delight; pleasure, enjoyment, rapture

delight

When did we let someone run away with this weighty word and drown it in hedonism?
When did we start using it to describe cupcakes and shallow conversations and crude innuendos?

It’s a bit of a fight today, so I’ve got delight on my brain… swimming around there and trying to evade my desperate fingers. I believe, I believe, I believe. Help my unbelief, Lord – that delight is impossible and evasive and illusive and less than rapturous.

I’m stealing it back and believing it means pleasure and enjoyment and rapture. My soul is waking up to pleasure and enjoyment and rapture in the moments where it feels illusive because I am believing delight is more than what we’ve made it. 

I believe God wrote the definition of delight. And He wants it to define my life.

Referencing 2 Corinthians 4:6 in “Future Grace,” John Piper says that, “saving faith in the promises of God must include spiritual delight in the God of the promises. … Delight in the glory of God is not the whole of what faith is. But I think that without it, faith is dead.” And later he explains,

“It is not merely the security of the promises that frees us from motives to sin; but also the sweetness of the beauty of God in the promises. It is the spiritual nature of the things promised. When we apprehend the spiritual beauty or sweetness of what is promised, and delight in it, not only are we freed from the insecurity of greed and fear that motivate so much sin, but we are also shaped in our values by what we cherish in the promise (see 1 John 3:3). If we cherish the beauty of Christ in the gospel, we will cherish behavior – even painful sacrificial behavior – that reflects that beauty.” (p. 203)

But, who is John Piper? Does Scripture really say we should be delighting in the spiritual beauty of what is promised and the One who promises?

Christians often (maybe too quickly) grasp promises and make them ‘givens’ – the kind of phrases you run to when you’re worried the IRS will knock on your door or when you’re afraid of getting fired. “But, God is good and He promises to be good to me!” we might say to ourselves.

Though it is true that God is good, Piper helps us understand how delighting in His promises is different than assuming the benefit of His promises. Our delighting in His promises is freedom – moment by moment – from believing the lies that threaten to entangle us in this world. This delighting in the promises is never an end, but a great catalyst as we delight in the beauty of the One who promises.

Delight pours out delight and the well is infinitely deep!

I’m testing the depths today, but I have not yet found the floor. For every desperate moment I reach deeper, and there I find a delight that frees me from worry and fear. It’s not just my job that needs this deep well of delight – it’s my thoughts, my free time, my Tuesday nights, my phone calls, my lunch hours, my relationships, my family – it’s everything that needs redeemed.

If Christ is my greatest treasure, then everything (ev-er-y-thing) else is a secondary variable. No matter how convinced I am that my day could be ruined with one email, phone call, encounter, fight, bill – there is one most important trump card called Christ. If I dive in to delight in His promises, reveling in the security and weight of them, I will stay swimming in the delight of God’s beauty, that He would promise anything at all.

Are you overwhelmed yet?

Steal the word delight back today
and let LOVE fly like cRaZy

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16:11 ESV)

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:4 ESV)

Rejoice in the Lord always,
and again I say rejoice!
(Philippians 4:4)

Also, see this helpful devotional that sparked my thoughts from David Matthis over at Desiring God, “He Wants You Happy.”

silly in starlight

Today was sick with disappointment and human failure – sick with sadness.

But, today was heavy with grace. 

I was stepping in it and leaning on it and drinking it in from one moment to the next, believing there was always enough for the more that I needed.

I just kept getting lost in it – God’s all-sufficient, works-empowering grace – and then I got caught up. It was just me in my car, no kiddos in the backseat this time.

Just me, with room to stretch and sing.

And then there was kind of a tingle that rushed out from my chest and made music all over my civic. I got silly in that city starlight tonight, singing words like proclamations from my soul.

It was like my soul snuggled close to the person I could have been – the person God saved me from being and then burst out and screamed, “I am redeemed!”

All the ugly that threatens to keep a soul downcast, mired in the sin of this world, is not far from where my feet would tread – save for the grace of God. Not one client I have is more hopeless than I was when Christ found me. Not one. And I am redeemed!

The realization was electric. I sang and sang and reached out my hands in praise. This God of all creation redeemed me from the deepest and darkest pit where so many make their home. This same God is able to reach every single, sloppy soul in the wreckage of their sin.

