the Father’s love

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Well, all the kids have been battling a minor head cold the past few days.  We had a quieter weekend with more tasks and mundane work at home to catch up on on Saturday.  Yesterday we stayed home from church, not wanting to pass on the sickies, opting instead for a quiet easy walk at nearby Lake Powhatan.  We always ache to be with our church family, but the days when we are forced to stay home with feverish babies are days to receive with open hands, a good sort of rest and quietness.  We basked in the sun and the glorious first-fall-feeling day, all bundled up to keep little sick ones warm in the wind.  We spent the afternoon resting, reading, snacking on the porch after naps + looking through old photo albums, then riding bikes in front of our house while dinner simmered on the stove.  Simple things, small things, all the things we can easily take for granted.  What a gift it is the have each other, to be together, to work through the hard moments when we are all sharp and fractious, stumbling along in our journey to understand grace, offering quiet sorry’s and long hugs.  What a sweetness to just let the work sit, as much as we are able, and let our souls sink down deeper in our faithful God.

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I’ve been reading through the Gospels all year.  I thought I’d be farther by now, but it has been the sweetest, most powerful journey alone with the Lord, just His Word and I, and I’ve had to go so slow to just savor the beauty of all His Spirit has been speaking to me.  I’ve chased whatever rabbit trails He’s told me to, sought for understanding only to find usually more questions and mystery.  But I have felt so very near to my Savior and so much more reacquainted with His ways, His agenda, His heart beat.

Lately I’ve been in the first few chapters of Luke.  You can’t come to early Luke and not feel like it’s Christmas time.  It’s just heavy with the anticipation surrounding that time of year.  It’s hard to say which Gospel writer I enjoy best, each so distinct and variegated, but I do think it could be Luke.  There’s something about the way he turns a phrase and tells a story.

I’ve often wondered what Jesus was like growing up.  After the accounts of His birth, we have no details to fill in the gaps between his birth and his 30’s, other than the singular story of Him, recorded by Luke (2:41-52) of Jesus at age twelve.  This singular story recording that time when Mary + Joseph lost Jesus for three days, giving us a glimpse into His boyhood and the mysterious way that He was both fully human and fully divine as a child.  Here Luke finds it important to tell us that at age twelve, Jesus was beginning to display His independence, His God-ness, His otherness a bit more.  His wisdom astounded the leaders + teachers in the synagogue.  He was already beginning to be aware that He had to be about His Father’s work.  He was already beginning to move away from dependence on His earthly parents with a growing awakening to His calling, a strength, a focus, a settledness and resolve.  Yet, when His parents scolded Him in their great relief to have found Him, the Scriptures tell us He submitted Himself to them.  Willingly, He submitted His God-ness to live under their human, yet God-given, authority.

From this point on, in every Gospel account, we don’t see Jesus do a thing until He has first been baptized by John the Baptizer and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him.  Every work of Jesus thereafter recorded in the Scriptures flows from the infilling of the Holy Spirit, an outpouring from within.  His work is preceded by His baptism, the Father’s pronouncement of Sonship + good pleasure over Him.  This is how His work begins.  This is where our work must begin also.  First, our own house in order.  First, our own soul.  First, our own rootedness + settledness in our identity as His dearly loved child.  First, our own experience of His love lavished on us.

Then all our work can flow from the awareness that He is the orchestrator behind it, the generator of it.  The sustainer of us in it.  Then, and only then, our identity is not dependent on our work or our success, but in that deeply personal work He has already accomplished in us in the secret place with Him.  This frees us up from striving for a name, striving for an outcome, being crippled by the negative response of others–whether that be indifference, unpopularity, misunderstanding, or plain criticism.  Only when we know we are settled securely in the Father’s love + good-pleasure over us do we really have anything to pour out onto others.

“A voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son, with you I am well-pleased.'”
(Luke 3:22)

How He would need these words in the days to come.  He went straight up out of the waters of this moment into the bone dry heat of the desert to fast and be tempted by Satan for 40 days and nights.  How He would need those words to draw upon in order to finish His course, in all the ways that the coming days would test His certainty of His Father’s love and good-pleasure over Him.  How He would need those words when He hung on the cross in His bleakest and most desperate moment, when He would cry out, “Father, why have You forsaken Me?”

Maybe you need those words today, too, in your Tuesday work.  In your ordinary moments and your boring mundane.  In the tasks that you are putting your hand to, the hidden work that no one sees, the uncelebrated and passed-over, the thankless efforts.  May He speak His love over you today as you head into a new week.  May your own soul be at rest in Him, so that you can abide in that place even while heading into the fray.

Summer is coming to a quiet little end around here, melting sleepily away into chilly morning air.  (We still have a beach trip planned, so I’m hoping some warmth hangs around for a little while longer!)  The goldenrod are blazing their signal, summer giving way to fall.  DSC_0360 DSC_0362 DSC_0413 DSC_0415 DSC_0398 DSC_0381 DSC_0384DSC_0430DSC_0434DSC_0427

This next picture was taken by Phoebe:

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These three were taken by Noah:

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I love seeing their little happy fingers holding the camera and clicking away.  I love seeing their perspective.

