This week marks the week of Christ’s suffering and death and ressurection. It has been a blessing already as I have read the scriptures of his entry into Jerusalem and his ministry in the first part of the week. Yesterday, I was reminded in personal time with God and at church that Jesus did not deliver the kind of ruler and person the Jews expected. Conviction set over my heart as I pondered the idol I have made of Christ in my life and the idol the church has made. As, I read this morning about Jesus cursing the fig tree, cleansing the temple and telling the Parable of the Tenants, I was amazed and humbled. I was reminded of Isaiah after he saw God…declaring I am a woman of unclean lips. The church declares many things about Christ…depending upon which flavor you get. There is a lot of talk today about the mercy and love without the might, wrath and justice. In God’s word, all are beautifully written. In Christ, all are beautifully portrayed. Today my memory was jarred to the fact that Jesus spoke about the judgement of God plainly at the beginning of the Passion week. I am reminded of the judgement that I soooooo deserve, and I weep in thankful humbleness at the work of Christ on my behalf. He took my judgement for my sin. He bore the wrath. He bore the shame. It is finished. May I praise Him all of my days and not live as though it is not so. I encourage you to examine your hearts this week…examine His scriptures. Forgiveness is not given universally to all…but to those who by His Spirit, repent(turn) from their sin and confess and believe that Jesus is Lord and that he died for one’s sins and was resurrected to give them new life (he has beaten death). It is not merely a prayer or words but a true surrender of the heart. O Praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead!
Whoa. I am almost 33 (just a month and a half away), and my body is telling a new story. Two nights ago, I stayed up reading a book until 2 in the morning and awoke early (a few hours later). Factor in the time change and talking with and leading people all day long after that, and you get a big pile of brain and body mush. All of this to say…my body aches and the recovery is going to be longer than a few cups of coffee. I can look to the hairs on the top of my head, the forming wrinkles that frame my smile and the achiness in my joints to remind me this world does not revolve around me. I guess we all think we will be young and feel the same way forever, and the consequence of sin gives us a reminder that we are but dust in this world. Here today and gone tomorrow…I need some more coffee to help this day count! I am reminded that apart from Jesus, I can do nothing…apparently this even includes forming a sentence:). I stop in my rambling, tired state and remember the beauty and gift of life. I am thankful today for a bed to sleep in to recover, a computer to communicate on, good coffee to enjoy, people to relate with deeply, a car to drive, His word to enjoy and learn from, two legs (however achy) that will get me where I need to go to serve and love him, a husband that can laugh with me, people on the other side of a phone I can share my heart with, a church that is following after Jesus, a family who cares, the girls in Lonsdale I got to laugh and share with yesterday, the sunshine, hardships which make me want to quit but instead stretch and grow me in the sufficiency and love of Christ… I need to be reminded daily to be thankful. I pray that each time I feel tired today or achy that my mind move to thankfulness instead of weariness. May I make the day count in His Kingdom and for His glory.
I am plugging along in “Respectable Sins” by Jerry Bridges, and I have reached the chapter on discontentment. Whoa. I also have read chapters on anxiety and frustration…yeah, I have had opportunity and experience in practicing all three of these acceptable sins. I could say that I am an expert at them, and that makes me sick. The further people move into adulthood, the more they fall into discontentment (I mean, just watch Oprah for the lovely examples). The world tosses you this grand picture of the hope of life–relationships, 2.5 kids, SUVs, houses in the suburbs, exotic vacations, fashion, meaningful jobs with grand salaries. Then, you actually live life and find that these things only satiate your palate for a brief instance before you realize…this is all there is? or, why can’t I have what they have? insert… loving husband, kids, fufilling job, nicer house, being free from pain, etc. because I know that will fufill me for sure. It is interesting for me to see people as they prepare for a wedding and then as they are actually living married life. The more romantic illusions were in place beforehand, the harder the transition to the hard work of marriage. Last night, I told my small group girls that I hated that more people were not honest about marriage to people. I think people experience greater discontentment because the truth was not shared with them as to what the committment entails. When you are prepared in truth, you live more in truth and trust that God is working this for a greater good than your circumstantial happiness–He is working for your sanctification (making you more like Christ). Last night at Crossroad, Greg said that “good doctrine allows good living” and “what you feel is a result of what you think.” (The sermon was on Romans 12:1-2–worshipping God with your life…renewing your mind in Him.) This thought goes hand in hand with what Jerry Bridges proposes in the chapter I read about discontentment as a sin. He said that:
‘Our ability to respond to [circumstances] in a God-honoring and God-pleasing manner depends on our ability and willingness to bring these truths [that God is sovereign, wise and good in all the circumstances of our lives] to bear on them.’
