritual victory that badly?

Do you approach God with full-bodied intensity of desire, or do you approach Him with a detached, emotionless manner that shields itself from disappointment by not wanting anything in the first place?

When it comes to your brother, your sister, your children, your grandparents, people you love who are not walking with God, are you indifferent when you come before the throne of Grace about their case?

Is it not unnatural to not really want things?

Taught to not want things
As a child, I learned not to want things. The unspoken rule in my home growing up was not to ask. We didn't have money for things I might have asked for, and if we did ask, the answer was always no. I'm not saying this was a bad thing--I have been able to live within my means due to practicing this habit from childhood--but there is a key difference: My parents had to limit my insatiable desires because their means were limited.

On the other hand, God has unlimited means. Does this not give you the chance to approach him with unlimited desire? God is the place where intense desire meets infinite supply. Shall you not avail yourself of this privilege?

Desire and the curse
"Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee."--Gen. 3:16 
"If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him."--Gen 4:7

These enigmatic statements, spoken to Eve and to Cain, hint that there has been a perversion of desire. Because of the curse, you want things that you're not supposed to want. You want sin. Your flesh wants everything that is not of God. You insatiably long for things you are not allowed to long for.

Then, you find Christ, and you suddenly experience the conviction that your desires have all along been wrong. You repent. You agree with God about your former way of living, of thinking. You admit that what you wanted was wrong. You even find the power to overcome those desires and deny them.

In the midst of all this, however, you make a subtle mistake. In denying the flesh and its lusts, you put a stop to desire. You do not allow yourself to want anything any more. You discover that all of the desires of the flesh are wrong, but instead of replacing wrong desires with right ones, you repress desire itself.

Therefore, your prayers are timid and your effectiveness is weak. You come before God, dead, lifeless, your mouth speaking words, making requests, but your heart untouched, and your eyes undimmed with tears.

Don't you want an answer?

The Dilemma and the Opportunity
"But I'm not allowed to want that," you protest. "I must hold that loosely. I must accept, as Jesus did, 'Not my will, but Thine be done.'"

You forget that there is one thing left to desire.


Desire is not the problem; rather, the problem is desiring the wrong things.

Therefore, desire the right things. Unleash all your pent-up desire, and desire the one thing that is open to you. Want what He wants. Want it with all the clamoring earnestness of Rachel, driving Jacob to exasperation with her insistent plea. Want it with all the importunity of the friend at midnight. Lavish all the desire of your heart on desperately wanting His will.

Listen to how intensely Paul desired--and therefore fought for--the objects of desire that God had imparted to him:

"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." (Rom 10:1) 
"For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." (Col. 1:9)
"Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily." (Col. 1:28-29)

God's will is worth desiring--and when you make that your desire, it will surely be fulfilled.

Then what is His will?
Think of the obvious things God has revealed His will to be.
  • The salvation of the lost
  • The defense of the widow and fatherless
  • The restoration of marriages
  • The advancement of God's glory
  • Unity among brethren
  • Love 
  • Visiting the sick and the prisoner
  • Building the kingdom of God
  • And so much more

Also seek the Lord prayerfully for the specific burden He would share with you. When God shares with you what is on His heart, and then you begin to pray in faith for that thing, it is a prayer that is guaranteed to be answered.

"Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." (Mark 11:24)

When your desire unites with His will, and you want what He wants with all the insatiable longing of your heart, there is explosive power in that. God's will is not some vague, nebulous thing that keeps you in a state of limbo, not wanting anything because "it might not be His will." God's will is a concrete rock on which you can build legitimate, Godly desire.

Consider Jesus in the garden, praying "Not my will, but thine be done." Was He unaware of God's will? No. Was God's will some mystery, some unformed thing that no one could know? No. Jesus knew that it was God's will for Him to go to the cross and die and rise again and offer salvation to all mankind. That event was the climax of history, and from the beginning of the world, God had been planning it, staging it, getting everything into place. Jesus wanted God's will to be done more intensely than He wanted to avoid crucifixion, and therefore He prayed intensely. Envision two desires wrestling with each other: "Let this cup pass from me," and "Thy will be done." The desire for God's will prevailed.

Do you look at "Thy will be done" as a hands-off, que sera sera type of deal, or do you look at it with an attitude of "I want your will more than I want this other thing, and therefore I'm going after your will with everything that is in me"?

