hands-1797401__340

Not Exceptional Things, Exceptional In Ordinary Things.

Cold Shower

Sometimes I just shake my head and laugh. At myself. I think yesterday the good Lord may have had a little chuckle at me too.

Because I have this uncanny knack for acting as if doing big, grand things are no big deal. As if– my latest grandiose conception- adopting siblings is no big deal. As if we could pull off a 50% increase in our family size like we pull off hosting a birthday party.

As if.

(For the record, that’s what this is for now- just a conception. No paperwork has been filed. But your prayer for he siblings to find a loving home, and for us, is welcome.)

Big And Small Things, Upside-Down

That I could embrace something as life-changing as the thought of taking two children into our family for life and in the same 24 hours balk at taking one needy young man into our van for two hours may be comical. It is, for sure, inconsistent and upside-down.

And balk I did Saturday morning when the doorbell ring at 8:15. I was looking forward to a mother-son date with Gabe after his game. I resented this surprise arrival.

That’s upside-down: embracing the big and grand and tripping over the little and mundane.

But we know it’s the small things- thoughts and acts- that form habits and character. And if you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength. But we are those who rejoice in the day of small things.

Still, some of us would polar plunge into Lake Michigan for any number of reasons, but can keep we our tongues from grumbling when the shower suddenly goes cold?

Now that’s hard.

Choosing What We Did Not Choose

It might have something to do with choice. Chafing at the little stuff while embracing the big things might have something to do with our struggle to choose what we did not choose.

When we decide on a life-changing course of action and we decide to take the plunge, well- that’s different from when God decides a thing for us. Like, say, when he says be kind and take the kid who needs a ride and do all things– including taking a cold shower- without grumbling or complaining

Maybe little things are so hard because they weren’t in our master plan. Because who chooses a cold shower in February in Wisconsin?

Or maybe we just prefer the drama.

He Would Have Done Any Great Thing

While I was laughing at my own inconsistency, Naaman popped to mind. His story is recorded in 2 Kings 5. Naaman was commander of the Syrian army. When he contracted leprosy, he sought help from Elisha, the famed healer and prophet of God.

Elisha’s prescription was not grand. So it’s no wonder proud Naaman didn’t like it: Go wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored, Elisha’s messenger said.

The muddy, little Jordan River, Naaman thought then ran off in a rage.

Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not the Abana and Pharpar the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?

Naaman expected the exceptional and desired a grand cure– like the mighty prophet working his wonders and waving his hands. Washing in the dinky, little muddy river was demeaning. So Naaman wanted nothing to do with Elisha.

He would have done any great thing to be cured. Naaman had already traveled miles and miles and offered a vast treasure.

But a commonplace, mundane cure? Never. 

Supernatural Grace (for the Mundane)

Maybe Oswald Chambers felt this strange inversion in himself, too. Maybe he know what it was to embrace a great cause and balk at the everyday.

Maybe he shared the impulsive boldness that I share with Naaman and with Peter, I’ll-die-with-you-after-I-deny-you Peter, too. Big-talking, water-walking Peter, who had grand ideas but stumbled on the mundane.

In “Impulsiveness Or Discipleship?” Chambers explains,

Discipleship is built entirely on the supernatural grace of God. Walking on water is easy to someone with impulsive boldness, but walking on dry land as a disciple of Jesus Christ is something altogether different. Peter walked on the water to go to Jesus, but he “followed Him at a distance” on dry land (Mark 14:54). We do not need the grace of God to withstand crises- human nature and pride are sufficient for us to face the stress and strain magnificently. But it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours of every day as a saint, going through drudgery, and living an ordinary, unnoticed, and ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus. It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God- but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people- and this is not learned in five minutes.

Disciples of Christ aim to be exceptional in the ordinary and love the ones they’re with.

Loving Our Neighbor Is Harder

Our duty is to love our neighbor not the mass of nameless humanity. GK Chesterton nails that: We have to love our neighbour because he is here… He is the sample of humanity which is actually given to us. 

