Toward a “Gospel Culture” in the Church

Great thoughts here from Jared Wilson:

The most gracious people you and I know are people who have had an experience of grace and fixate on grace. The least gracious people we know are people who may know about grace academically, “theologically,” but don’t seem the least bit changed by it and really have a fixation on the law. They have an inordinate fixation on who did what wrong and what they deserve.

The same dynamic takes place in churches. Where grace and law are taught academically but law is “felt” as the operating system of the church, you will likely have a stifling, gossipy, burdensome environment. Where grace and law are taught theologically but grace is felt as the operating system of the church, you will see people begin to flourish, breathe. (You’ll also attract more sinners, which is where religious people start getting a little antsy.)

But the message of grace made preeminent will generate an atmosphere of grace.

This is why the harmony with each other of Romans 15:5 is “in accord with Jesus Christ.” It’s not predicated on having a bunch of stuff in common. It’s not predicated on common race or social class. It’s not predicated on a common special interest or political cause. It’s not predicated on all being theology nerds, liking the same authors, being Reformed or Arminian or somewhere in between. It’s not predicated on all being Republicans or Democrats. It’s not predicated on all being for social justice. It’s not predicated on all being homeschoolers or public schoolers. It’s not predicated on music styles or preaching styles or anything like that. All of that sort of commonality produces a very fragile harmony.

It is instead predicated on our common Savior, Jesus Christ, compared to whom we are all sinners who fall short of God’s glory, and from whom we have all received grace upon grace. It’s impossible to bask in the glorious grace of Jesus Christ and at the same time toot your own horn. So the more that we together focus on the gospel of Jesus, the more together we will walk in accordance with him and therefore in harmony with one another. “Gospel doctrine,” our friend Ray Ortlund says, “creates a gospel culture.”

Read the rest here.

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Making Decisions Before a Sovereign God

Jesus said to wait, and wait they did.

The fledgling church had been through the ringer. They had walked away from the crucifixion as a defeated movement, cowards to their own cause. But then they had seen the impossible stand before them. They had put their hands in His and watched Him do everyday things like eat a meal. Then they had seen Jesus ascend into heaven. Now they were back in Jerusalem.

Waiting.

Waiting for power. Waiting for the comforter. Waiting for the Holy Spirit.

But it strikes me that there are two different ways we can wait: we can either wait passively, or wait actively.

These Christians could have simply sat in Jerusalem twiddling their thumbs. There is a time and place for that – when God makes a promise and the difficult task is to simply sit and wait for that promise to be fulfilled. But there are other times when there is still work to be done in the meantime. Indeed, that work can and often is the expression of our faith that God is going to do what He promised. That’s the route these early Christians took. So there, in the midst of their waiting on God to do what only God could do, they took action:

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called the Mount of Olives, which is near Jerusalem—a Sabbath day’s journey away. When they arrived, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James.

All these were continually united in prayer,along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.

During these days Peter stood up among the brothers—the number of people who were together was about 120—and said: “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled that the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David spoke in advance about Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.For he was one of our number and was allotted a share in this ministry.”Now this man acquired a field with his unrighteous wages. He fell headfirst and burst open in the middle, and all his insides spilled out.This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that in their own language that field is called Hakeldama (that is, Field of Blood).“For it is written in the Book of Psalms:

Let his dwelling become desolate;
let no one live in it; and
Let someone else take his position.

“Therefore, from among the men who have accompanied us during the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us—beginning from the baptism of John until the day He was taken up from us—from among these, it is necessary that one become a witness with us of His resurrection.”

So they proposed two: Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, “You, Lord, know the hearts of all; show which of these two You have chosento take the place in this apostolic service that Judas left to go to his own place.”Then they cast lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias. So he was numbered with the 11 apostles. (Acts 1:12-26).

Now again, they might have simply sat. Done nothing. Waited passively. But they chose to act – to make decisions before a sovereign God. There is a great truth in that for all of us, I believe – the sovereignty of God does not paralyze our decision-making; rather, God’s sovereignty gives us the freedom to move and act according to His will. We see at least three ways that happens in this passage.

