Because Christ Sat Down

There’s a canvas hanging in my bedroom, one given to me by a friend. She allowed me to pick a verse, and I chose this passage: “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins he sat down at the right hand of God…for by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:12-14). It never fails to amaze me when I consider the contrast of two types of priests. Old Testament Priesthood Old Testament priests had many duties including representing the people before God and offering the various sacrifices prescribed in the law. If you’ve ever done a study in Leviticus, you know that these sacrifices were many. They were also unending; the priests had to repeat them day after day. You and I can relate to unending jobs: unending laundry, unending meal prep and clean up, unending vacuuming. Priests also stood to indicate that their job was never finished. That’s because the people continued to sin, requiring repeated sacrifices. These sacrifices were earthly and temporal, and therefore not effective. The blood of bulls and goats could not satisfy the wrath of God; it could not fully pay the debt for sin. God used this sacrificial system to burn into his people’s hearts the reality of their fallenness, to show them that they needed not just a temporary sacrifice, but a perfect and forever sacrifice. They needed their sin covered once and for all. The book of Hebrews looks at the Old Testament sacrificial system and unpacks its limitations and flaws. It shows us how it was temporary—how it pointed to something greater.

Because Christ Sat Down2022-05-07T22:39:31+00:00

God Knows Your Story

“…in your book were written, every one of them,     the days that were formed for me,     when as yet there was none of them.”  Psalm 139:16b Deep in the human heart is a desire to hear, and sometimes tell, a good story. It’s there from the beginning, as babies, sitting on a lap for story time. It's there when we’re growing up, reading books, watching television, going to movies. It’s there when we get old, telling our own story to others, reminiscing with siblings about a shared childhood, or reliving long-ago moments when our present life is fading before our eyes. You Have a Story The blockbuster Broadway hit Hamilton capitalizes on this universal human desire by telling the story of an often-ignored founding father and his unknown but impressive wife, Eliza. After telling their fascinating story for more than two hours, the company asks the audience, “Who tells your story?” It’s powerful and poignant. It grabs your heart and reminds you that you do indeed have a story that may be someday forgotten to history but is equally important to every other story of anyone who’s ever lived. For those who cry easily, like I do, have a tissue handy for this one. After hearing the powerful closing number of this musical, it’s almost inevitable to ask, “Who tells your story?” But a bigger and more revealing question might be, “Who knows your story?” Your whole story, that is. Your siblings? Your spouse? Your BFF? The fact is, no one knows your whole story. People will come and go in your life, entering at a certain chapter and departing in another, knowing part of your story and hopefully understanding you better because of it. Some will see only a paragraph or two; others will be there for nearly the entire book but are only skimming your narrative. Sadly, some may glance at the cover and believe that they know your story without actually understanding the characters or plot. God Knows Your Story But God knows your story....

God Knows Your Story2022-05-07T22:40:11+00:00

For the Mom Who Longs to Be Seen

It's that middle place for children, right after self-awareness and just before it's singed with pride and embarrassment: When they look back at you after a great or terrible act with a question in their eyes, "Did you see that?" Of course, this carries far past the little years, but there is this short period of time where their need to be seen is so... seen. They threw a ball! Did you see that? They pushed their brother. Did you see that? Their chubby little fingers stacked the third block and it didn't fall—head turns and eyes grow: Did you see that? Our seeing their accomplishment actually completes it for them. But it's more than that, isn't it? They feel at home in our gaze; they feel like a whole person with our eyes on them. To be seen is to be. We would be fools to think that we somehow grew out of this basic human need. We've just figured out how to shade our eyes so that no one sees us looking around, trying to catch another's gaze: "Did anyone see that?" Longing to Be Seen We can feel this sorely, though not solely, as mothers—when every part of our body and brain and soul just needs to lie down, and we can't even remember what made us so tired in the first place. We hurt from loving, we ache from longing, and no matter how affirmative our husbands might be, we can still feel unseen. (Is anyone watching me make four lunches at once?) We may (I have) turn to sharing our moments on social media. Maybe a few hundred hearts and thumbs will quench this thirst. Maybe a comment of solidarity will pick me up off the ground. But it can't last, can it? I can't hold that person's face in my hands and fix their gaze forever. It's not just the hard moments that we wish for others to see—like when two people need their bottoms wiped at the exact same time (always, always... law of nature!). But it's the beautiful moments, too: when your baby hugs your leg and says, "I love you!" for the first time, unprompted. Oh, did anyone see that?! And so, like I experienced as a young mother, our brains can spiral down into a philosophical depression—is my life of motherhood the proverbial tree that falls in the forest? Do these common, everyday moments mean anything outside of someone's gaze?...

