Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Interview with Nancy Guthrie

I have admired Nancy Guthrie and her writing for a while now, so I was honored to be able to interview her for The Gospel Coalition. The topic was her most recent book, the next installment of her bible study series called Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament. I have had the privilege of reading all of these studies and The Lamb of God: Seeing Jesus in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy did not disappoint. When our church is able to have a women's bible study, I really hope we can use these studies. They are excellent. They are rich with biblical truth, engaging, and open up a less often studied part of the Bible by women. Here is a taste of the interview, but you will really want to go and read the whole thing.

How can we, this side of the Cross, benefit from studying the Pentateuch---and Exodus through Deuteronomy in particular?

This story of salvation is really our story. Israel's emergence from slavery shows us how God brings us out of our slavery to sin. We are saved only as we come under the covering of the blood of the lamb. Only as we "stand still and see the salvation of the Lord" do we pass from death to life. Our story is one of being guided and provided for as we walk through the wilderness called life in this world.

Only when we grasp how the various sacrifices dealt with sin can we grasp the full forgiveness provided to us in the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ. And only when we see how the purity laws allowed for what was unclean to be made clean and what was clean to be made holy can we grasp that we who are unclean can be made clean through the sacrifice of Christ, and that we who are clean can even made holy so that we might enter into the very presence of God.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Kiss Can Lie

Earlier this week my students and I were talking about whether sexual experience is a necessary prerequisite for marriage. While they all agreed that sexual activity outside of marriage is a sin, some said they wouldn't want to marry someone who had never kissed anyone before. The general consensus among those students was that to experience your first kiss with your spouse (not your boyfriend or girlfriend) would just be plain awkward. In their minds, you need a little experience first.

But do you?

Do you need to test the waters with other people, or even your future spouse, before you know if marriage is a possibility? And if so, how does this line up with God's design for marriage and purity? The fear of awkwardness with intimate and sexual behavior is actually fear of the unknown, not fear of the act itself. We live in a culture that makes sex (and everything leading up to sex) look polished and mishap free. In the minds of so many young people, experience before the wedding night ensures that this does not happen to them.

But I think they are missing the point. It's not the frequency of activity or sexual prowess that removes awkwardness on the wedding night. It's a covenant.

When God created Eve for Adam the Bible makes the declaration that the man and his wife were both naked and unashamed. Prior to sin they both lived in a completely shame free marriage. While the Bible does not declare whether or not there was awkwardness between the two when they first came together, we do know one thing--they had no shame. Shame came later when sin entered the world. But because of Christ the marriage relationship can now be a place free from shame. Because of Christ a husband and wife can be naked and unashamed again. Outside of the marriage relationship this is not the case. Outside of marriage you live in fear of shame from a person who really has no claim on you.

So what does experience in kissing have to do with this? If it is true that experience in kissing can help determine if a person is one you would want to marry, then there should be no fear or shame associated with that infamous first kiss. How many people feel awkward or nervous leading up to (and immediately after) the first kiss with someone? I know I did. But I can honestly say that this was not the case when I kissed my husband for the first time on our wedding day. And the most obvious answer for me was that at that moment I knew that no matter how bad (or good) I was at kissing, he was not going to leave me. My ability as a kisser was not the determining factor of his love and commitment to me. It was the covenant we had just made before God and our family and friends.

You see, a kiss can lie to you. Maybe you are having a bad day and kissing is just not that appealing to you in that moment. You might determine that the lack of spark or emotion related to kissing that person means you shouldn't be with him or her anymore, when in reality you just have a stomach ache.

You don't have to get to the wedding day with a myriad of kissing partners added to your experience belt. And if you do, it won't necessarily mean that you will be a better spouse or even better suited to engage in sexual activity. In fact, it might do the very opposite. God designed sexual activity to only be experienced between one man and one woman for life. The direct implication is that we become experienced over time with one another. And that is a beautiful, God ordained thing.

While the culture might tell us that the sparks that fly after a kiss determine our compatibility as a couple, the Bible presents a very different story. It tells us that God is the one who sustains the marriage, not the sparks. The butterflies we feel in that moment might be lying to us. They might be telling us that we feel good and like the experience, but they don't tell us whether this relationship can be sustained over a lifetime. And that gets clouded sometimes by the emotion of the moment.

Even the best of kisses can lie to you. What will keep you going long after you say "I do" is not the passion of the kiss, but the promise of our Savior to sustain those who are his.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday is for Fotos: A Wedding (and a Belly Pic)!