1. They were united in prayer.

Don’t miss that little detail at the first. They weren’t just shooting the breeze there in Jerusalem; they were earnestly praying, not in isolation, but with each other. They were actively seeking their next step in prayer as they were waiting. We have the tendency sometimes to use the sovereignty of God as an excuse for doing just the opposite – not praying. Not thinking. Not being together. Because, after all, God is going to do what God is going to do. But in this case, the group remember that God is indeed going to do what He is going to do and part of His plan of action involved human agents.

2. They used their God-given wisdom.

It’s wonderful to see that they didn’t haphazardly move – their action wasn’t done out of frustration for the seeming silence from heaven. Instead, they thought about the situation and brought their collective wisdom together to say that they needed another person to replace Judas, but not just anyone. Even then, they had the foresight to know they needed someone who had walked with Jesus and witness His resurrection. Another eye witness to give testimony in the days ahead.

Wisdom is an incredible gift, and one that should be put to good use. And along with that wisdom, God has given us the gift of each other. We are more wise together than we are alone.

3. They acted, and they trusted.

This group knew that no matter what plans or decisions they made, the ultimate decision rested with the Lord. He had the final say. That’s not to argue that with every decision we simply throw the options in a hat and draw one out, but it is to say that in the end, when we make a decision, we can walk confidently in that decision knowing that God will exert His sovereign influence to shape that decision in the way He wants it to be shaped.

But also notice that they never assumed that this decision would somehow take the place of what God had promised. Choosing Matthais was not these disciples trying to push along God’s time table to deliver this power He promised; it was simply a decision that needed to be made in preparation for what they believed was coming.

Be encouraged today, Christian, that God is sovereign. He rules over all. And He is working. Don’t let that knowledge move you toward fatalism and decision paralysis; let it instead motivate you to do the next right thing as you wait for Him in faith.

 

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Six Things Every Freshman Needs to Know

Good word here from Sammy Rhodes:

If I could write a letter to every incoming freshman who doesn’t want to waste their college, I would want to say six things to them before they move to campus. It applies to their anxious parents, too.

1. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is learn.

One difficult part about college is being confronted with so many people who disagree with you, professors included. It’s easy to get either disillusioned or overly defensive. Don’t. One of the best ways a student can bear witness to Christ is to learn so well from those who disagree so that you can sympathize with their perspective, see things from their point of view, and express it as well as they could. No one will respect your disagreement with them unless they first feel you’ve understood them, even gleaned things from them. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to learn, especially from those with whom you disagree.

2. Community isn’t optional; it’s essential.

More specifically, I mean Christ-centered community on campus. In other words, you need friends who love and listen to Jesus. Friends who love you enough to say hard things. It takes time to find those friends. More than time, it takes persistence. Stubbornness even. You have Christ, and you need community. It’s not either-or. It’s both-and. No one says it better than Bonhoeffer in Life Together:

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. . . . Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. . . . Each by itself has profound perils and pitfalls. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation and despair.

3. Committing yourself to a local church is vital.

Community on campus is good. The wise, diverse, multi-generational, pastor-led community of the local church is better. This feels like a good time to remind you that the church isn’t a place; it’s a people. As a Christian, you are already part of it. You don’t go to church. You are the church. That means you aren’t being yourself if you’re not involved in a gospel-centered, Bible-believing, Christ-exalting local church. Finding one is typically easy. Committing yourself to one is the hard part.

4. Love your roommates until you love your roommates.

The hardest thing to do is love the people right in front of you. And no one is more in front of you than your roommates. You know, the ones who will keep you up way too late, and wake you up way too early. The ones who will go Castaway and haven’t left their room in weeks. The ones who major in Awkwardness. That’s exactly the person God is calling you to love. Don’t wait until you feel love for them to love them. Love them until you feel love for them. Eat with them. Play Xbox with them. Watch movies with them. Have convictions, absolutely. But convictions are never an excuse not to love.