‘We must do this by faith; that is we must believe that the Bible’s teaching about these attributes really is true and that God has brought or allowed these difficult circumstances into our lives for His glory and our ultimate good [sanctification].’
Ungodly discontentment comes when we do not factor His presence or purpose in every aspect of our lives. That makes us no different from the world. Psalm 139 speaks of how God knows us and formed us and purposed our lives. In Psalm 139:16, David says
‘All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.’
Bridges proposes that when we begin to be nourished from the truths of God’s plans and purposes for us in his word, then we are more apt to accept things from the hand of God and live to glorify Him through whatever he brings. I know this could sound trite when you think on your struggles, but that is only when framed in a worldview that bases the goodness of our lives on our comfort instead of our becoming more like Christ. And becoming more like Christ is more good and fulfilling than ANYTHING this world has to offer. I am most satisfied and filled in life when I am following Him fully and trusting Him to glorify himself through me. Bridges spoke of moving from the attitude of a victim of circumstances to the attitude of a steward of circumstance. Thinking along the lines…”how can I use_____________ to serve and glorify you?” He does not deal with merely trivial issues in the chapter…he mentions several sources of discontentment in the lives of Christians.
an unfufilling/low paying job
singleness well into midlife and beyond
inability to bear children
an unhappy marriage
continual poor health
If all the days are ordained for us, none of this is outside of his hand. We can choose to brood and turn bitter in our hearts, or we can fight to bathe ourselves in His Truth. This is NOT EASY, but I have seen it evidenced in my life that when I turn to the truth of His word and believe it, good living comes out. When I choose to stay in bitterness and despair and measure things on the world’s scale, I choose sin that leads to further discontentment (sin). Jesus prayed this for us:
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17
Some of the greatest times my soul was weary with discontentment in marriage and physical pain and emotional pain, I have been comforted by His truth and presence. I experienced deep joy in Him being strengthened to walk back into the trying circumstance. Bridges and I agree that we are not minimizing pain or hardship, but we know the benefits and righteousness (instead of sin) that comes from bathing in God’s truth to live. For God’s reasons (and I do not assume to understand or know them all), He has chosen to put us in the places that we are whether they be seasons or lifetimes, and they are to be for His glory and our good. (Romans 8:28-29) So, the question to myself is: Am I stewarding those to his glory and renown or am I playing the victim in my sin? Today, I pray that I trust and be filled with his word that they might be for his renown and glory. I encourage you to do the same.
I have to admit I have become quite a hermit on the weekends beginning with my husband’s influence and ending in my newfound habit of needing alone time. However, this weekend was filled with people. I started on Friday spending time with my mom and going to see my Uncle Tip in the hospital. He is really sick and is actually having surgery on his heart this morning (so, pray if you will). Greg and I then went with my mom to lunch and aided her in computer shopping. We briefly came home to then go back out again to dinner at P.F. Changs with our friends, Zach and Natalie. They are getting married in a month–Greg is officiating and I am in the wedding. It was good to spend time with them–they both long to glorify God so much in their wedding and marriage. We then proceeded to East Knoxville to go to a boxing tournament to watch our friend, Forrest. This was a new experience for me. I do not ever relish the thought of seeing people get bloody. I won’t lie; I got into it cheering him on! (He won for his division!) I did feel like a mamaw around a sea of fraternity and sorority girls–so easily I forget the bubble of college life. Saturday Greg and I went to breakfast at Mimi’s–a nice treat! Then, I went grocery shopping, cleaned and took off to Athens for a baby shower I helped host for my friend, Cindy. It was great to fellowship with good friends and serve my friend. I also got to celebrate with my friend, Amber, who helped host. She just bought her first house. It is really cute, and she is hard at work to get things painted. Cindy and Amber have been my dear friends since high school, and it is wonderful to celebrate big happenings in their lives! There were good interactions with old dear friends in that time. I also got to catch up with my friend, Kelly, on the phone. By the time I drove back, I was exhausted and felt like I could not form another sentence. Sunday, I helped to lead worship and Greg spoke at church. My friends from Athens, Ric Wilson and Ben and Joy Finch, came up to visit our church. It was great to see them. While sitting and working on Bible Study material for Monday night, I also caught up with many people as they walked by and shared what was going on in their lives. Many times, I run out of words after Sunday mornings. There are so many people to check in with, and that is the main hub time to see people. I always hate that I feel like there are many superficial conversations because there are so many people with so little time. We finally got to spend some time with our friends, Jacob and Beth Winn on Sunday night. They have had such a hard season with Jacob’s back pain, and we have not gotten to connect in quite awhile. So, off we go into another week!