My heart has grand adoption plans. I’d love to expand our family. If God makes it clear us that we’re to adopt the siblings, I’d do that big thing in a heartbeat. If they come here.

But when the doorbell rang at 8 AM it wasn’t an “if”. It was God’s clear call for me to forgo my plan and love this little 5th-grade “neighbor.” He was here. 

We don’t have to do exceptional things for God, we have to be exceptional- and I take that for faithful and obedient- in life’s cold showers and among ordinary 10-year-old boys.

That’s hard. Learning to live in that supernatural grace is not learned in five minutes.

“If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

1 John 4:20

Do ordinary things with extraordinary love.

Mother Teresa

hands-1797401__340

“Grieve is a Love Word”

My last post was about a decisive question that can help us say no without guilt. That question was,

“Who are you willing to disappoint?”

I ended the post with a look at Mary and Martha through that clarifying lens and quoted Jon Bloom. Bloom drove the point home with this statement, Mary was more willing to disappoint Martha than to disappoint Jesus. 

Whoa dere, boy! We can disappoint Jesus?- the Son of God, and the second member of the Holy Trinity?  Little old me can disappoint Almighty God?

Maybe this is as clear to you as it was for my friend Peg. “Well,” she simply said, “if it’s possible to please God, it must be possible to displease him. So, yeah, we can disappoint God.”

Scripture makes that plain- that we definitely can please God. (See Col. 1:10, Rom. 12:1, 14:18, Col. 3:20, 1 Thess. 2:4, 1 Tim. 2:1-3, 5:4, Heb. 13:16, 1 John 3:22 for examples.)

In a nutshell, whenever we trust and obey God, he is pleased.

Can you make God sad?

But for many of us that line from Bloom about disappointing Jesus begs the question: Can we make God sad?

After all, Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. And we know with Job that he can do all things; no purpose of his can be thwarted. He makes known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.

To those who would argue that God can’t be grieved because he knew what was coming, I would say, Really? Just because I know a dear friend is losing a battle with cancer means I won’t grieve when I see her body wracked with pain and losing the fight? Really?

Knowing it’s coming doesn’t make it any less sad when it comes.

So is it possible to grieve an all-knowing, all-powerful, sovereign God?

I think so. Here’s why.

1. “Love does not equal unconditional affirmation.”

That’s what Kevin DeYoung says. It’s in the context of The Hole in our Holiness, in a chapter called “The Pleasure of God and the Possibility of Godliness.”

And I agree with DeYoung: We need to clear up the confusion about whether or not a forgiven, justified, reconciled, adopted, born-again believer can displease God.

DeYoung breaks it down,

The logic seems sound: “I am clothed in Christ’s righteousness. Nothing can separate me from the love of God. So no matter what I do, God sees me as his pure, spotless child.” It’s true there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1), but this does not mean God will condone all our thoughts and behaviors.

Though in Christ he overlooks our sins in a judicial sense, he is not blind to them. 

For the record, affirmation means approval or validation. So, to paraphrase, God’s love for us does not mean that he approves or validates everything we do. Even believers can displease God. Scripture is clear about that. Our sins hide his face from us.

Discountenanced was born one sad night. But discountenanced does not mean unloved.

2. Discipline goes with displeasure and love.

DeYoung continues,

We can “grieve” the Holy Spirit of God (Eph. 4:30). Though God is always for us in Christ (Rom. 8:31-34), Christ can still have things against us (Rev. 2:4). The fact that God disciplines his children (Heb. 12:7) means that he can sometimes be displeased with them.

God gives consequences. Moses struck the rock. God didn’t affirm that choice. As a result, he couldn’t enter the Promised Land. Even though he talked with Moses as to a friend.

My sons have heard this more than once: I discipline you because I love you. That’s why I don’t make them eat their veggies and brush their teeth and practice piano. I don’t discipline them because I don’t love them like I love you.