For the Mom Who Longs to Be Seen2022-05-07T22:41:44+00:00

Union with Christ in the Storms of Singleness

Recently I traveled alone between my two worlds: Philadelphia, my home and vocational base and the Midwest where I have decades-long friendships. Somewhere over Ohio I realized afresh that no one but the Lord really knew me in both worlds. Only Jesus had journeyed with me emotionally, relationally, and spiritually 24/7 in both places. I’ve had many of these heart-pang moments and yet realize that even if I had a traveling companion (friend or husband) who stood by my side, that person wouldn’t know me fully. There is only One who can: Jesus, the one in whom I am hidden in the intimate and unique home that I share with him alone. Our union with Christ is an important truth of the gospel, and therefore our identity as Christians. Whether if single or married, or if you face storms or sweet joys in your life station (most of us experience a combination of both!), the eternal fact of being united to Christ needs to be a primary lens through which we interpret and respond to our circumstances. Including when you’re thirty thousand feet above ground, feeling sad and unknown, and inching towards the downward slide of melancholy. What Union With Jesus Means Jesus helped his friends understand the idea of union with him through a metaphor of a vine and branches. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches, apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5) Paul talked about this spiritual concept in his pastoral letters. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20) For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  (Colossians 3:3) “Abiding” (or remaining, having a home) in Jesus, Christ “in us,” and our lives being “hidden” in him all speak to the spiritual reality of our connection to Jesus through faith in his accomplished work on the cross and resurrection. All that was ours (sin and eternal spiritual death) and all that is his (holiness, eternal life, a spiritual nature, identity as the beloved Son) are exchanged. At the cross, he united himself to our hopeless human state and opened the door for us to be grafted into him, gaining access to the riches of heaven!...

Union with Christ in the Storms of Singleness2022-05-07T22:43:15+00:00

Investing in Those We Minister To

This fall I began teaching another Bible study at my church, something I have done for many years. As I addressed the women in the room, I rejoiced at how many had been faithful to study God’s Word over the years and how they had grown in their faith as they applied truth to the hardships of their lives. As I looked out at their faces, I also felt a huge responsibility: How would I invest in these women over the next year? In writing to the Thessalonian believers, Paul states, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:7-8). As I studied these verses, as well as the surrounding context, I was struck by Paul’s affection for God’s people. Even amid conflict, Paul displayed godly conduct and gave thanks in all circumstances. In our service to others, you and I are called to do the same.    Conflict in Serving Paul served the Thessalonians in the midst of his own conflict, or suffering. Think about the last time you experienced conflict or suffering in ministry. Maybe the suffering came from chronic physical pain or maybe a fellow believer discouraged you in your role. Whatever the cause, doing ministry while in conflict is hard. We’re tempted to throw in the towel and call it quits until we feel better, or until the other person stops discouraging us. We might think of taking some time off to recoup and refresh before heading back into ministry work. But conflict, by God’s grace, often becomes the catalyst for declaring Christ. God uses our service in the midst of suffering to spread His gospel. I have experienced this in my own life. In fact, the first day of teaching this fall I was in tremendous physical pain from a chronic GI complication I have had since 2006. But I have learned over the years the truth of the Lord’s words to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Ministering to others in our suffering is an opportunity to magnify the Lord’s strength. Conduct in Serving Paul also displayed godly conduct as he served. God entrusted us with a message and His Spirit empowers us to proclaim it. The Lord refines us as we serve, oftentimes uprooting sinful motives in our hearts, such as gaining man’s approval, and replacing them with gentleness, love, and a heart that seeks God’s glory...

Investing in Those We Minister To2022-05-07T22:43:57+00:00
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