An Alluring Objection
The tempter will undoubtedly whisper to you, as he has done to me, "Surely it is enough for God alone to desire His will. Why should you bother exerting your own desire when God will surely accomplish His will whether you want it or not?"

Let us hold that argument up to Scripture to see if it is valid.

Observe, first, the Lord's Prayer. Jesus taught us to pray, to ask for the following:

  • Hallowed be Thy name (can God's name ever be anything other than holy? Yet we are instructed to pray for it.)
  • Thy kingdom come (Can anything stop the coming of God's kingdom? Yet Jesus tells us to ask for it to come anyway.)
  • Thy will be done (As if anything could resist God's will--yet Jesus commands us to pray for it.)

Are these futile prayers? Not in the least. In a prayer as concise as the Lord's prayer, surely Jesus would not pad it with meaningless busywork for our mouths to chatter. On the contrary, God shares with us His heart and invites us to participate with Him in the realization of divine objects, in sublime categories that we would think would be out of our reach, if it were not that He specifically instructs us to pray for them.

Second, remember the cost of not wanting anything with desire. That was how you were praying those lifeless, ineffective prayers that accomplished nothing. Wanting things is powerful. Perhaps that is why the enemy has a vested interest in keeping you from ever wanting anything.

What does it look like to want things?
David Brainerd wanted the conversion of the Indians. How did that look? Read his journal. Day after day, week after week, month after month, he sought God. He prayed. He wept. He pressed in for more of God until his body was spent, and nevertheless, racked with illness, he still pressed on. He gained his object and died glorifying God.

Read about men like Father Nash, who would go to a town a few weeks before scheduled revival meetings, lock himself in a room, and groan and weep and agonize in prayer for the outpouring of the Spirit. The effect of this was tremendous, as God moved mightily among the people of the town.

Consider the stories of men like Hudson Taylor, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton, pioneers in their fields, who saw whole nations changed for Christ through their efforts.

Ask yourself the question, Is it possible for anything to ever happen for the advancement of the Kingdom of God without a surrendered man or woman wanting what God wants with intense desire, and then going after that object?

Will you desire God's will with everything that is in your being? 
What could happen if you did?
What if you prayed with that kind of desire? 
How would your prayers be different?
Do you sense the attack against desire in your own life? 
What will it take for you to begin to confidently desire things from God?
How often do you purposely and strategically desire God's will?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Antidote to Self-Pity

The other day I was hit with a blast of attack of self-pity. I am usually buoyant and relatively immune to any kind of moping or depression, but this time, some of it temporarily got me. I dumped out all my mournful feelings into my journal. I felt like I wanted to weep, and to run away and hide from people forever, and just sit in my little cave of gloom and mull over sorrowful things. (Why that sounded attractive, I don't know.)

The fact was, the source of my self-pity was a true area of deficiency in my life. I couldn't get out of the cycle of self-pity by undoing or re-defining the deficiency. In my case, this deficiency is an inability to relate to people, but I believe that the pattern is universal: some kind of deficiency or inability is the root of self-pity for anyone, and the antidote would be equally effective for any kind of self-pity.

So there I was, thinking of all my failures and how that made me feel useless and worthless and hopeless. I had the sense that there was something wrong with the way I was thinking, and that I ought not to give in to it, but I couldn't find a way to talk myself out of it, given the fact that the deficiency was there and I couldn't do anything to make it go away. The more I focused on different aspects and outcomes of my failures, the more convinced I was that I was truly worthy to be pitied. This lasted for an entire evening.

The next day, it dawned on me that all of it was the enemy's condemnation, and I had taken the bait. As soon as I saw that, I was like "Oh! Right! Of course! Why would I listen to that? Why would I give a moment's notice to the enemy? Why would I give him an opportunity to rob me of my joy?"

I also went to the Word and re-established my perspective according to God's point of view, and the following series of questions was the result of my meditation on Scripture and my renewed gaze fixed upon Jesus. This list of questions was hastily jotted down in my Kindle during my lunch break at work.

  • Who are you hearing this condemnation from? 
  • Should you be listening to him?
  • As a child of the King in your position in Christ, are you subject to self-pity for this topic? 
  • Put another way, does the enemy have any ability or right to destroy your happiness?
  • Am I choosing to rejoice and thank God for this good gift He has given me, or wallow in focusing on what I think I don't have? 
  • Can any of my deficiencies hinder God's power from working in my life?
  • Can any of my deficiencies present a valid obstacle to obedience?
  • Am I turning more to my natural ability or to the power of God's spirit in this area? 
  • If I turn to my natural ability, will I ever find the solution? Will I even improve? 
  • If I turn to the Spirit's indwelling power and trust the resurrection life of Christ to be actively at work in me in this area, what could happen?

