Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday is for Food: Grilled Dijon Chicken

It's grilling season around here. Well, actually it was such a warm winter that it never stopped being grilling season. Earlier this week I made this chicken and we really liked it. I can't remember where I got the recipe, but I'm pretty sure I adapted it from something I read on a website a few years ago. So here it is!

Dijon Mustard Grilled Chicken

What you need:
- ½ cup of Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon of lime juice
- Dash of garlic powder
- 2 chicken breasts

How it’s made:
- Mix the marinade ingredients together
- Place chicken in a glass baking dish and pour marinade over the chicken
- Cover and refrigerate for a few hours. I did it in the morning and left it there all day
- Grill chicken for about 7-10 minutes on each side and enjoy!

I served it with a vegetable and some french bread I had leftover. It went nicely together.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Love the Church

I've heard it said a number of times from young people (and old people), "I really love doing ministry for Jesus, but I just don't see the importance of being super involved in my church." It's really easy to separate the two, especially in a world where there are many really good organizations out there that, while not connnected to any particular church, are doing things in the name of Jesus.

This is an issue I attempted to tackle in an article published at Boundless. I tried to show that our ministry efforts should actually be most evident within the context of the local church. I've met a lot of young people over the years who, while they are really excited about "doing something" for Christ, feel very little inclination towards the Bride he died for. I attempted to argue that they must go hand in hand. I also tried to warn against the emphasis on "doing big things for Jesus" because in actuality, most of us really just do a lot of little things for Jesus over the course of our lives, and that's actually a good thing. Faithfulness is our barameter, not size and innovation.

Here is part of what I said:

The passion for ministry and commitment to a local church are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they must go together. You can't be all about the mission of Jesus and not be all about the mission of His bride.

When we only think in terms of spring break missions trips or weekly evangelism outings with our college friends, we can start to think that our good actions trump our bad behavior. If you volunteer with International Justice Mission or sponsor a Compassion child, this good work actually outweighs the fact that you can't hold a job or are wasting your days away playing video games. And that's where the local church comes in.

The local church provides the accountability, fellowship and truth that we so desperately need. We have to get away from the mentality that it's "just me and Jesus." It's not. Yes, Jesus loves you. But He also loves the church, His bride for whom He died. The Bible actually talks about the church being the very body of Jesus. And I've heard it said that we dare not say to Jesus, "It's not You I hate, it's just Your body I can't stand." When we neglect the local church, we are actually neglecting our Savior.

He has big plans for you that do not start first with your exotic missions trip or urban ministry. Jesus' mission for your life is first and foremost to make you holy, and one of the primary ways He accomplishes this mission is through the local church. Our ministry to this lost and dying world should never be divorced from the church — and more importantly, the local congregation that you belong to.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Tale of Two Responses

How would you respond if you were in constant fear for your life, abandoned by everyone you thought were loyal to you, and were stuck hiding in a cave? How do you respond when the storms of life come? Maybe you aren’t in fear for your life, but you might have just received some really bad news. Or maybe you have been asking God to deliver you from a particular trial for a number of years and he seems to be answering the opposite of what you are praying for. Does it cause you to abandon your hope in God?

Psalm 57 is really a tale of two responses—or more specifically a tale of the right response. David spends much of the psalm recounting the troubles all around him. Not only is he physically in danger, but his own soul is in torment (vs. 4). David could have gone either way in this circumstance. He could have either given up in despair, or he could glorify God in the midst of tremendous suffering. In today’s society (and throughout history) no one would have blamed him for giving up on God. But he remains steadfast. In the midst of all of it he offers pleading prayers to God to deliver from his enemies and trial, yet he also expresses hope in God’s deliverance. He could pray because he knew the character of God, but he could also hope because he knew the character of God.

But he does something even more amazing. He begs God to exalt himself in the trial, and then he worships (vs. 5, 7-11). Oh, how often is that not my response to my own suffering or trial! Here David is running for his life from Saul, and he looks to God and his glory. Suffering has a way of making everything very self-focused. Often the pain of suffering (whether physical or emotional) makes it very difficult to do anything outside of ourselves. It also makes us more easily tempted to sin, especially sin in selfishness. It takes a degree of intentionality, and a tremendous work of grace, to not be all about yourself when everything else around you is falling apart. But often that is what God is doing in our suffering. He is chiseling us and stripping us of the things that keep us from seeing him. While the temptation to be self-focused may be strong, the suffering can be the means of purging that desire. When we beg him to get glory in our suffering we are growing through our suffering.

