Stare at the glory of God – good beholding

“Stare at the glory of God until you see it.”- Ray Ortlund

“Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?”- 2 Corinthians 3:7 (NIV)

Jared C. Wilson concludes Chapter 3 of The Imperfect Disciple as he states Christ’s glory far exceeds the glory of the law.  In fact, Jonathan Edwards once compared Christ’s glory to the sun rising in its strength and eclipsing the stars.

Thus, Jared asserts, Christianity’s essential message isn’t “do” but “done.”  As a result, the author adds, the direct route to God-honoring behavior consists not of good behavior, but of good beholding.

True release, then, comes when God changes who you are.  That change comes through Christ’s cross becoming your cross.  Jared exhorts:

“Don’t believe the lie that always struggling to obey God is a lot worse than disobeying him with peace.  God did not make us to ‘feel good inside’ (or outside) all the time this side of heaven; he made us to share in the suffering of Christ, that we might also share in his resurrection.”

In conclusion, as long as we live in what Jared refers to as the bittersweet limbo of simul justus en peccator (Latin – righteous and at the same time a sinner), we’ll struggle to see the glory.  We’ll always fight that battle this side of heaven.

However, we must not get so busy trying to do great things for God that we forget to look at His glory.  Then we’ll never quite behold it.

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you stare at the glory of God?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Spiritual disciplines – religious duties or relational delights?”

Discover the beauty in sorrow

Removal of stained glass windows from Luther South’s chapel.

“We have lost the beauty in sorrow, so we try to get out of pain as quickly as possible. . . . But life will let all of us down, and we need a way to talk about it — a way we have lost along the way.”- Esther Fleece

“For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.”- Lamentations 3:31-33

Founded in 1951, Luther South prospered under the leadership of Principal Walter Steinberg.  According to the Southwest News Herald, over 1200 students attended South during its heyday in the 60s.  Yet, when the school closed in June of 2014, enrollment stood at 145.  In December of 2016, alumni were invited to Luther South Memorabilia Days for a final opportunity to walk the halls and purchase items from their years at South.  Currently, the building faces likely demolition.  However, Pastor Joel A. C. Dietrich (Saint Paul Lutheran Church, Beecher, IL) preserved the stained glass windows.  Originally donated by his grandparents, the windows will be installed at Saint Paul.

In her book No More Faking Fine, Esther Fleece states the majority of us have said or heard the following clichés during times of suffering.  These conversation stoppers include:

  • “If God brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it.”
  • “It could have been worse.”
  • “Everything happens for a reason.”

Ms. Fleece contends that these clichés exist because we’ve lost the biblical language of lament.  As D. A. Carson, professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School writes, no Scriptural evidence exists to “fake it till you make it.”  Dr. Carson asserts:

“There is no attempt in Scripture to whitewash  the anguish of God’s people when they undergo suffering.  They argue with God, they complain to God, they weep before God.  Theirs is not a faith that leads to dry-eyed stoicism, but to a faith so robust it wrestles with God.”

Therefore, the pathway of lament makes way for God to come and work His healing as we honestly express ourselves.  In lament, God refines, renews, holds, and transforms us.  As a result of our honest prayers, unrestrained lament, and trusting dependence, authentic praise flows from our souls.  That’s when, Esther notes, we discover the beauty in sorrow.

In conclusion, Louie and Shelley Giglio (Passion City Church, Atlanta) describe the beauty in sorrow.  They write in the Forward to Ms. Fleece’s book:

“The beautiful nature of lament is that it has a beginning and an end.  No one is meant to live forever in grief and sorrow, yet without it, our life loses all meaning and our sense of immeasurable joy that is intended for our journey.  Without lament, there is no joy.”

Success is Who you have

“Success is not what you have; success is Who you have.”- Dr. Tony Evans

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”- Genesis 50:20

In Chapter 14 (“The Peace of Detours”) of Detours, Dr. Tony Evans takes special note of the order in which things occurred in Genesis 50:20.  Thus, keeping this perspective in mind enables you to face life’s challenges, disappointments, pain, and confusion head on.  Hence, Dr. Evans wants you to see this order: Evil.  God.  Good.