The power of this perspective shift was immense. I realized, "I have God!" and all my self-pity vanished. I instantly experienced such a high, I felt like I was soaring on clouds. I felt like my heart was about to explode with love for God. I returned to work with a smile on my face, a light in my eye, and a spring in my step.

Therefore, the key to solving self-pity is not to re-define the deficiency, claim it doesn't exist, or pretend that it's okay and it doesn't matter. All of those things are powerless, because deep down, you will know that the deficiency is still there. As long as the deficiency exists, it has the potential to create fodder for self-pity. It has the potential to continuously breed reasons to make you sad. It has the potential to sound in your ears as the enemy cleverly weaves it in, using a tidbit of truth in the midst of his lies. In my case, it's true that I have some kind of dysfunction in relating to people. What is not true is that that makes me worthless, useless, or a failure. The enemy gets me to swallow those lies when I focus on the part that I agree with, which is that I don't know how to relate to people.

The antidote to self-pity is to fix your eyes on Jesus, apply the gospel to your individual deficiency, and trust God to be bigger and stronger and more than able to compensate for your deficiency.

If you have God, how could there possibly still be any room for you to be pitied?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What is the Life-Changing Result of Believing that Jesus is the Son of God?

When the apostles believed that Jesus was the Son of God, it changed their lives. When the Ethiopian Eunuch was converted, he stated that he believed with all his heart that Jesus was the Son of God, and this meant something to him.

When we as Americans state that we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, we view it so flippantly that we scarcely even consider what it means, much less consider it life-changing, or even imagine why it would be life-changing to someone. It is just something you hear in Sunday School. It’s just a piece of Christianese that we spout off. “Jesus is the Son of God. Of course I believe that.”

In the New Testament, believing that Jesus is the Son of God is practically synonymous with salvation. Over and over again, John says to believe on the name of the Son of God, and to his mind, that basically brings with it the whole package.

Therefore—Believing that Jesus is the Son of God means something. It comes with something. There is something significant about it. It’s not just a mental state of agreement with the concept of the incarnation.

In order to make the significance of this concept become more clear, let us consider the plain meaning of the words, emphasizing each one and considering its full weight.

Jesus is the Son of God.

Jesus, and no other, is the man who was God himself come to earth. 

Jesus, this man, is the Son of God. 

This man who lived a sinless life, who fulfilled all the prophecies, who healed people, walked on water, and multiplied the loaves and fishes, this is the Son of God. 

This man who chose 12 disciples, lived in humility and selflessness, and did only what the Father was doing, this is the Son of God. 

Who is the Son of God? 

None other than the man who walked through Gethsemane and Calvary, who lay dead in the tomb, and who arose victorious on the third day. 

The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the sum total of the package we have to accept when we declare that he is the Son of God. 

Not just anyone is the Son of God. Not just any guy walking the face of the earth has the quality and distinction of being God in the flesh. It is JESUS, and we know who He is, what He did, and what happened to him.

Jesus is the Son of God.

As opposed to the idea that He is not.

Jesus is the Son of God.

Weeding out errors that he is "a" son of God (e.g. Mormonism).

Jesus is the Son of God.

To the disciples who knew his life, walked with him, and saw him eat, breathe, sleep, and sweat, this was the radical concept. 

He could have been just a man. He could have been just a prophet. He could have been just an exceptional individual. 

They had the chance to watch him, in the flesh and blood of his humanity, get jostled in crowds, get hungry, get dirty, and desperately need rest. He could have so easily been “just an exceptional guy.” So to them, as well as to people who never met him, like the Ethiopian Eunuch or you or me, there has to be something about him that tells us that this is not a mere mortal, this is God come in the flesh to visit mankind. 