So with God. If he didn’t love us, he wouldn’t notice our sin and he’d never discipline us. But Hebrews 12:8, If you are not disciplined you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 

No, love does not equal unconditional affirmation. 

3. His “For-us” Frown

Instead, DeYoung writes (p. 74),

Love entails the relentless pursuit of what is for our good. And our good is always growth in godliness. “Those whom I love,’ Jesus said to the church at Laodicea, “I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19).

Is that confusing? Maybe this will help. DeYoung explains,

Through faith we are joined to Christ and have union with him. That bond is unbreakable. Our union with Christ is an established fact, guaranteed for all eternity by the indwelling of the Spirit. When we sin, our union with Christ is not in jeopardy. But our communion is.

It is possible for believer to have more or less of God’s favor. It is possible for us to have sweet fellowship with God, and it’s possible to experience his frown- not a frown of judgment, but a “for us” frown that should spur us on to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24).

I’ve been the giver and the receiver of “for us” frowns and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that behind that frown  is love.

The Westminster Confession of Faith (11.5) puts it this way,

Although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.

I hope this makes sense.

But why does it matter?

No Choke on Delight

Here’s one huge reason. DeYoung concludes it up this way (p. 74),

One of the main motivations for obedience is the pleasure of God. If we, in a well-intentioned effort to celebrate the unimpeachable nature of our justification, make it sound as though God no longer concerns himself with our sins, we’ll put  a choke on our full-throttle drive to holiness.

God is our heavenly Father…He will always love his true children. But of we are his true children we will also love to please him. It will be our delight to delight in him and know that he is delighting in us.

Our delight to delight in him and know he is delighting in us. Amen.

What Grieves God

In his sermon on Ephesians 4:30, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,” C.H. Spurgeon writes,

I think I now see the Spirit of God grieving, when you are sitting down to read a novel and there is your Bible unread…You have no time for prayer, but the Spirit sees you very active about worldly things, and having many hours to spare for relaxation and amusement. And then he is grieved because he sees that you love worldly things better than you love him.

…He will not hate his people, but he does hate their sins, and hates them all the more because they nestle in his children’s bosoms. The Spirit would not be the Spirit of truth if he could approve of that which is false in us: he would not be pure if that which is impure in us did not grieve him.

He is grieved with us mainly for our own sakes, for he knows what misery sin will cost us; he reads our sorrows in our sins… He grieves over us because he sees how much chastisement we incur, and how much communion we lose.”

God grieves because he knows what misery our sin will cost us, because he knows the sweet communion that we lose.

What a God. What a merciful, loving God.

“Grieve is a Love Word.”

In Jeremiah 2:13, this loving God, says, They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. When we forsake God and look for satisfaction elsewhere, I think God grieves.

I close with a quote from S. Lewis Johnson,

Grieve is a love word.You don’t grieve people who don’t love you. To truly grieve a person, what is necessary is that the other person must have high regard for you. So that grieve is a word of love. That is the word that is used here: grieve not the Holy Spirit of God. 

He is grieved, because we are the objects of the love of the triune God.

To acknowledge that we can disappoint, displease or grieve God is to realize at least some of his great love for us.

Because grieve is a love word, we make it our goal to please God.

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

2 Corinthians 5:9

 

For more on “The Two Wills Of God” – the one that will never be broken and the one we break when we grieve him- check out John Piper’s sermon “What is the Will of God and How do We Know It?”

hands-1797401__340

Conviction Comes To Interrupting Chicken


Yup, Little Miss Active Listener went rogue again. Tigger-like, she bounced right over reflective, soft-spoken Joe with her over-eager interjections.

I could say the interrupting words were well intentioned, borne of desire to build relationship and connect. I could say that.

But I know better.

Contrition

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Psalm 51:3

Jim and I were in the kitchen with our friends Sadie and Joe, enjoying some Sunday morning omelettes. Joe was summarizing a new book. I was Interrupting Chicken.