But notice that David didn’t pretend like nothing was happening to him. He didn’t have a peppy “praise God and everything is fine” answer. Rather, he acknowledged the overwhelming nature of his suffering and then looked to the only one who could help him—God.

We all have a choice in our suffering. We can either choose to look only to ourselves and our circumstances, or we can look to God and worship him. When Job lost everything and was in tremendous pain and sorrow the first thing he did (after weeping) was worship. Looking to God and glorifying his name, even when our heart is breaking, has a way of moving our attention and affection away from ourselves and towards the only One who can satisfy us in the midst of our pain. It doesn’t diminish the sorrow of suffering, but it gives us perspective. It gives us hope that there is a God in heaven who knows the outcome of everything we face, even when we cannot see. And we can trust him because he is good.

We can worship in the bad times, and the good times, not because of the merit of our circumstances but because of the merit of another. God is good and always does good for us. He is the one we worship, not our circumstances. This is why countless hurting people throughout the years have been able to worship, even with tears streaming down their faces. They know and trust that God always has our best interests in mind and that he has never forgotten us, even when it feels like it.

So I want to be like David, and the saints of old, who beg God to glorify himself in their suffering and then worship him in the midst of their pain.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pain in Childbearing

I’ve been in the thick of lesson planning these past few months. As a first semester teacher, my prep is never done. And since I’m teaching a marriage and family class, we covered some basic foundational truths related to God’s design for marriage in the first few weeks of class. Obviously you can’t teach these things without talking about the reality of sin early on. The Bible doesn’t get very far before sin comes on the scene, so it only made sense that we went where the Bible went as we began.

As I’m worked through the account of creation and the fall, a number of things stood out to me, but the thing that struck me most about the fall of man is how gender specific the curse actually was. Of course, both Adam and Eve faced the most devastating consequence together—separation from God. But God also applied the curse to them specifically within their gender.

In Genesis 3:16, God tells Eve:

“I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.”

Often I hear people explain this text only in the context of physical pain, which is not a wrong explanation at all. It’s true. From what I’ve heard the physical act of birthing a child is excruciating. But I think it’s even more than that.

Along with everything else after Adam and Eve sinned it doesn’t take long for the effects of sin to begin their devastating ruin. Pre-fall, God had given Adam and Eve the command to be fruitful and multiply. Part of their God-given design included the ability to bear children and fill the earth. Post-fall, pain would now be associated with it. Barrenness is introduced just a few chapters later and continues as a general theme throughout the book of Genesis, and even the rest of the Bible. The inability to bear children was always seen as a dreadful curse, in part because it was a terrible reminder that the world was now not what God intended it to be.

The fact that Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, Ruth, Elizabeth, and countless other women throughout history faced infertility is a dark reminder that all is not right in the world. Women lose children through miscarriage or stillbirth. Children are rebellious and turn away from their family and Christ. Adoptions fail or take years to be finalized. And that’s not even including the daily realities that being a mom is just plain hard. Yes, the process of pregnancy, labor, and delivery is painful and not how God originally designed it to be. But so is everything else before and after the birth day as well. As I told my class, what was once intended to bring the greatest joy to a mother would now bring added pain and turmoil in the midst of the joy.

Wherever you are on your journey of plodding along through this life, you can rest in this glorious truth: the curse didn’t end with the curse. With the curse came the promise, the promise that through this very painful process of childbirth everything would one day be set right. Jesus broke the curse on all of us, namely death and separation from God. But he also secured for us the promise of a new creation, one that isn’t plagued with death, sorrow, barrenness, loss, and heartache. What glorious good news!

So that is what we wait for. While every day, month, and year is a reminder to us as women that the curse is still wreaking havoc on our lives, the curse has a timetable. And that timetable is short compared to the glory of eternity. The pain will end someday. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for that day!