This elusive something is just visible enough to be seen by those to whom God reveals it, and just hidden enough to keep others from ever seeing it. But once our eyes are opened and we realize that Jesus is God incarnate, it both demands something of us and offers something to us: 
  • If he is God, then we must do as He says. 
  • If He is God, then we must recognize that He is higher than we are. 
  • If He is God, then He has power that man has not. 
  • If He is God, then everything we know about God from the Old Testament is also true about Jesus, and everything we know about Jesus is also true about the God of the Old Testament. 
  • If Jesus is God, then what God said all along about sending a promised Messiah was true, and the Messiah was better than anyone could have ever dreamed, for we were looking for a military conquerer (who might indeed be great, like David or Alexander or Napoleon or Genghis Khan, but who would eventually die and things would go back to the way they were) and God sent us His very own self instead. 
  • If Jesus is God, then He has the power not to merely conquer armies, but to defeat the enemies in the heavenly realms—Satan, death, and sin. 
  • If Jesus is God, then the victory He won is for as long as He lives, which means that the blessing and privilege He bought for us is secure. 
  • If Jesus is God, then when it comes to the matter of bringing us to God, He knows how to do it, what God wants, where God is, and what has to happen for us to get there. 
  • If Jesus is God, then He knows what my problem is and how to solve it. 
  • If Jesus is God, then all the dynamite power and majesty of the Almighty God is His possession.

I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

When we declare that we believe that Jesus is God, it’s like we’re stating, “I’m in. I believe in God, as the Jews believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and I believe that this man, Jesus, is the concrete expression and visible image of God. Therefore, I will respect Jesus like I would respect God, dedicate my life to Jesus like I would dedicate my life to God, and obey Jesus like I would obey God. Everything Jesus wants, goes. Everything He did, everything He accomplished, has the weight and power and significance of an act of God.

"If a man died for me and rose again, what is that to me other than unsurpassed friendship and impressive power? If a man died for me and rose again, how does it help me to avoid my own death? It doesn’t. 

"But if God (!) died for me and rose again, then that is a matter of such cosmic importance I cannot go another moment without falling down before Him in worship and surrender. If God died for me and rose again, then what He was doing cannot have been other than a real solution and a massive expression of His love to me. 

"I believe that this man, Jesus, and all that He did, was the actual intervention of God on my behalf, and I accept it. 

"Incomprehensible magnificence! Breathtaking marvel! That God should come to me and offer me this: His Son, walking in my shoes, breathing air like me, doing God-sized acts during his life, and performing a God-orchestrated rescue in his death. 

"He doesn’t just offer me a charismatic leader, He offers me Himself. 

"He doesn’t just set up a well-run kingdom, He sets up the kingdom of heaven. 

"He doesn’t just indifferently declare my sin canceled and remain distant and aloof, he performs a preposterous act of devoted love in order to satisfy his justice and offer me his mercy at the same time. 

"What Jesus did—was God doing it. What God did for me through the work of Christ was the most beautiful, compelling, preposterous thing I’ve ever heard of, and I believe it is true, and I will walk in the reality of what that brings me. My life is changed. Everything He got for me is mine. Everything He did for me is real. Everything He says to me is true. Everything He is to me is better than gold, better than heaven itself.”

And that is why the declaration that Jesus is the Son of God is life-changing. 

This post is the result of studying all the instances of the phrase "Son of God" in Scripture. If you would like to study this yourself, and reap the unique benefits that God has in store for you, here are the references:

Daniel 3:25; Matthew 4:3, 6, 8:29, 14:33, 16:16, 26:63, 27:40, 43, 54; Mark 1:1, 3:11, 5:7, 15:39; Luke 1:32, 35, 3:38, 4:3, 9, 41, 8:28, 22:70; John 1:34, 49, 3:18, 5:25, 6:67-69, 9:35-37, 10:36, 11:4, 27, 19:7, 20:31; Acts 8:37, 9:20; Romans 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:19; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 4:13; Hebrews 4:14, 6:6, 7:3, 10:29; 1 John 3:8, 4:15, 5:5, 10, 12, 13, 20; Revelation 2:18.

Further references (not an exact phrase match)
Matthew 3:17, 17:5; Mark 1:11, 9:7; Luke 3:22, 9:35; John 3:16-17; Acts 3:13, 26; Romans 1:9, 5:10, 8:3; 1 Corinthians 1:9, Galatians 4:4, 6; Hebrews 1:8, 1 John 4:9-10, 5:9, 11; 2 John 1:3.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Prayer Full of Blessing

"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God."
Ephesians 3:14-19

I have always viewed this passage as a blessing, but it's actually a prayer. It's not merely a sentimentally-worded expression of Paul's hopeful wish, it is something he specifically asks God for. It's not, "May you" be strengthened with might in the inner man, etc. etc., it is, "I bow my knees to God SO THAT He would grant you this."