Last week, I was privileged to have moments by the window with coffee while it was snowing. It was quiet…the kind of peaceful quiet that only comes when watching snow blanketing the ground. In that moment, I was reminded that I am one of those snowflakes–here and gone in an instant with no clear mark on the world. The Bible says we are as dust, as grass before God…we spring up and are gone. Oh, how I need that reminder when I am weary and feel the sadness of relationships and the exhaustion of ministry. I think I am so important…that life hangs in the balance because of me, and then God uses a beautiful snowflake to remind me of the lesson that he is Everything and I am not. There is great comfort in that. He is the reason…he upholds me, gives me strength, wins the battle. I cling and follow and he gives me the privilege of knowing him and becoming more like him. I am also reminded that this too will pass, and in a moment’s time, I will be with him in eternity. Oh, how I long for that. In this brief span of time, he invites me to depend on him loving him and loving others. He invites me to do it in his holy and wise ways–not mine. He molds me to trust and know his ways are far better than mine. I will be in that process until I melt like that snowflake. I will also need to be reminded of the lesson of the snowflake hour by hour. His word and Spirit are my guide as I am easily deceived in thinking that I have blown it or that I have to fix everything. He lovingly reminds me that there is forgiveness for my sins and that I do not have to earn my way back into his presence. He calls me to repentance and trust and obedience. May I remember that today.
In a conversation with a friend the other day, I was reminded that the only things that are lasting are hard and take time. This a totally opposite concept from our world. I text instead of call…Call in the car instead of at home…order my food to go…have a vacuum that sort of cleans the floor for me…send mass emails to disseminate information…pay bills on line…keep up with friends on facebook…fast forward through commericals with a DVR…I could go on. This is a deceptive life for me to lead. I begin to think and wish that there is a short cut for relationships. I think “this should not take this long or should not be this hard.” I start equating hard with bad or not worth it. Whereas, all the good, rich things in life take time and energy and exhaustion (marriage, friendship, parenting, developing skills). The very things that matter make you want to give up several times–sometimes everyday. The deepest, most beautiful relationship we have takes investment, faith, sorrow, brokenness, study, fasting, etc. Our hearts are purged of sin and filled with love and obedience in the Father over long periods of time. Like a farmer who tills the ground, plants and waters and weeds and harvests over months and years, we must go back to the Father day in and day out. This does not jive with the lessons I am learning as an American. Life gets faster with technology and therefore, it seems that my heart looks for that instant gratification of growth in Christ and in relationship to others. I want to skip the very reason I am here–to be with and learn from my Eternal Father. May my heart not jump ahead…may I sit with him to learn and grow and worship. And, may I sit with others and share with them in that way, too. May the concept of discipline be practiced in my life daily and may I have the wisdom and grace to teach others that as well.