Hon! Stop interrupting, my husband broke after one of my break-ins. Let him talk!

I shut my mouth. Those words about how it’s the fool who answers before he listens (Proverbs 18:3) came to mind.  Guilt- the good kind- moved in.

After an awkward moment of silence, Joe continued, still calm.  I listened to him- and to my wounded ego- without interrupting either. In a few minutes. Joe left to help at early church.

But I didn’t say a thing. Any thing. And I didn’t do the right thing.

Conviction

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17

But I knew the right thing to do.  James 1:19 has been a quote-out-loud verse in this house for years. Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. And I know Proverbs 18:23 pretty well, too: Whoever covers his sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and forsakes them finds mercy. 

Obedience required confession. And not in a vague Sorry-if-I-offended-you way.  Because confession- like thanksgiving- demands particulars. Precision like, Forgive me, Joe because for repeatedly interrupting . Or, sorry I wasn’t a patient listener.  Specific. 

I knew what I had to do. Interrupting was a sin of commission. I was doing the wrong thing. But to go on without confessing, that would add to it a sin of commissionWhoever knows the right thing to do- confess to Joe- and fails to do it, for him it is sin. 

There was conviction. I knew the right thing to do. 

Confession

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. James 5:16

But my pride had kept me from confessing as a first response, before Joe left for church.

And silence when there’s sin to confess wastes away the bones (Psalm 32:3). So the ‘ole bones groaned for the next three hours at church. But when we all got home, I did the right thing.

Hey Joe, I’m sorry I kept interrupting you this morning.

I don’t know if I added Please forgive me, or not. But I know meant it. And what’s more. I know Joe gave it.

That wasn’t the first time I’ve been selfish and rash and had to confess to a friend and I’m pretty sure, it won’t be the last. Because our gracious God reveals convicts us, bit by bit. There are sins we don’t even know we commit. A year or a month ago, I might not have seen Interrupting Chicken as a sinner.

But I do now.  And once we  know the right thing to do, it’s on us to do it.

Ongoing and over and over again.

Continue

And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. 1 John 1:28

In a message on James 4:17, Russell Moore says that confessing our sins is critical for every Christian.

Then he explains why it’s so important to make things right,

Because the Christian life is about the Gospel. Because you and I understand that we are sinners. Not that we were sinners. That we are sinners. And that we are constantly in need of grace and mercy.

So what does the Holy Spirit drive us to do? He drives us to an ongoing confession of sin….

Because this is how God is drawing you near to him by the confession of your sins…The point is, you ask for forgiveness…so that you can be freed and liberated from that…

The most miserable Christian in the world is not the who is aware of his sin and is confessing it. It is the one who does not have his sins being exposed and repented of so [he can] experience the blessings of fellowship and walking in Christ.

It sounds so awful and terrifying. So does a surgeon. A surgeon rips you up to take the tumor out. So does the Word. It’s healing. 

Confess and repent is part and parcel of the Christian life until we see our Lord face to face, and are like him. And it’s not so morbid really, it’s actually, very lightening and relieving, and as Moore said, healing.

Confession, Interrupting Chicken can assure you, is good for the soul. 

Conclusion

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13

So what do you do with conviction? Do you stuff it inside and protect your pride? Or do you confess it and find fellowship?

During a swim at our friends pool this week’,  my 11-year-old, called me over and asked in confidence and with conviction,

Hey Mom, do you think I should say sorry to Mrs. Mills? I accidentally dropped a cheese cracker in the water and she told us kids not to have food in the pool.

You can guess this mama’s answer.

 You know the right thing to do, Son. Go do it.

Grant me never to lose sight of  
the exceeding sinfulness of sin,
the exceeding righteousness of salvation,
the exceeding glory of Christ,
the exceeding beauty of holiness,
the exceeding wonder of grace. 
The Valley Of Vision, “Continual Repentance”