This makes the whole thing far more definite, far more concrete, and far more palpably attainable, for Paul would not pray for something that God did not burden his heart in the first place to pray, and having prayed, he would not fail to attain the object for which he prayed.

Therefore, it removes the whole passage out of the realm of "Wouldn't that be nice if we could have that," and squarely into the realm of confident expectation, both for ourselves, that we can have all this in our Christianity, and for others, that we could pray this for them, and that they could receive it. This surpassingly breathtaking blessing is for the taking!

It would be like a child looking through a Christmas catalog full of toys, and he says to himself, "Wow, I wish I could have this thing and that thing," and then his father says to him, "I have put in an order for every item in the catalog." The promises of God are far better and richer than what a child could find in a toy catalog, and all these things are "Yes" and "Amen" in Christ. What treasure! What privilege!

"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."
Ephesians 3:20-21

Friday, January 3, 2014

Seeing Christians from a non-Christian point of view

Childhood: Seeing Christians from a Christian point of view

I grew up not knowing a single non-Christian friend. My family never hung out with people who were non-Christians. I was surrounded by my safe, happy little Christian bubble, insulated from the world and totally uninitiated in the things of the world. All the parents I knew were married. They raised their kids in stable, structured homes. They worked for their living and went to church on Sundays. Their imperfections were slight enough (or camouflaged well enough) to convince the average observer that they were the perfect family. This is what I grew up seeing. Overall, while I knew that the concept of "perfect family" was simply an illusion, because everyone has their hidden problems, it was a positive impression of wonderful people. This is what a Christian can see about other Christians.

Adulthood: Seeing Christians from a non-Christian point of view

Fast forward to adulthood, where I find myself as a bank teller, interacting with a huge range of customers from a broad cross-section of society. All of my coworkers are unbelievers, and all of a sudden, I find that I have the ability to see these customers as an unbeliever would see them.

To put it a different way, as a child in a conservative Christian subculture, I saw how people behaved on Sunday. As a bank teller, I see how people behave on Monday. Or Friday. Or even Sunday.

What I see makes my heart sink at the blasphemy that is being done to the name of Jesus by so-called Christians.

Three Categories of People

Do you know what I see?

1. I see a small handful of people who are outspoken about their faith. These are the people who pepper their conversation with phrases like, "I was praying about such-and-such" or "Lord, this" and "Lord, that" or "The Bible says..." I'm sorry to say this, but honestly, these people are our worst customers. Everyone in the branch despises them, and it's not because they are persecuting them for righteousness' sake--there's no righteousness to be found. These people walk up complaining noisily about everything going on in their life. They start ranting and raving like lunatics about their pet end-times theory and how we had better get "married to Jesus" because judgment is coming. They spout off how they're so holy that people walk up to them and get choked up just for the privilege of talking with them. They are full of all kinds off-the-wall stuff, but they are entirely empty of Christlikeness or fruits of the Spirit. So when they bring the name of Christ into the conversation, my heart sinks. "No!" I want to exclaim. "Not here! Not after you've dragged his name through the mud by the way you have lived before our eyes." And after they leave, my coworkers make comments like "I feel like I want to shoot myself," or "I just can't stand that *%&! person."

2. Then I see an even smaller handful of people (actually just one) who will hand out a tract with a friendly word and make pleasant conversation. It makes a difference--but the problem is, the people in the first group outnumber the people in the second group by such a large margin that unfortunately, to the unbeliever, everyone gets lumped under the same stereotype. Especially because they used to have a customer who would always hand out "You're going to hell" tracts, so they got jaded. And even the tract givers are more comfortable defaulting to harp on their favorite side issues (such as end times) rather than sticking to the plain gospel, and then they themselves, without realizing it, have just jumped up voluntarily into the first category.

3. Finally, I see a third group: all the rest of the customers who make no pretense or expression of religion. Believers and unbelievers look alike to us. I have tried so hard to deduce who of them might be Christians (because surely some of them must be), but there's no hint, no visible evidence, no clues from how they use their bank account, no way to guess from the way they dress, or the way their family interacts, or the things that interest them, or the conversation they make. They have blended in so seamlessly that for all practical purposes, they are invisible.

Therefore, all we see is this:
1) Satan's best servants parading as believers in order to create a powerful sense that Christians are counterfeits and hypocrites
2) Half-effective attempts not done in the power of the Spirit of God that end up (justly or not) getting lumped into the first category
3) Nothing. Invisible. Undetectable. Indistinguishable.