My heart is heavy. This morning I am reminded that the enemy is a roaring lion looking for people to devour. We are mostly devoured subtly, I think. There are people that struggle with illicit drugs and sex, but most people I know are devoured by what look, in the beginning, like seemingly good things. It then becomes their destruction. What is most heavy on me is that this destruction happens within the walls of Christendom.(do people even use that word anymore? This is my first time.) The more I walk, the more I see that most people who claim the name of Christ are pretty clueless to what his word says. We rely on someone else to tell us or a new book that sounds cool and new and different. We are swept away by new thought and cling to that to give us meaning. We are enamored by “Christian” gurus or speakers. It breaks my heart that people can listen to speakers and read books by others and they do not even think twice when the very foundation of being a Christ follower is rocked. What I see time and time again is biblical illiteracy. Until I was a senior in college, the Bible was a cursory thing in my life. I would have said that it was extremely important to me, but the way I lived, I used it to give a back up rationale for my thoughts and actions. I used it for a little encouragement here and there for some decision I had to make. Looking back, it was sort of like caffeine to me–using it to boost my life when I ran out of steam on my own. I was highly convicted during this time to look deeply into it, and I was changed. Things I assumed about God were shown empty. Other things that I had not thought of before brought the richness of who he is to the forefront in my life. At that time, my foundation was turned from what the church had taught me to the beauty of living by his word. That reliance and process keeps growing in my life to this day…11 years later. His word teaches me his character, his plan, his sovereignty…my sin, his sufficiency. It is a treasure that keeps pointing my wayward heart back to him. When I am out of it for a day or several days, I am spent, lacking, limping, and am quick to think of myself before all else. The other day, my friend Tiffany and I actually looked through Psalm 119 to study the benefits of God’s word…wow. There are a lot of them–it is a treasure. To think that God sovreignly gave us his word to show us himself, to guide us, to convict us, to plainly tell us of Christ (all throughout his word), to keep us rooted in the truth of who he is….I am beyond thankful (but yet ashamed that I do not study it enough). Yesterday, I was at a used bookstore in Knoxville where they have ‘give away’ bins. Basically, they put books in that they do not think they can sell–usually there are random text books from the 70’s and really bad novels, etc. It is always fun to think that you can get something for free, but usually, no dice on getting my interest. However, as I was walking by yesterday, a Bible caught my eye. A Bible, probably the most costly book ever. There was a time in the pre-Reformation period where no one, except the very rich and educated in the Catholic church, had a Bible, and now, this one was thrown in a bin for free. Is this a commentary on its worth to many? As I look around, I think it is. Daily, people I know are being swayed and devoured by lies. Not just lies about their worth, etc–lies about Christ–about God’s character–the very truths shown in God’s word. And, they do not even bat an eye because they have not studied. They are swayed by sentiment and feeling and worldly wisdom. I get swayed by it, too. That is the very time I am reminded that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). I am reminded that our human wisdom is lacking (1 Corinthians 1:17). His word shows us his truth. It shows us the truth of this time…
‘For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But, you keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.’ 2 Timothy 4:3-5
Is this the time where I name names? My personality really hates to do that, but I see that people continued to be glossed over not reading or living with discernment. Just because something sounds good and cool…do not swallow it. Take it to God’s word….actually, spend more time there than anywhere else. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you the Truth through it. Memorize it. Live your life by it. Realize it’s transforming power–it is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). Dig deep into the meat instead of living life lazily on the surface. Look at the whole counsel of God–the Old and New testaments…study through a whole book instead of verses you go to to feel good. Follow what it says–trust God that the way he lays out handling conflict is wise and best instead of human practices (Matthew 5:21-26, Matthew 18). Put feet to your faith. If you spend more time in it than being enamored by a new author which seeks to ‘redefine’ Christianity, you may see fruit beyond what you ever imagined in your life. I beg of you, study his word. Pray that he show you himself through it. Be diligent in pursuing godliness. This takes time and effort, but it is worth a thousand-fold.
Here is a brief view into the marriage of your’s truly. This was shown with the sermon last Sunday morning at our church. I try to be as honest as possible with anyone going into marriage–the best and hardest things come from it. You cannot imagine the hard that will come and the sin you will see in oneself as you grow, but there is great joy in depending on the Father to do what you cannot do. Greg and I have walked together in marriage for 6 1/2 years, and there will be many more hard and good times to come. There is NO possible way we could have made it without the Holy Spirit’s conviction and grace. On our wedding day I prayed that he was glorified and that is still my prayer today.