A dear friend of mine got married a week ago today and I was so honored to be involved in her special day! So last Wednesday I packed my bags and headed up to Minneapolis to celebrate the Young/Johnson wedding. And there was much fun had by all! I was able to stay with my old roommates and in so many ways it felt like I never left, even thought it's been five (crazy?!?) years since I lived there. The wedding was a blast! We danced, talked, laughed, and danced some more. It was by far the most movement I have had since I got pregnant. I'm sure the babies were surprised about all the movement happening around them! Here are some pictures from the day. Pictures don't do it justice. It was such a fun weekend!

This is every girl (minus one)  who has ever lived in the 2520 house. God did amazing things in my heart in that house and he gave me amazing friends along the way! I love these girls!

And because I'm getting bigger, here is a belly picture to end your day. This was taken on Tuesday (I was 15 weeks 4 days), although I feel like I am even bigger today. The last week has been one of major growth, or at least it feels like it. I am 16 weeks today and can hardly believe it. When we got pregnant I was just hoping to make it through the first trimester, so to be able to be 16 weeks is such a mercy from our Lord. I am thankful for every moment, week, and month I have had with these babies. I haven't felt them move yet, but I'm really looking forward to it!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Keller Video on Marriage

Marriage in Gospel Focus from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

I showed this video to my marriage and family class the other day and I thought it was too good not to share with all of you. If you haven't read The Meaning of Marriage, run (don't walk) to get it right now. Or go to Amazon and buy it immediately. It is worth it. A lot of what the Kellers say in this video is from their book, but I particularly loved how Tim Keller talked about the basis for relational intimacy in marriage. But don't just take it from me, listen to the whole thing (and get the book!).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Though the Darkness Hide Thee

I have always enjoyed the book of Judges. I know what you might be thinking right now. Enjoy is such a strong word for such a dark and tragic book. But I do enjoy it. I used to read the book with an incredulous spirit. I simply could not understand how God would let them continue in their rebellion. The Israelites were idolatrous, wicked people--and yet, God allowed them to live.

And then conviction hit me straight between the eyes.

How could God forgive me? How could God let my idolatrous, wicked self live? The sinfulness of Judges doesn't seem so foreign when placed next to the deceitfulness of my own heart. So I continue to go back to this book, reminded that God is a long-suffering and gracious God who does not give us what we deserve.

But there is more to the story than just comparing myself to the rebellious Israelites. Laced within the book of Judges is the truth that this cannot be all there is. And that is why I like Ruth, too. Ruth, unlike Judges, is the stuff women's bible studies are made of. In college, Ruth was the women we all aspired to be. She was a servant. She was submissive. And she got the man in the end. But I think that we can't truly understand Ruth without first understanding Judges.

The book of Judges ends this way:

"In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25).

Ruth, while it ends well, starts very bleak. Not only is it in these dark days of Israel, but it also is in the midst of dark days for this particular family. The entire narrative feels like light beginning to break forth at the end of a long and wearisome tunnel. And isn't that how God works? In the midst of our darkness, pain, and even our sin God is doing unfathomable things for our good. We cannot always see what he is doing, but we can trust that he has not turned a blind eye to us--even when we have been faithless towards him.

While the book of Judges ends with a judgment on a kingless people, Ruth ends with the promise of a coming king. In the midst of all of the sinfulness of the period of the Judges, God was working to bring forth the greatest king of all--King Jesus. When the Israelites (and all of humanity) deserved eternal condemnation, God was setting forth the plan for rescuing sinful people like you and me.

This is good news for us today, dear Christian. Whatever our circumstances might be, whether gloomy or bright, we can trust that God is in the middle of all of it. He has not left us. He has not forgotten us. And he will always work for our good, both in this life and in the one to come.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Unchanging Goodness of God

"Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted with grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing." - Psalm 31:9-10

I read this psalm, through tears, on April 1, 2011. I still remember exactly where I was sitting when these words ministered to my soul. It was a rainy spring night. Daniel was at a bachelor party for a friend. I was sitting alone on the couch in our living room. It was the exact same place I sat weeping over our miscarriage seven and a half months earlier. And now I was faced with the due date of our precious baby and my womb was still empty. I was overcome with grief and pain. The sorrow surprised me. I thought I had come to terms with our loss, and yet here I was again grieving the shattered dreams and trying to pick up the pieces.

My womb would continue to stay empty for another year and a half. In those months and years following God showed up in ways I never could have imagined. I learned things about his character, his goodness, and my sin in ways I never would have known had everything worked out the way I planned it to be. For that I will be forever thankful. Miscarriage and infertility changed me, but it didn't destroy me, and that is all because of his amazing grace.