We see this pattern throughout Scripture.  God transforms the pain and suffering of this present life when He’s brought to bear on it.  Tony explains:

“That’s why God must be an integral part of your everyday existence and not just a visit here or there.  God doesn’t want visitation privileges with you on the weekends.  He wants to be your best friend.  He wants to be your partner.”

As a result, bloom where you’re planted.  Wherever you are right now, work faithfully and serve willingly.  Joyfully submit and fully honor God.

Therefore, Dr. Evans exhorts, live obediently where God’s placed you. Of course, people tend to give up on God where they’re down.  Consequently, Dr. Evans challenges you to change your perspective:

“The more miserable things get, the more aggressive you should go after Him.  It’s easy to praise God in the sunshine, but if it’s storming in your life right now and darkness is all you see, force praise from your mouth.  Run to Him in the dark. . . . And lastly, be patient.”

As Tony quips, too many people want a microwave God, but God often functions more like a Crock-Pot!

Today’s question: What Bible verses sustain confidence in Who you have?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The worst kind of waiting there is”

Generous in sharing our brokenness

“Generosity does give birth to intimacy — but there’s a far deeper intimacy when we’re generous in sharing our brokenness.”- Ann Voskamp

Ann Voskamp begins Chapter 18 (“Why You Don’t Have to Be Afraid to Be Broken”) with a definition of faith.  Ms. Voskamp defines faith as “confidence in the kindness of God, no matter the confusion of circumstances.”

Furthermore, in that confusion of circumstances, it’s more than fearing any broken things.  We’re afraid to burden others with our problems.  Rather than break anyone’s heart, we bury our hurt.

Yet, Ann adds, we all need a safe place to come with our mess of broken.  Therefore, Ann offers the following thought on suffering:

“Maybe you can’t compare suffering, can’t rank or minimize suffering, but simply embrace it and all others suffering too.”

This, then, makes it possible for communion to happen.  Ann posits that communion only can happen when:

  • not only our strong parts are broken and given, but when we give our broken parts also
  • we give each other our brokenness
  • everything given out of our brokenness shows greater love through our willingness to suffer

Ann notes that we can’t imagine how great a capacity our heart has for pain.  That’s because our heart loves far greater than ever imagined.

As a result, Ann encourages, everyone needs someone to sit with them in the burn.  Ann describes what happens:

“This can turn the flames into a holy blaze.  Someone just choosing to be with you in the fire with a bit of theirs — can turn out to be better than anyone trying to extinguish your fire.  Shared flames and shared burn scars can ignite hearts into a great fire that fights fire.”

Today’s question: Please respond to Ann’s opening statement that “there’s a far deeper intimacy when we’re generous in sharing our brokenness.”

Tomorrow’s blog: “Full cruciformity”

Daily giving your presence to one

“There’s more abundance in daily giving your presence to one than daily diligence for the furtherance of hundreds.”- Ann Voskamp

Concluding Chapter 17 of The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp lists other traits of compassion.  Compassion is:

  • not a trite feeling of the heart as much as a willing breaking open of the heart
  • always dying to bits of you- the only way to experience a resurrection
  • crawling in under someone else’s skin and connecting to their heart like its  yours
  • profoundly purifying and sanctifying, God-glorifying and soul-unifying — and ultimately, life-satisfying

Furthermore, Ms. Voskamp emphasizes, the lost art of lament signals the beginning of the broken way.  Therefore, to feel authentically loved by God, we must authentically lament to God.  Lament spells out God’s abandonment, accepts His ache, and finally abandons to His will.

In the midst of suffering, one needs to feel arms close more than trying to pinpoint clarifying arguments.  Ms. Voskamp explains the role of God’s people:

“God’s people . . . create communities around suffering, co-suffering communities to absorb suffering and see it transform into cruciform grace.  This will cost us [and] remake us into the image of Christ.”