For a more in depth look at this verse, Tim Challies wrote a very helpful post on this last year. I was very encouraged by his take on it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday is for Fotos: An Awkward Video

This was taken last week when I went skiing. I think "humbling" is the appropriate word here. I seriously thought I looked better than this video portrayed. Oh well. I guess skiing isn't for everyone.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Strength in Weakness

A couple of years ago a girl I knew faced a period of tremendous heartache with miscarriage, infertility, and the late pregnancy loss of her baby girl. As she commented on her period of grief she remarked that it was really hard for her when people told her that she must be a strong person to be able to handle such loss. For her, the feelings she felt in the aftermath of her losses were anything but strong. She felt weak, vulnerable, and overwhelmed by the pressure that as a strong person she should face this trial with her head held high, when she really just wanted to crumble up in a ball and cry in the corner.

Often when we speak with people walking through suffering we do the same thing. We see a person facing a trial that seems insurmountable and we think to ourselves, “I could never do what she is doing. She must be strong. God must know that she is strong enough for this.” I’ve thought it. I’ve said it. And then I’ve lived it and woken up to the reality that maybe all those other people are strong, but all I seem to have is overwhelming weakness when I face a trial.

If that’s you, then you are exactly where God wants you. And you are not alone. Paul has this to say about our weakness in suffering and trials:

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”
(2 Corinthians 12:9).

He said this in the context of his “thorn in the flesh”, a trial that God chose not to remove from him. Instead of boasting in his ability, spiritual maturity, or even physical strength, he exalts Christ and boasts in him alone. Of all people who could say they were strong enough to handle something, Paul would have been it. He was an apostle. He was chosen by God to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. He wrote a majority of the New Testament. Yet, here in this passage he says that it is in his weakness that he is made strong, and he learns to trust in the sufficiency of Christ.

The same is true for us. Our ability to “handle” any particular hardship or trial is not contingent on our own strength or competency. Instead we are able to face suffering and pain that is beyond human comprehension because He is strong. Christ’s power is made known through our weakness. Christ’s glory and beauty are displayed when we trust in him over our circumstances. And it is in this seeming reversal of what the world deems as normal and right that we are made strong.

Our strength to endure a “thorn in the flesh”, whatever that may be, is found in the merit of Another—Jesus Christ. So when you feel weak and overwhelmed by the circumstances of your life you have hope for your trial. You can rest in the strength and power of our Lord, Jesus Christ who will give you grace for today, and every day after that. His power is made perfect in your weakness.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Something to Cling To

"In the darkest night of the soul, Christians have something to hang onto that Job never knew. We know Christ crucified. Christians have learned that when there seems to be no other evidence of God's love, they cannot escape the cross. 'He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he now also, along with him, graciously give us all things?'" (Romans 8:32)

-How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil, D.A. Carson

Monday, March 19, 2012

Creation Glorifies God

Rarely do I stop and marvel at God’s creation. When I drive around I’m usually focused on where I’m going or what I want to do next. When I run all I can think about is how much longer I have to run. I go from my car to the apartment without ever taking in the beauty of the world around me. I’ve never been one to be super aware of nature, and growing up in a big city only heightened my ignorance to it all. Skyscrapers and concrete have a way of sidelining the beauty of green trees and flowers.

For the first time that I can remember, last week I appreciated the beauty of what God made in creation—and it made me want to worship him more. I spent last week in Colorado chaperoning a high school ski trip and every morning, while walking to breakfast, I watched the sun rise over the Rocky Mountains. I have seen mountains before, and even the Rockies. But this time it was different.

As I saw the red, orange, and purple hues rise over the snowy peaks all I could think about was the fact that even the rocks and mountains cry out that he is God. If we fail to worship him and honor him with the glory due his name, just look at the mountains, the flowers blooming in spring, and the beauty of the sunrise. They are all screaming that God is glorious and mighty and deserving of all of our worship (Luke 19:40).

This is why Romans 1 is so condemning and so devastating. The worst form of blasphemy and dishonor towards God is to worship what he has created rather than the Creator. And we do it all of the time. The sunrise is not glorious because it is a sunrise. The sunrise is glorious because it points to the One who made it—God. What kept coming back my mind over and over again as I took in the beauty of the mountains this week was that it all pales in comparison to the glory we will one day see in heaven.