5. Stop looking for a soul mate and look for a sole mate instead.

One of the easiest things to do is spend all of college obsessing over boys or girls. There are the ones back home. There are the ones you met at orientation. There are ones that you haven’t found the courage to speak real, human words to yet. There are the ones you’re already thinking about marrying. Then there is the fear that you will never be someone else’s “one.” That you are somehow peculiarly unlovable. That upon graduation you will be banished to Misfit Island along with Rudolph and Hermie, left to die alone in your singleness. The good news is if you’re a Christian you’ve already met “the one.” The bad news (at first) is his name is Jesus. He’s the only one who can ever emotionally fulfill you in all the ways you long to be fulfilled. He is your soul mate, the one you were made for, the one with whom you will spend eternity. This frees you up to look for what Gary Thomas calls a “sole mate” — someone who loves Jesus and is willing to walk side by side through life with you in marriage as you both follow him. The best place to find this is often within your community of Christian friends.

6. Your brokenness isn’t a barrier to Jesus, but an invitation.

The last thing I want you to know is that because college is a time that reveals your heart, it is also a time that reveals your brokenness. You are going to say and do and think things you wish you could take back. You are going to be confused. You are going to be challenged. You may find yourself with nagging doubts. You will get lonely, and take that loneliness to all the wrong places. You will find out things about yourself you hope aren’t true.

I want you to know that your brokenness, whatever form it takes, is no barrier to Jesus. It’s an invitation to trust and be loved by him. The good news is that the kind of people Jesus loves are broken sinners. You’re never beyond the reach of his grace, even on your worst day — just as you’re never beyond the need for his grace, even on your best day. Because “the only fitness he requires is to feel your need for him.”

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Selfies Anonymous

What makes satire funny is the tinge of self-reflecting truth we find in it. Which begs the question: What can save us from… us?

What can deliver us from this narcissism? What can rescue us from the affliction of self-obsession? How may we find rest from our destructive pride?

Is it by choosing today to “be humble”?

Nope – anyone who has tried to do that knows the true insidious nature of pride, that it can manifest itself both in self-love and self-loathing, for in either case our gaze firmly rests upon us whether we are praising ourselves or despising ourselves.

We deal with pride not primarily through that kind of effort, but instead by finding something better upon which to fix our eyes. Something bigger. Something greater. Something more magnificent. Something that can hold our mind’s attention and our heart’s affection.

We battle pride by finding something better than ourselves to look at:

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus,the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Give us, Lord, a greater glimpse of Jesus, and in turn, deliver us from our fixation with ourselves.

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The Spasmodic Hercules

Tim Challies:

This is our temptation in all areas of life: to look for the quick fix, to look for the one or the few great moments that will accomplish more than the hundreds or thousands of smaller moments. “Anthony Trollope, the nineteenth-century writer who managed to be a prolific novelist while also revolutionizing the British postal system, observed, ‘A small daily task, if it be daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules’. Over the long run, the unglamorous habit of frequency fosters both productivity and creativity.”

The spasmodic Hercules: this is how many of us behave. We behave as if one moment of great activity can overcome a thousand moments of inactivity, as if one moment of taking hold of opportunity will overcome all those moments wasted. The unglamorous habit of frequency is what makes up so much of life’s progress. Yet we are constantly tempted to put our hope in the brief and the glamorous.

I see this in work. We are prone to believe that unless we can block off a significant piece of time to work on that book or project or task, we may as well not even bother. So instead of doing a little work, and advancing a step or two, we let it lie dormant and perhaps waste that time instead. We tend to overestimate what we can do in a short period, and underestimate what we can do over a long period, provided we work slowly and consistently.

I see this in parenting. We invest great hope in the big moments, the weekend away with the child or the special night out. But we may neglect those hundreds of evenings where we could simply talk while doing the dishes or where we could pray for just a few moments before bed. We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in their lives in a short period, and underestimate what we can accomplish over a long period, provided we are willing to advance slowly and with consistency.

But most of all, I see this in spiritual growth. We are often tempted to believe that one moment of great spiritual intensity will bring about greater and more lasting change than the oh-so-ordinary means of grace. We can have more confidence in the single three-day conference than in the day-by-day discipline of Scripture reading and prayer, the week-by-week commitment to the preaching of the Word and public worship. We tend to overestimate how much we can grow in a short period, and underestimate how much we will grow over a long period, provided we simply take hold of God’s ordinary means.