As a result, because the broken way made our cosmos, the greatest power of the universe = the suffering of a brokenhearted love.  In conclusion, Ann emphasizes:

“Suffering is not a problem that needs a solution as much as it’s an experience that needs compassion (emphasis Ann’s).”

Today’s question: What moments have occurred for daily giving your presence to one?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Incarnate the gospel”

A willingness to be inconvenienced

“A willingness to be inconvenienced is the ultimate proof of love.”- Ann Voskamp

As Ann Voskamp continues Chapter 13 of The Broken Way, she discusses the phrase “side by side” in Hebrews 10:33.  The writer of Hebrews refers to those who stood side by side with those publically insulted and persecuted.  Ann notes that “side by side” translates the Greek koinonoi– “companions,” “partners.”

Therefore, as we stand side by side with others in their suffering, we participate- get into- their suffering.  We allow their suffering to make us grimy and tearstained.  In addition, Ann states, we “drink the draught of communion.”

Because Jesus’ cross absorbs all your pain, the cross allows you to hold pain.  Furthermore, as you break and give yourself for others, they in turn bear all the gifts and love you gave away.

However, the performance culture of our world consists of impressing people and creating one’s own parade of accomplishments.  Ms. Voskamp contrasts this with the cruciform way of Christ.  The author observes:

“And the cruciform way of Christ is about letting the love of God and the needs of people impress and form you into a cross. . . the Samaritan who sacrifices to help other wounded paraders and upholding the forgotten.”

In conclusion, Ann states, the performing way of the world leads to a dead end.  On the other hand, the cruciform way of Christ leads to love.  Therefore, the ultimate proof of love = a willingness to be inconvenienced.  Also, loving broken people at inconvenient times enables you to experience fuller inclusion in the life of Christ.

Today’s question: Who has stood side by side, or partnered, with you in your suffering?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Shards of our broken hearts”

Fight back the dark with doxology

“Fight back the dark with doxology. . . . doxology can detox the day.”- Ann Voskamp

In Chapter 10 (“How to Passionately Love When Your Heart’s Breaking”) of The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp observes there’s nothing quite as terrifying as being forgotten.  Therefore, Ann states, in such situations, try to “curl comfort around the angst” of your drama.

The solution?  Less formula, more faith.  Consequently, the author adds, “when God’s enough, there’s grace enough.”  In other words, God supplies enough grace to meet the needs of humanity.

However, that begs this question: “Can I believe today’s God is enough God when the suffering and the grief comes?”  Ann urges you to start with one thing you’re thankful for.  As a result of thanks, eucharisteo comes like relief.  Doxology detoxes the day.

Yet, even though you don’t know the ending of today’s story, Ms. Voskamp encourages you to remember that “faith thanks God in the middle of the story.”  Furthermore, when you know you’re overreacting and triggered, slow things down and ease up.  Ann cautions:

“Love means holding your tongue when your heart is hard.  Or when it’s breaking.”

In conclusion, Ann notes that love always involves suffering.  The severe grace of love makes us real.  Hence, Ann emphasizes, picking up one’s cross feels most like patience.  In fact, patience and passion come from the exact same root word- patior, to suffer.  As Ann summarizes:

“Passion embraces suffering because there’s no other way to embrace love.”

Today’s question: What Scriptures enable you to fight back the dark with doxology?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Pick up your cross”

How we reckon

“Whatever God says, that’s how we reckon.”- Mark Batterson

“For I reckon  that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”- Romans 8:18 (KJV)

Mark Batterson begins Chapter 13 of If with a discussion of Romans 8:18.  He states that the Greek word for reckon, logizomai, is an accounting term referring to a spreadsheet or balance sheet.  It’s a record of debits and deposits.  Almost like balancing your checking account, one day your suffering will be reconciled.

On the earthly ledger, we tend to view suffering as a liability.  On the eternal ledger, however, suffering is an appreciating asset.  Faith adds God to the equation.  In all situations, God has the final word.  We reckon according to what God says.  Mark comments on the role of suffering in your life:

“You can be saved without suffering, but you cannot fully identify with Christ.  Suffering doesn’t devalue our lives.  It adds value in the form of invaluable lessons.  It’s also a multiplier of God’s glory.  When compared to the eternal glory it yields, time-stamped suffering ranks as one of God’s greatest gifts.”