In the Name of Love

“I’d rather not talk about homosexuality again. But the world hasn’t stopped talking about it. And the Bible hasn’t stopped saying what it has always said. So let’s not be shrill and let’s not be silent.” (Kevin DeYoung)

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Yesterday was a heavy day, and I’m deeply grieved over the Supreme Court ruling.  Though I am not surprised, I am still grieved.  I am grieved because even though we can expect an unbelieving world to act unbelievingly, it is still wrong.  It is still grievous sin.  Even though we can expect unregenerate man to reject God’s ways and love their own, even when we are unsurprised at such things because we ourselves have great familiarity with our own desperately sinful natures, we are still grieved.  We who profess Christ, of all people, know that to choose to sin brings suffering.

The night before the Supreme Court ruling, our small group gathered and happened to watch an old David Platt Secret Church series on Family, Marriage, Sex + the Gospel and these two quotes from great former thinkers in the Church stood out starkly to me:

“If I profess with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that point at which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ.  Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the solider is proved.  And to be steady on all the battlefield [elsewhere] is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”
{Martin Luther}

“We must ask ourselves where we as evangelicals have been in the battle for truth and morality in our culture.  Have we as evangelicals been on the front lines contending for our faith and confronting the moral breakdown over the last forty to sixty years?  Most of the evangelical world has not been active in the battle or even been able to see that we are in a battle.  The last sixty years have given birth to a moral disaster, and what have we done?  Sadly, we must say that the evangelical world has been part of the disaster.  More than this, the evangelical response itself has been a disaster.  Where is the clear voice speaking to the crucial issues of the day with distinctively Christian biblical answers?  With tears we must say it is not there, and a large segment of the evangelical world has become seduced by the world’s spirit of this present age.  More than this, we can expect the future to be a further disaster if the evangelical world does not take a stand for biblical truth and morality in the full spectrum of life.”
{Francis Schaeffer, written in the mid 20th century}

Typically in my writing, I stay away from political hot topics like the plague.  I cannot and do not respect others in our social-media-saturated culture who capitalize on every political moment in order to be heard and have a moment in the spotlight.  I do not write this post in an effort to troll for blog views.  I am not even for a second deluded into thinking this will gain me any popularity.  But fresh conviction fell on me upon hearing those two quotes above the other evening.  In most cases, I tend to stay silent because I don’t want to draw argument, conflict, or hatred.  In most cases, I stay silent out of an effort to stay safe.  Today, I am mourning that greatly.  I have to confess I haven’t done my part to fight against same-sex marriage being legalized in our nation.  I don’t hope to correct that now, only to start standing for biblical truth in these extremely important as well as controversial matters.

The Gospel writer, Matthew, recorded these words of Jesus to His followers:

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.  You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:13-16)

I have often heard the argument coming from fellow Christians that we need not really engage in this fight for the legalization of same-sex marriage because well, of course non-believers are going to act in such a manner.  How can we expect to impose our Christian values and beliefs on people who do not know Jesus and do not desire Him?  We don’t live in a theocracy.  There’s separation of church + state.  While I agree in some measure with this, I am niggled by the words of Jesus above. What, then, does it mean to be salt?  Doesn’t salt have a preservative quality?  Are we not called in our day to be the very presence of Jesus amongst our people, to fight to preserve God’s design in every way we can?  Do we just throw up our hands in defeat because someone doesn’t believe the same way we do?  How would we apply this same attitude (of apathy + defeatism) to a different issue, say, abortion?  Racism?  Gluttony?  Sex-Trafficking of children?  Lying?  Simply because the sin exists, simply because there is a fraction of humanity that wants to condone it and say “live + let live, who am I to tell another what to do?” does not mean we stand by on those issues and stay insulated in our church buildings.  We are not surprised by the evil running rampant in the world around us.  We are grieved, but we do not despair.  We keep running the race, fighting the good fight, as the Apostle Paul says.  And what is the good fight?  In context of that passage, it is the fight to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.  While we wage war against the powers of darkness in our day, we do so with integrity.  With great love.  With steadfastness.  With humility, for pete’s sake.  With gentleness.  With passion and persuasion.  We don’t just allow evil to run wild in our day.  We stand firm against it, fighting to preserve not our ideas and notions that our country is a Christian nation (it is not), but fighting to preserve God’s design for mankind.

We’ve all seen the hashtag attached to the celebration of this legal decision: #LoveWins.  Love wins.