This is where so many Christians lose their confidence—they want quick growth and measurable results, and give up far too soon. Their confidence is not in God working through his Word as they open it each morning and hear it preached each Sunday, but in the big conference later in the year, or in that new devotional, or in that new study method. They are distracted and spasmodic rather than consistent and disciplined. They look this way and that, instead of than simply persisting in the means God prescribes.

The fact is, most growth in life—and spiritual growth is no exception—is measured in inches, not miles. The ground an army gains by a slow march is often safer than the ground it gains by charging over it. Spiritual growth is no less real simply because it comes slowly and is difficult to measure. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

Christian, persist. Persist in the ordinary means of grace. Persist even, and especially, when the growth seems to slow. Persist in your confidence that these are the means God gives for your good, for your growth, for his glory.

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What Keeps Us From Believing Genesis 50:20?

Imagine the scene with me.

Years had passed since they had parted ways. Those years had humbled the brash, overconfident young man in the beautiful coat given to him by his father. Those same years, along with the struggle and famine, had softened the bitterness and anger of his brothers who had thrown him into a well and left him for dead. But all those memories, fears, and insecurities came flooding back in a moment.

Joseph was revealed. The same brother tossed into a well. The same brother abandoned by his family. The same brother who had been in and out of prison and now found himself with the fate of those who had betrayed him in his hands. And what would he do with that power?

It seemed, much to his brothers’ dismay, that he would do good. That all would be forgotten, and that he who could end their lives would end their suffering instead. But could this really be true? Experience had taught them it couldn’t be. They themselves had taught themselves it couldn’t be, for they themselves were the ones who had perpetrated the violence against the very one who now stood in power over them, and they quaked with fear. What would he do with that power? What would be his response now that the proverbial shoe was on the other foot? And then he told them:

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people. Therefore don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them (Genesis 50:19-21).

As in most cases, there is as much in what Joseph didn’t say in that moment as in what he did. He did not say, for example:

- You’re pretty good guys after all.

- My political career would not be advanced by doing violence against you.

- I have hated you, but I still love my father. So for his sake, I am going to spare you.

- Okay, you get a reprieve. But it’s only so that I can have the satisfaction of knowing that you are in my debt forever.

Instead of these things, Joseph turned his eyes upward and drew on the truth of God’s sovereignty that had been forged in his own mind and heart through the years in slavery and in prison. And he passed along the truth of providence he had learned through those years to his brothers: “There is no doubt you meant what you did for evil. And yet there is also no doubt that God meant what you did for good.”

If we look back over the course of our lives, no doubt there are several events we can frame like this. We can see the redemptive hand of God, weaving the pain and hardship we’ve experienced into something good. And, at the end of that road, sitting in the midst of the apparent good, we can see His wisdom and power. We can do that for some things… but not everything. In the case of Joseph, he was standing in the middle of the good. It was tangible and visible. He could see that lives were being saved day in and day out. And to see that visible goodness is a gift, but it’s not one that always comes. Sometimes Genesis 50:20, when you can’t see the good yet, is less an expression of the reality of the moment and more an expression of faith. And in those moments, it is only by faith that we can look around, still in the midst of pain, still in the midst of brokenness, still in the midst of hardship, and say, “I choose to believe that God means this for good.”

That’s when we might be called strange. Or overly optimistic. Or out of touch with reality. It’s when there is no evidence in our present circumstances to warrant a confession like that. This was the case of some of those listed in Hebrews 11 among the heroes of the faith:

And what more can I say? Time is too short for me to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength after being weak, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead—they were raised to life again. Some men were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection, and others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment.They were stoned,they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us (Hebrews 11:32-40).

Some of them died. Some of them suffered. Some of them knew only the reality of pain. And yet they believed.

For those who do not get to look around them and see the good that God intends, they must look to something else beyond their circumstances. They must instead look not to what they can see but to what they know – the character of their God. We look to that character, above our circumstances, and we can say no matter what comes that God intends this for good.