Drawing on his own expertise, Mark has learned that God teaches us some things through suffering that we couldn’t have learned any other way.  God doesn’t award honorary doctorates.  We earn our degrees through the school of suffering, the school of failure, the school of pain.  Suffering can become a graduate course in gratitude.

According to the law of diminishing marginal utility, more is less.  Pastor Batterson connects this law with our measure of joy:

“Joy is not getting what you want; it’s appreciating what you have.”

Mark asserts we’d be happier, healthier, and holier if we simplified our lives.  He concludes: The only thing not out of date is eternity.”

Today’s question: C. T. Studd, founder of Heart of Africa Mission, famously said “only what’s done for Christ will last.”  How does this influence how we reckon?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Sight but no vision”


The purpose of life

“Our longing for life keeps confusing us about the purpose of life.”- John Eldredge

As John Eldredge concludes Chapter 17 of Moving Mountains, he asks us how we would explain that fact that throughout history a multitude of saints would testify that even though they endured terrible affliction and their most fervent prayers went unanswered, they would not trade that experience for anything in the world.  John explains they would not trade it “because of what they learned of God, learned of love, learned of hope.”

In Philippians 1:21 the apostle Paul wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Mr. Eldredge states Paul learned that most precious of all lessons through loss and suffering.  The most beautiful form of holiness is when God has become everything to us.  As George MacDonald describes in Unspoken Sermons, God is totally committed to shaping this very holiness in us:

“His children are not his real, true sons and daughters until they think like him, feel with him, judge as he judges, are at home with him, and without fear before him because he and they mean the same thing, love the same things, seek the same ends.”

We know the answer to the question “How does God shape our character?”  But at the same time we hate the answer- affliction.  John succinctly states:

“Clearly the purpose of life is not the removal of all affliction, or would we put ourselves above Jesus?”

Suffering is not a discouragement to pray.  John asserts it is the higher context with which we pray.  The mighty victory is staying true to God in the midst of terrible affliction.  The goal of this life is the beauty of Jesus Christ.  Your Father is committed to forming that beauty in you.

Today’s question: What has the suffering that resulted from your vocation loss taught you about the purpose of life?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the Annotated Bibliography of Moving Mountains

Tomorrow’s blog: “One little if” (from Mark Batterson’s latest book)


Holding God responsible

“Holding God responsible for our pain is as unproductive as it is unwise.”- June Hunt

June Hunt begins Chapter 11 (“Blindsided by a God-sized Boulder: ‘Oh God, How Could You Do This?’ “) of How to Forgive by noting that the vast majority of wounded people don’t allow their bitterness to consume them.  However, many people are deeply embittered.  They harbor sustained anger toward God.  This anger is fed by the belief that God could have or should have shielded them from devastating adversity.

In subtle or overt ways, wounded people are holding God responsible.  As Ms. Hunt notes, to view God as cruel and unjust “drains our lives of hope and leads to deep despair.”  June adds that the main reason we think this way is rooted in misunderstanding the purpose of life.

Our contemporary culture is one of comfort and a sense of entitlement.  We believe happy, healthy, prosperous, and cushy lives are our birthright.  While it is not inherently wrong to live that way, the problem arises when comfort becomes the ultimate goal of our existence.  C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity that comfort never was meant to be our purpose:

“Comfort is one thing you cannot get by looking for it.  If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will get neither comfort or truth- only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.”

Although researchers have discovered that “pain is the gift no one wants, pain is a vial to recovering from our wounds as well as avoiding worse ones.  If pain didn’t really hurt, we’d simply ignore its message and miss its refining effect.  In other words, pain has a higher purpose.

Suffering never is in vain.  It produces endurance, character, hope, and love (Romans 5:35).  Even the smallest step away from resentment is a step toward God’s freedom.

Today’s question: Have you ever found yourself holding God responsible for your vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The faith factor”