Creation daily lifts its voice to worship the God who created it. As a human being, created in the image of my Creator, I want to honor him by worshipping him in greater measure than even the rocks and the mountains.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Complete Gospel

I’m pretty sure there are two types of people: those who see themselves as too bad or too sinful for salvation, and those who see themselves as capable and not bad enough. When I heard people talk about “works righteousness” or trying to save themselves by their good behavior I would often think to myself “that’s not me.” And it wasn’t. You see, I have long struggled with a form of morbid introspection that only intensifies the more sinful I feel. This introspection leads to overwhelming guilt which then often leads to despair. In these moments I can’t see the gospel as good news for me. I don’t believe God’s promises are true in my life. And I don’t trust that the blood of Jesus actually covers sin like mine. I’m too bad. I’m too broken. I’m just too sinful.


It’s really easy, if you are like me, to see the pride of the Pharisees or the self-sufficiency of the less “guilty” people and judge them. You might think that they don’t see their sin like you see your sin. You might wish you could be more like them. Either way, both mindsets are wrong. One spectrum contains people who hide behind their good works and trust in their own righteousness. But the other spectrum hides behind the veil of guilt and shame. Both need the same thing—more trust in the blood of Jesus. For me, my failure to trust in Jesus is actually saying that his death is not sufficient for my sin. Sure, he is powerful enough to save even the vilest of sinners, but not me. I’m just too bad.

The Evil One wants nothing more than for us to believe these lies. He wins when I fail to repent of my sin and trust in the shed blood of Jesus to cleanse me of my sin. He wins when I think I’m too bad for salvation. He wins when I don’t trust that the gospel of Jesus Christ is truly good news for people like me. And I need a daily reminder that Jesus came to save sinners just like me.

Something that really helped me recently is listening to a sermon by C.J. Mahaney called “Only One Gospel.” In this message he basically lays out what the gospel is and what it does for us. He provides three points that describe the gospel. They are:

1. The gospel is God-centered
2. The gospel is objective
3. The gospel is complete

The last one really hit home for me. Even though I don’t try to earn my salvation by doing good things, I do fail to believe the completeness of the gospel when I refuse to repent of my sin and trust Christ for forgiveness. The gospel is objective because it does not depend on me or my capabilities (praise God!). And the gospel is God-centered because it took the Son of God coming to earth to die for my sins that I may be saved.

Does that encourage you? It did for me. When I feel the temptation to trust in my own work (or lack of work) as the basis for my cleanness before God I want to remember that everything necessary for my salvation has been completed and finished by the perfect, holy, gracious Son of God. He is my only hope and plea for righteousness.

“When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see him there,
Who made an end to all my sin!
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on him and pardon me!”

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Nothing is Impossible with God

I'm chaperoning the junior class ski trip for the school I teach for next week, and so the last few days have been filled with lesson prep for a substitute, organizing, catching up, and all around craziness. Next week, I am having my classes watch a sermon by John Piper on the subject of abortion. As I was reading the sermon this afternoon this section stood out to me. If you are wrestling through infertility (or any suffering), I hope it encourages you like it did me.

"In verses 36–37 [of Luke 1], the angel says to Mary, to encourage her that her impossible pregnancy really can come true, 'And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.' So be encouraged, Mary, nothing is too hard for God. Witness the pregnancy of Elizabeth. O how often in these circumstances of pregnancy and infertility we need to be reminded, 'Nothing will be impossible with God.' He gives, he takes, he provides in abundance, he sustains in loss."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Something To Look Forward To

I'm a planner. I like having stuff to look forward to. I enjoy looking at a busy calendar and seeing that there is light at the end of the tunnel. As I read these verses yesterday morning, I was struck again with the fact that this is the best thing I have to look forward to.

"And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, 'Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him" (Isaiah 25:7-9).

Whatever you are experiencing this morning, whether it is a deep trial or a besetting sin, this is our hope. God will wipe away our tears on that last day. How do we know this? He has spoken. He has said that he will do it and we can trust him.

And what does he ask of us until that day? To wait on him. It doesn't always come in the time frame we are hoping for, but we have this assurance--God will do it. And when he does it will be worth the wait.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Friday is for Fotos

Kool-Aid is in the refrigerator (his favorite).

The apartment is sparkly clean.

Hamburgers are on the menu for tonight.

And after nine days and eight nights away, this man is coming home to me today.

Can't wait to see you, baby! I've missed you like crazy!