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Cultural Engagement

A great post about the nature of cultural engagement from Russell Moore:

Early in my ministry, I served as a youth pastor, and like every other evangelical youth minister, I received all the advertisements from youth ministry curriculum-hawkers telling me how I could be “relevant” to “today’s teenagers.” The advertisements promised me ways I could “connect” with teenagers through Bible studies based on MTV reality shows and the songs on the top-40 charts that month.

All I knew how to do, though, was preach the gospel. Yes, I knew what was happening on MTV, and I’d often contrast biblical reality with that, but I fit nobody’s definition of cool—including my own.

I remember, too, when a group of teenagers—mostly fatherless boys, some of them gang members—started attending my Wednesday night Bible study. I found they weren’t impressed with the “cool” supplemental video clips provided by my denomination’s publisher. They laughed at Christian rap stars in the same way I laughed at my high school history teacher’s effort to “have a groovy rap session with you youngsters.”

But what riveted their attention was how weird we were. “So, like, you really believe this dead guy came back from the dead?” one fifteen-year-old boy asked me. “I do,” I replied. “For real?” he responded. “For real,” I said.

In a day when many people are (rightly) seeking to think through ways to engage the culture with the gospel of Christ, it seems that the Bible, in Acts 17, gives us a pattern for doing so in a way that some might not expect—by embracing the “freakishness” of the gospel.

Christians seeking to “engage popular culture” often point to this passage—the Apostle Paul’s speech on the Areopagus in which he cited the lyrics of pagan poets and the architecture of pagan temples. Christians, they argue, should follow Paul and use popular culture to “build a bridge” with its consumers, finding in popular works a “common ground” through which we can attract their interest and later communicate the gospel.

And yet, Paul’s discourse on the Areopagus is strikingly different from many Christians’ attempts to be relevant to popular culture. He points to the Athenians’ culture not so much to bring out what they know as what they deny…

Read the rest here.

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Loaves, Fish, and Un-Self-Conscious Little Boys

A long time ago, Jesus said that if we want to come into the kingdom of God, we must become like little children (Mark 10:15).

As a dad of three young kids, this stirs my soul. When I look at them and see the way they see the world, I get a sense of longing for simplicity and trust. Of self-forgetfulness and joy. It makes me think of the picture of Jabba the Hut that I have on the wall of my office.

Joshua, my now 10-year-old, colored it for me when he was 4. I like to look at it sometimes, but not because it’s a technically awesome picture. Everybody knows that Jabba is brown – not green. And I think even Jabba himself might be offended at how liberally the crayon goes outside the lines. Furthermore, Joshua’s message at the top of the paper, “I LOV YOU,” is misspelled.

But I love that picture, and it will hang in my office for some time. The 8-year-old Joshua wouldn’t present me with such a picture, because now he would deem such a creation as unworthy of his skills. His internal monologue has changed. It once was, “My daddy will love this. He will be so proud of me,” but I fear it is becoming “I didn’t do a very good job. I can do better. I can’t give him something like this.”

That makes me very sad.

I don’t think this shift in thinking is because Joshua is being raised in an environment where he has to jockey for his parents’ love and approval; by God’s grace, we are generous with praise and he knows he is unconditionally loved. Instead, I believe it is the process that happens to all of us when we become more and more conscious of ourselves.

We care about our physical appearance more than we used to.

We notice how our voice sounds in comparison to others.

We, for the first time, start to wonder if we are actually “cool” or not.

You know the feeling. It’s the one when you find yourself surrounded by people who work more interesting jobs, take more interesting vacations, and live generally more interesting lives. Suddenly, you find yourself shrinking into yourself, very conscious of your normality in light of what’s surrounding you.

It’s that sense of self-consciousness that Jesus speaks into. His advice is simple – become like a little child. Abandon that self-consciousness and instead find a renewed and simple sense of wonder. Revert back to innocence, to the days when we gladly gave our fathers those metaphorical pictures of Jabba the Hut with misspelled messages of affection. Here’s a case study that might help.

Think about the miraculous lunch in John 6. The disciples faced a seemingly insurmountable issue, and they were at a loss. The people (at least 5,000 and probably twice that at least) were hungry. But, as the disciples so aptly put it to Jesus, it would take almost a year’s salary to buy enough food to feed them (John 6:7).