The unbeliever does not see (and, in fact, can not see) what I saw growing up. Some of our customers in the third category might very well be those married, stable families who study the Word and raise their children in a godly way, whose lives would be attractive if we could see them. But they are invisible to us. We know nothing of that.

Do you see the problem here? Does this concern any of you?

By the way, would your banker know whether or not you were a Christian? If your banker wanted to know, would he or she have to squint really hard for clues and try in vain to guess?

The Missing Category

The matrix below shows four different possible approaches to living and speaking the Christian life.

In the top left corner, there is a question mark, representing a category of person never before seen or heard of by the non-Christian. This person, if he or she ever appeared, would be a mystery, a puzzle, a "What is that?" This person speaks and lives a perfectly consistent message. Their words drop with the living water of the gospel, and their life is full of the beauty of holiness. While there should be at least a few people in this category, it seems to be entirely vacant. While I as a Christian see decent numbers of these people at church, the unbeliever never encounters them. Or perhaps there are so few to go around that my bank doesn't have one. No one, absolutely no one, has ever showed up in my workplace exhibiting both of these characteristics. If a person came up to the bank and lovingly delivered the gospel, and all the while they were so radiantly full of Jesus that their eyes blazed kindness and their words dropped with heartfelt concern for our souls, that would be something none of us had ever seen.

In the bottom left corner, it says "Despised." This is the person who is outspoken about his or her faith but lives a life that even the non-Christian would be ashamed of. There are a few of these, not very many, but enough that their stench spreads through everything and would taint the very name "Christian" if it were possible. This person threatens the ability of the real Christian to do his work, but if the "mystery person" ever showed up, it would counterbalance and throw off the work of the hypocrite, just as genuine cash exposes and triumphs over counterfeit money.

On both the top and bottom of the right-hand side, it says "Invisible." No matter how good or bad your life is, your Christianity is invisible to the unbeliever if you do not give it some expression. Many Christians in recent days have quoted to me in a hopeless sort of tone, "We're supposed to be ready to give an answer to every man who asks us a reason of the hope that is in us, but no one is asking!" That is because the unbeliever can see nothing to ask about if you don't give them some hint. Unbelievers are dense when it comes to spiritual truth. They are not intellectually dense, but they are spiritually dead, and it's hard to get a subtle spiritual hint through a dead man's head. The only medicine for a dead man is life from the dead, and the only way to get that is through the gospel. So when I say that they need a hint, I don't mean that Christians should go around hinting, "Have you noticed something different about me? Will you ask me what it is?" I mean that Christians should become experts in drenching everyday life with the gospel. If you are invisible to the unbeliever to the point where even a Christian is trying in vain to tell if you're a Christian or not, then it's time for you to re-evaluate your approach.


Reader, you who love Jesus and know sweet intimacy with Him, rise up, push that big question mark off the page, and let yourself be seen! Imagine what an unbeliever sees on a daily basis in their line of work, and then shatter their preconceived notions. Show them what they've never seen before: love, joy, peace, patience. Make up a way to weave the gospel right into your everyday conversation, so that you can take a generic comment like "How has your day been going so far?" and turn it into a way to reflect Jesus.

Invisible Christian, rise up and let your voice be heard. Of course you will be discreet and not obnoxious like the outspoken hypocrites, but begin to unveil the riches of the gospel before a dying world.

Recognize that people in all walks of life have conversations every day. At the bank, we hear stories. We hear jokes. We hear raw grief as someone spills out all their overwhelmed soul to perhaps the only listening ear they know. We laugh over their funny stories and congratulate them on their accomplishments. We stand and talk to people sometimes for 30 minutes or more when we are not busy. People are not opposed to having conversations. Talking helps to pass the time and adds interest to our day. So why do we studiously avoid just that one conversation topic? Why is it that every other subject can come up, but not the gospel? Could it be that we are self-censoring ourselves from sharing what the listener, perhaps, would have accepted? Therefore, become adept in weaving the gospel into natural conversation, not coming with guns blazing of "you're going to hell," but rather, "Let me tell you a story," or "Have you ever considered..." or "I love cars, too, but there's something I love more."

Become so saturated in the gospel and in the person of Jesus yourself, so that everywhere you go, you simply can't help but exude the wonder and delight of it.