hpim1317.jpg Greg and I traveled to Dallas this weekend for a wedding of a dear friend. Throughout the weekend, we got to visit with many old dear friends, as well. We have not been away for fun since last spring break. We all need time to pull away from responsibilities and everyday life. It was refreshing…we laughed and ate good Mexican food and mostly slept well. It has been almost 7 years since we had been there together. I lived there in 1999 experiencing my first ‘big girl’ job and my first apartment on my own. As we drove through the streets of Lewisville, a heaviness came over me. Three weeks after I moved to Dallas in ’99, my mom was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Greg was traveling a lot speaking around the country, so I was sad and alone. It was probably one of the most lonely and sad parts of my life paired with the fact that I really had no idea who I was or where I was going. We made it through that time…thus the fact that I am Mrs. Pinkner. Instead of sitting in that heaviness of memory, I thought of all of the blessings I have today. The many people who know me–the real me (funny, I think I know who the real me is now, as well), a church family, deep roots in community, and fruit in my life (at times it seemed there was not even a wilting grape during that time). There are so many people that I know in need now and so much work to be done, it is hard to remember a time that I did not have that. I remember what is was like to be deep in depression…I think it was a cumulation between unconfessed sin in my life and circumstance. God began a time of purging in me. This weekend was a reminder to me as I interacted with the people from various stages of the last 10 years of my life (and many more of Greg’s life), that we are always in the process. He is always moving and growing us…purging sin, replacing it with godliness, disciplining…all in love and truth. What will I think when I look back on this time in 7 years, in 20 years? I thank him for the richness of life right now…hard, beautiful, purposeful, rich. I thank him for the partner in Greg that he has given me and how he has grown us from the first months of our dating until now. And, as we saw friends–Mike, Jeni, Agnew, Wilson, Leslie, Kevin and Lorraine, Dainon and Julie and many more–I am thankful for people along the way to laugh with, be sharpened and encouraged by, and to bear with. There are many in our lives that we get only brief glimpses of…together for a time. I love the friendships that you can just pick up when you pass…I have been blessed with many of those. I am reminded now of eternity where, in Christ, we will be together. I am also reminded how quickly things can change in our lives…our locations, our circumstances, our friends. May I hold closely to Him wherever he takes us.
‘Enter the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’
‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. THEY WILL TREAT YOU IN THIS WAY BECAUSE OF MY NAME, for they do not know the one who sent me…’
‘LARGE CROWDS WERE FOLLOWING Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
Salt is good, but if it lose its saltiness, how can it be made salty again: If is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
He who has ears let him hear.”
These last few days, I have been counting the cost. Counting the cost of comfort, relationships, reputation, sleep, finances, only to be reminded time and again of Jesus’ words. I WILL have enemies if I follow him. I WILL be looked at as a lunatic in the world’s eyes and also in the eyes of some in the church. I WILL experience rifts in my family because of his name. I WILL lose relationships because of his name. I WILL be misunderstood because of his name. I could possibly lose my life (literally) because of his name. When I experience cost for following him, I have two options. I can cling to him and his word all the more–which is why I got to this place, or I can believe the lies of the enemy–which have been REALLY loud. I begin asking myself,
“Do I have it all wrong? Should I just give in and tell people what they want to hear? Am I really being loving? Why does it have to be so hard? Will it ever get easier? How will this cost my future children? Will I get to see any fruit of this?”
This year, Greg and I have experienced more discomfort and opposition for the sake of Christ than ever before. We know that this will only grow stronger. As we have grown more to cling to his word and live by it instead of the status quo of Christian expectations, there has been a distinct difference in the reaction of others to us. And, there has been an increased joy in fellowship with Jesus. I am reminded daily that wide is the way that leads to destruction and narrow is the way that leads to life in Him. I also am reminded that as an American Christ Follower in the South, my cost is minimal compared to those risking their very lives in China, Southeast Asia, and around the world. But, I still must count the cost and cling to him in where he has placed me. I want to be faithful to him and love him and treasure him above all. In order to do that, my mind has to be renewed in his word daily…hourly. I look around at churches and pastors that are taking the easy way. It is hard to find a place to worship and grow where Christ is treasured and exalted above all–and his word is the guide. In times of cost, I can understand how they get there. It is hard, but I am reminded that the very power that raised Christ from the dead is in us. What is impossible with man is possible with God. It is scary when you hear that people hate you. (Especially for a fleshly people pleaser like me.) But, this is not to be a surprise. I thank Jesus that he laid this out in his word for us not to be surprised. So many times, I feel myself teetering on a fence thinking that I can get reward from the world and from God. Then I am soberly reminded that that is not true. In that moment, I am also convicted that Jesus is to be my treasure. He is the deepest, truest, costliest, most beautiful treasure. When my mind is saturated in his truth, there is nothing I want more than Him. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This is a trust and a love that goes beyond our comfort…it trusts his very words are true and life giving. It examines every motive within us. It does not panic when someone attacks or questions or tears us down. It continues to cling with everything to the Truth…our treasure. I do not claim to have conquered any of this, but I claim to cling to the One who made a way for us to walk freely in Him. I pray for my brothers and sisters who read this to remain in Him (John 15) and his words. I also ask that you pray for our family. May he be treasured and glorified today whatever the cost.