Perhaps you remember the end of the story, too. Jesus used the gift of a little boy – five barley loaves and two fish – to feed a multitude. It’s a great story, but here’s the thing: Are we to believe that this boy was the only one in the crowd who had remembered to pack a lunch for the day? Probably not. Surely there was a conscientious mother somewhere on the hill who had a package of crackers in her purse. So where were all the other volunteers?

We can’t say for sure, for the Bible does not. Maybe their food was spoiled. Maybe they were selfish and didn’t present it. Maybe this boy was simply the one closest to Andrew and so his lunch box got chosen. We don’t know, but maybe…

Maybe the adults in the crowd had the same attitude as the disciples. They were self-conscious about the best they could do, so they kept their lunches to themselves. Maybe they looked at what they had to offer and were suddenly overcome by the overwhelming sense of normalcy: This isn’t enough. It’s not even worth putting out there. I don’t have anything valid to offer. Somebody’s going to laugh at me if I walk up there carrying this. Driven inward by their self-consciousness, they were paralyzed into inaction and silence.

We will likely have the same feeling as we seek to find the extraordinary in the midst of the ordinary. We will have a heart full of wonder, and yet at some point we will be tempted to look at our own boring potential and, like the self-conscious adults we are, just go about the business of life.

Part of following Jesus is overcoming that self-consciousness. It’s coming to Jesus with all we have, small though it may be, and giving it to Him.

The real issue with self-consciousness is the “self” part. We’re too busy thinking about our own weaknesses and inadequacies to consider the greatness of Jesus. Our focus is on ourselves rather than on the multiplier of fish.

I want to bring my badly colored pictures to God. My measly fish and broken bread. My weak faith and my inconstant prayer life. My normal routine of everyday stuff. I want to bring them to Him because I believe that the One I’m presenting them to is bigger than my weakness. Oh, to forget myself and be lost in the grandeur of Jesus. Oh, to regain the sense of wonder that characterizes little children who haven’t yet grown into that self-conscious sense of foolishness. We must regain this sense of wonder that motivated a little boy to bring his normal, little lunch box to Jesus and see what happened. We must not be too grown up to believe. We must, in the end, focus our gaze on Jesus, for it’s only in and through Him that we will see the boring issues of life suddenly be multiplied and transformed.

Excerpted from my book Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life.

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The Glorious Freedom of Mattering… and Not Mattering

Sometimes I feel very, very small.

I feel small when the tasks of the day – even simple tasks – seem to dwarf me when I consider the amount of patience, intelligence, or perseverance they will require. Or when I am able to pry my eyes off myself for a bit and gaze at the world around me only to be confronted with disease. War. Hatred. Slavery. All things that are impossibly big, and all things that make me shrink inside myself even more. Or when I come home and find that my children are growing, and with each day there is a new challenge that I am unequipped to handle. Who am I to guide them through these years? Not small me.

When I feel small, there is the gospel that reminds me that my size and worth is determined by that which was sacrificed for me. And there is no greater sacrifice than that which has been given. Thanks to that sacrifice – His sacrifice – I am not small. I matter. I matter in the kingdom, and I matter in the world. And when you matter these challenges are not to be shrunk away from out of fear but are to be counted with courageous hope.

And oh the glorious freedom of mattering.

But then again, sometimes I feel very, very big.

I feel big when someone notices the hard work or laughs at the witty retort. When the retweets flow like water and the acclaim starts to come. When I look into the eyes of those kids and know that, at least for a while, I am invincible and infallible in their eyes. When there is money in the bank and food on the table and nothing at all seems to be threatening this insulated life we have built for ourselves. Nothing can touch me then. Not big, big me.

When I feel big, there is the gospel that reminds me that I was dead in my sin and transgression, too lost to even know that I was lost. That every supposed righteous thing I might do, say, or think is tainted with my own selfish ambition and vain conceit. That although I might be the instrument that offers the word of peace or comfort to another, I am far from necessary when I consider the hand of the One holding me. That it could just as easily be another who was speaking or writing or talking at a given moment, for God will have His way with or without me.

And then oh, the glorious freedom of not mattering.

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This is One of the Things That Made Me Want to Be a Writer…

… and also tear up books.

 

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