Finally, walk in obedience. God could command or forbid you to speak. Be sensitive and instantly responsive to His voice, and walk in an attitude of continual dependence on His power.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Vision for this blog in the New Year

Number one, I would like to start posting regularly again. None of this missing a whole month and a half, practically forgetting my blog even exists.

Two, I think I will head in the direction of writing about what I'm thinking about rather than focusing on what I'm doing. What I'm thinking about is usually far more interesting than what I'm doing, unless I'm hiking or having some sort of wild and crazy adventure--but if I only write about the interesting things I do, then the blog gets sorely neglected between times, and it ends up reading like a rather bad hiking log. The problem is, what I'm thinking about doesn't always lend itself to pictures, and I have lately dropped all pretense of photography, so I usually don't even have pictures, even of the picturesque things I did. Therefore, this is your heads-up that these posts may become more text-based and less photo-based. However, hopefully, hopefully, the interesting things I am thinking about will make up for the lack of visual stimulation in the blog. Hopefully. Perhaps these things are interesting to me and no one else in the world. So far, these thoughts have generally been confined to the pages of my journal and/or locked silently away in the dendrites and axons and synapses of my cerebrum. Now, I'm going to try releasing them to frolic in this small private-but-public place.

(Do you generally find that no one else thinks like you? I do. Have you discovered, as I have, that it is supremely enjoyable to read the work of someone whose thoughts are totally unpredictable, simply because they don't think like you do? And when what they're saying makes sense, though you would never have thought of it that way, does it not give you a springboard for your own imagination to launch its own series of new thoughts? G.K. Chesterton's book Orthodoxy (free on Kindle) does this for me. There is a certain sense of satisfaction and delight to discover what another person's thoughts are, and to understand them, and to interact with their thoughts until your own thoughts go through a transformative synthesis and you have new ideas that you've never had before.)

Three, I want to be more intentionally gospel-focused and discipleship-oriented. I want the things I write to help you, encourage you, teach you, and draw you closer to Jesus.

Four, and this is related to number three, I want to not be concerned about what people think about my writing, and instead be wholly concerned with what Jesus thinks of my writing. I will write what pleases Him, come what may, let the world rage and storm as it likes. I have always hesitated to be full-throttle about my Christian faith in the sight of other people--but is not that quality one that we appreciate when we find it in men like Spurgeon?

Perhaps I will lose some readers and gain others, or perhaps I will lose all my readers, or perhaps the growth of this blog will be unprecedented and utterly unexpected. Let's see what happens if I do this. Will you join me on the journey forward?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Year in review: 2013

The year started out in the company of my dear family, with whom I went on a week-long vacation to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in Florida. It was a glorious, restful time of enjoying sand and sea. The peninsula is 7 miles long, and one day we hiked to the end and back. During that hike, I dropped my camera in the sand, and a few grains got stuck in the lens, preventing it from popping out when I turned it on, so it never worked again. That severely hindered my blog, because suddenly I didn't have photos. What would I do?

In the middle of the month, I went back to Haiti and promptly got involved in what I look back on as the most difficult ten days of my life. I was sent to Port au Prince with ten babies sick with cholera. I spent ten days in the hospital with them. One died. It was a time of very little sleep, surrounded by the smell of cholera and nurses who only spoke Creole and not enough supplies--but God was faithful to bring me through it and teach me lessons that I wouldn't have learned any other way.

I got cholera. I remember being in the back of a vehicle, bouncing down an everlasting dirt road on the way to a clinic. My stomach hurt with each jolt of the vehicle, but I was primarily concerned with what would happen if the urge struck. It did. I asked the guys to stop the vehicle, and I walked out behind the truck and down into a slight ditch beside the road. There weren't really any bushes for privacy, but there wasn't a soul in sight. Just as I was about to proceed with my business, there appeared ambling around the corner a lazy donkey with a Haitian man riding on its back. His stare said it all. I could just see it going through his mind: "That American woman is about to use the bathroom on the side of the road!" We locked eye contact as his head craned to watch me for every possible minute until I was out of sight, and somehow I was able to make it until he passed on around the bend. Then I completed my business, eternally grateful for billowy skirts that at least veiled the process somewhat. At the clinic, they treated me with Cipro and an IV and I rapidly bounced back to health.

In February I also had a head-on collision with a moto. Just as a friendly note: If you are ever in a car accident in Haiti, you MUST leave the scene of the accident. It's for your own safety. It doesn't mean you won't deal with the accident--you will just do it in a private way without the involvement of the mob that will inevitably gather.