On August 1, I read that psalm again. It wasn't intentional, I was just reading through the psalms of the day. But just a few minutes before I read this psalm my life changed drastically.

I was pregnant.

I still have to pinch myself when I write those words. I am pregnant. It feels so surreal. As I read Psalm 31 again that morning I saw a little note penciled next to verses 9-10. A very different Courtney wrote, "My prayer. 4-10-11." It's been too long to see the dried tears on the pages of my Bible, but I'm sure they are there. For two years the psalms have been my comfort in my grief. They have carried me and reminded me of the faithfulness of God. They have given me hope that God will keep his promises to me, namely to give me a future with him forever. They have been my lifeline.

And they still are, just in different ways.

It would be easy to claim God's goodness in our unexpected blessing of twins at the expense of seeing his goodness in our miscarriage and infertility. But I assure you, his goodness has not changed. God is the same God today as he was on August 11, 2010 (when we lost our baby). He is the same God today as he was on October 25, 2011 (when we found out we needed more treatment for my endometriosis). In fact, it has only become clearer to me. God is over our sorrow and our joy. He is sovereign over our barrenness and our fullness. He is God in the lean years and the years of plenty. Circumstances do not dictate his goodness. And that is our hope.

The reality that God is unchanging in every aspect of his character is what carries us when our souls give way to sorrow and when the wave of blessing overwhelms us. Isn't that so comforting? We live in a world where devastating changes can happen in an instant. But we serve a God who never changes.

This has been my constant companion throughout this pregnancy. God is over every detail of our lives and he is always working all things for our good. Even when our circumstances cannot be trusted (which we all can attest to that), we can trust in the God who never changes.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Update on the Twins: Week 13

It is hard to believe that I am already 13 weeks pregnant. Some days it feels like it is going by slowly and then other days just fly by. Every morning that I wake up pregnant I am reminded by God's kindness towards us. I don't ever want to forget to be thankful for these precious little lives.

We had another ultrasound last week. The purpose of this ultrasound was to determine if the babies were in one sac or two sacs. Thankfully, the ultrasound determined that they are in two sacs. Praise the Lord! It would have been really rare for them to be in one sac, but we still were concerned. It looks like they are sharing a placenta, which most likely means they are identical. We still can hardly believe that we might have identical twins! A lot of our conversations these days center around what we are going to do to tell them apart.

It was so fun to see them on the ultrasound. We knew they had grown a ton since the last one, but I think we were shocked to see how much. They clearly looked like babies this time, as opposed to looking like little kidney beans. We could see their hands, brains, feet, and even their profiles. It was amazing to see them move around. And boy did they move! Baby A was super active and wanted to be around Baby B. Every time the ultrasound tech tried to get a picture of Baby B, Baby A wanted to be included too! She even made the comment that Baby A obviously doesn't like to be alone. Sounds just like his or her Momma! Baby B was active too, but seemed content to stay on his or her side, probably because Baby A was all up in her/his business. Both of their heartbeats were good and strong measuring at 161 and 177.

So how is Momma doing?

Well, Momma is slowly emerging from the first trimester grossness. Within the last few days I have felt like maybe I am turning a corner, only to be met with morning sickness all over again. I am 13 weeks 3 days today, so hopefully I am on the end of it, but I don't want to get my hopes up either. The exhaustion has not let up yet. Daniel often comments that it's crazy how much I can sleep and yet still be so stinking tired. And to be honest, as much as I hate being nauseous and despising all things food related, I do like the reassurance that these babies are still going strong (especially since I can't feel them yet). I am also slowly growing out of my regular clothes. That is the strangest thing to me. I love it, but it is just so interesting to watch my mid-section grow. Right now I am in between fitting into all of my maternity clothes and busting out of my regular clothes. I am looking forward to just being able to wear maternity clothes all of the time. And seriously, why don't we wear maternity jeans and leggings even when we aren't pregnant? They are the most comfortable pants on the planet!

I was reminded this morning that my fight to trust the Lord with their little lives will be the struggle of my motherhood. When they are born I will have to trust the Lord with their lives. When they are toddlers I will have to trust the Lord with their lives. When they are teenagers I will have to trust the Lord with their lives. I am slowly learning that being a mother, like so much else in this Christian life, is an exercise of faith. It is a constant battle to believe that God is good and can be trusted. By God's grace, I want to fight this battle well.

And for your viewing pleasure, here are their most recent ultrasound pictures.