What is love?  Is it just feelings for a person?  Strong attachment?  Sexual desire?  Those things obviously exist in some forms of love, but is that all that love is?  I would argue that love is also this: always doing what is in the best interest of the beloved, never doing what injures the beloved.  When I love my children, I do what is in the ultimate best interest for them, often at great cost to myself, often sacrificially.  As it pertains to the issue of homosexuality, according to the Bible (which is God’s inspired message to mankind) homosexuality is wrong, it is sin (Lev. 18:2220:13Rom. 1:18-321 Cor. 6:91 Tim. 1:10Jude 7).  God designed man and as the Creator, He holds the blueprint for how man is best designed to function.  In a similar (yet not completely same) way, parents give birth to a child and know what is best for the child.  They are older, wiser.  In a normal context, they approach the child in profound love.  All decisions they make for that child stem from a place of love.  The child may want to do harmful and destructive things, but the parent’s job is to restrain and correct and train the child.  The child thinks he knows best for himself.  If it were up to him, he would choose to never nap, to eat sugary cookies all day long, to run wild into the busy street.  (I mean, have you spent any time around children?)  They are precious, but they are also precocious.  They are sweet but no one can argue that they are saints.  They have immature desires because they are small and young and do not understand the bigger picture.  They also have sinful desires simply because they are born with a sinful nature.  They don’t understand that their small bodies cannot function well or grow well by eating a diet of sugar cookies and chocolate milk.  They can’t understand that sometimes they need a good nap to feel better.  That’s why as parents we step in and make decisions for them, in their best interest.  In the immediate moment, it is difficult even for the parent who so wants to always please the child and make them happy.  But in the ultimate sense, the parent knows the child needs safety, good nutrition, structure, and loving care.

Similarly but in a far superior way, God created mankind and He alone knows how best we function.  He knows that sin feels so good to us in the immediate, but that it will always, always lead to destruction: ours and others.  He desires to protect us from that.  And so His law is for our good.  Always, for our best.  Always, it is in our best interest.  Always, it is in the best interest of the corporate community, the culture as a whole.

Because this is the way God loves us, it is the charge that Christians have as we operate in a world that does not recognize God or desire Him.  We don’t flinch, we don’t hold back in the name of tolerance or “love,” we lovingly fight for God’s best for all mankind.

We stand against homosexuality as a sin (as well as every other sin) because it is not in the best interest of any human being to operate outside of the bounds of God’s design.  We stand against it, lovingly, with compassion + humility, because the victims of this landmark Supreme Court decision will be our children.  They will never remember a world in which same-sex marriage was not normalized or legal, as opposed to God’s design for marriage which is between one man and one woman (Gen. 1:27-282:18-25Mal. 2:15Matt. 19:4-6Mark 10:6-9).  They will grow up in a world where they are told “whatever you want, however you want, you can have it.  It’s okay.”  If we are biblical Christians, we know this is not true.  That statement is a lie and will lead to great pain for our children.

What we must be telling our children is that there is a way.  There is one way.  It is narrow.  It is unpopular.  It will draw hatred.  It will draw false-accusation.  It will be uncomfortable.  It will require laying down your life and picking up the cross of Jesus.  But this is the way to life.  This is the way to joy, healing, freedom, forgiveness.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”  (Matt. 16:24-26)

What we must do is fight against the oppression of mankind at every turn.  When Jesus was walking on the earth, He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).  When Jesus arrived, the kingdom of God came to earth.  It arrived, His reign began and will be fulfilled at His second coming.  Part of what I have been studying all year long is what the Christian’s role is in “kingdom work” as we live and move and breathe in our world.  I certainly am not close to having all the answers on what that looks like, but I do firmly believe that part of our kingdom work is preserving God’s design for the world and for mankind, restoring what is broken, and applying the redemption of Christ to all realms of the created order.

So, how do we do that now?  That’s a post for another day but I think we have to work at it faithfully in every avenue, whether social or private, political or in the church.  We engage in the conversation.  We mourn over the decision of our nation, and we work for reform, while we remain firm and steadfast in loving others, preaching the Gospel unflinchingly in the face of persecution.  We teach our children and train them in truth and in defending the faith.  We teach our children and train them in love, compassion, reaching out to those who make themselves our enemies.

Yes, love wins.  God is love, it is His name.  He has won, He will win, His love will always win.  Our way is never the way of hatred, but it is to stand firmly and with resolve against whatever causes harm, whatever injures.  Whatever desecrates, whatever detracts.  His love won me when He sent His Son to die for me even while I was yet a sinner (Rom. 5:8).

I remain hopeful and at rest in the awesome security of God’s sovereignty over even this grievous action.

 

Related reads that I have found encouraging and helpful:

But What Does the Bible Say? by Kevin DeYoung

So-Called Same-Sex Marriage by John Piper

 

to make you feel my love

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dear phoebe

last night we cut into the cake and discovered that this baby growing in mommy’s tummy is a girl!  you screamed and bounced in your chair, so excited.  from the very beginning you said you wanted a sister.  then lately you’ve been wanting another brother.  and late last night, after all the excitement had settled and we were tucking your sleepy head into your bed, your little precious face clouded over, your big solemn eyes became troubled.

“Mommy, can I get back in your tummy,” you asked.

“Will the ‘new girl’ sit in the front seat?” (your special favorite treat lately is when mommy lets you sit next to me in the car when we drive our back road home.)

and oh, my heart squeezed for you.  do you know how special you are to me?  no one and nothing ever can replace you, my girl.  your quirky, silly, wild, hilarious, exuberant, scrawny, gorgeous little self is entirely unique.  you’ll always be my very favorite firstborn ever.

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having a sister can be hard sometimes but there is no other relationship like it on this earth!  I think you’re going to love it.

love,
mommy