March was the month we got kicked out of Club Indigo and had to move into the creche. March was the month where I suddenly got invaded by ants, began to wash my clothes by hand, filled buckets and buckets a day with water, and learned how to cook over charcoal. All very useful life skills. And you know what? Now I know how to live without electricity and running water and modern appliances. I could do it again if I had to. March also brought Emily, a new roommate and coworker who became a dear friend. We worked together to develop and teach the preschool program.

In April, I came down with a mystery sickness that I think might have been a mixture of dengue fever and pneumonia. I was lying on my back on a sheet on the tile floor under the mosquito net for days on end. My school teaching came to a halt. I didn't have the strength to lift a mop or do normal things. I did a lot of thinking during that time. I also read Sabina Wurmbrand's book The Pastor's Wife, and I realized that I had absolutely nothing to complain about. It is the story of her imprisonment for her faith in communist Romania. She was the wife of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, founder of Voice of the Martyrs. Her story showed me me that by comparison, I was living in luxury, like a king or a queen, and the change in perspective helped me to deal with the ever-present difficulties in Haiti.

May brought a bit of fun and sparkle back into life. We had an event for adoptive parents that allowed me to do some brainstorming and event planning. I also got to travel to Cap Haitien to visit some of our children in a house up there. Then I went home! Home to the USA! It felt so good to be back. I attended the Set-Apart Girl conference and had a good time with some of my Ellerslie classmates.

I bought a car (an amazing story) and drove back to Tennessee (another amazing story of God's provision), where I spent the last half of the month delighting in being reunited briefly with my family and home church.

In a remarkable and improbable series of events, I got to see both sides of the family. My brother had a graduation ceremony at Ft. Benning, which my dad's side of the family all attended, and when we got back from that, my mom and I drove up to visit her side of the family and attend the family reunion. It was so good to visit with beloved relatives I hadn't seen in a while. I felt like it was an extra-special blessing from God to give me such a gift in the brief time I was home.

Then I packed up all my worldly goods, loaded them up into a 5x8-foot U-Haul trailer, and drove back out to Colorado. I've been all over, but home base has still always been my parents' house, where I had all my books and my craft supplies and the boxes of random junk in the attic. Now that was no more. I was uprooted. It was God's leading to move to Colorado, and though he kept me in the dark about certain things until I got here, I am still convinced I was acting in obedience and following His leading.

My faith was tested when the abundance of provision that I had received threatened to trickle out. The job I had come out to Colorado for wasn't paying. At the end of the month, I went to Wal-mart to get four items, and paid $10 of my last $13 for them. "Three dollars, Lord," I said. I checked out, walked past the bank on my way out, and noticed a sign that said they were hiring. I talked to them and applied that day. That was a Saturday. On Sunday, the manager called me and asked for an interview, Monday I interviewed, and Tuesday I started. Whew! God didn't forget about me after all.

September was a stressful month for many reasons, but it also had one exceptional beautiful day. On the last day of the month, I resigned from the Haiti organization, and the first of October dawned bright and free, full of relief.

In October, God provided a wonderful, incredible place for me to live with a Christian family who had an extra bedroom. Praise God for His provision! I had been moving, transient, uprooted all year, and though this, too, is a temporary situation, it has been wonderful to have a stable, loving home to go back to at night.

Life began to steady out into a routine for the first time all year. My days began to be filled with sameness. Get up, go to work, eat, do laundry, sleep, and squeeze in a bit of hiking. I also had a lovely Thanksgiving and some delightful moments of re-connecting with an old friend, Kim.

For six glorious days at the beginning of the month, I got to go visit my sister in Wisconsin, and that was simply marvelous. I considered that my Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday with family, since I would be too far away on the actual holidays to celebrate with anyone of my kin. I came back to Colorado a bit spoiled for work. Suddenly I was bored and antsy, feeling like I had not enough to do. It is a bad thing if I get bored. If I get bored, I suddenly start thinking about going to another country, or doing something spontaneous and exciting. So I am learning, slowly, not to run away from boredom. Christmas season brought me the gift of solitude, ah, magnificent solitude, as everyone left for Christmas vacation and I got to house-sit.

Gingerbread house decorating party!

My finished house

And that's about the gist of my year.

Here's to 2014 being a year more full of Jesus. "He must increase, but I must decrease."