This grace, unspeakable grace, God has made abundant so that I am equipped to do every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8) and He receives the glory.

So, I’ll get silly in starlight and sing.

I’ll sing and let the praise rise up from the darkness and into the night.

I will praise the God who gives the grace that causes a darkened heart to seek the light.
I’ll sing to the One who invites the darkest soul to come and drink and thirst no more.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

Trust in the Lord, and do good.

Piper suggested (well, he said “perhaps”) the whole Old Testament could be summed up in this tiny verse.

“Trust in the Lord, and do good.” Psalm 37:3

Does that cause you to pause at all? a little? Well, it does me. The whole Old Testament in seven words. Hm. Trust in the Lord is one of those “givens” I might breeze by in my morning reading because my heart is used to the way it sounds. Of course, trust in the Lord. Lean not on my own understanding. Yes, yes. Trust in the Lord and in His mighty power.

Have you ever done that when you are reading a book that has texts of Scripture in it? They appear as large chunks indented on either side to make them stand out and draw your attention. Sometimes (embarrassed admission), I breeze past what feels like “givens” so I can get to the point. It’s like my mind is saying, “Caroline, of course you agree with that part – it’s Scripture. Just move on so you can find the conclusion.”

Well, this morning I lingered on Psalm 37:3 because I didn’t want to breeze past its truth. If I believe the Word is powerful and sharper than any two edged sword – that it never returns void and holds the secrets to abundant life – than nothing should ever be breezed by (no matter how many times I’ve read it).

“Trust in the Lord, and do good.” Psalm 37:3

Piper follows his assertion by saying, “…let the great works of past grace sustain your faith in future grace so that you always trust God rather than the offers of help and guidance that come from other gods or other counselors. The root issue behind the disobedience of Israel was lack of faith in future grace.”

Could the root issue of my disobedience look like similar faithlessness? The Israelites had many proofs of God’s faithfulness and salvation, but they chose unbelief. They chose not to trust the Lord’s word would be true for the future as it had been in the past. They chose instead to take their chances with a future of their own contriving.

The “do good” piece is not just tacked on for good measure. As much as the trusting is an act of belief in what God can and will do, “doing good” physically walks out this belief in the offices and street corners and dining room tables of life.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy…
today, where you are, as you trust in the Lord who empowered you to love at all

desire like dynamite

I’m looking at my week today. I’m just sitting here on this side of Monday thinking – what stories will unfold before next Monday comes? How will I step into the miracles of grace God has authored this week? What will those joyful moments look like and when will I do battle in the moments of temptation? What treasures are waiting to be discovered in the most unlikely of places?

I’m still on this side of Monday, just barely, and I’m ushering it in with Sandra McCracken’s song, “Dynamite” because I guess I want to think on the weight of another regular week. Yes, life goes on – an unsteady rhythm in an unsteady and shifting world that somehow feels routine. Another 9 am start to another five day week that’s about to happen… and these lines are breaking in to shake me free of going through the Monday motions.

You may not be in a place to imagine anything this morning, and if that’s the case you might want to come back and read this later because McCracken paints a picture you are meant to see in your mind’s eye.

“The heart takes what it wants, like dynamite.”

Dynamite is not a gentle thing – not a pleasant or friendly thing. It is unforgiving and indiscriminate in its destruction. And this is the image McCracken uses to talk about the heart: dynamite. That’s ugly.

I don’t like to think about my heart like destruction – the kind that thunders and smokes and overwhelms. I don’t like to think about a lot of ugly things. On this side of Monday, I am thinking about how desire is lit like dynamite.

“Those who have ears, as the smoke it clears, will see things as they are
To bend the will, you first must change the heart.”

But I’m also thinking about the moments before destruction is guaranteed – those moments when the will can still be bent by a change of heart.

Where are those moments in my today?
When will my heart race to take what it wants this week?

Oh, I know there will be many times. My heart is fickle and fragile and forgetting. I want things I’ll never admit to wanting and this week will not be any different than last week.

But, maybe if I know my desire like dynamite, I will listen for a different sound.

“Will we choose the noise of our desire or the hope that makes no sound?”

Maybe, I will choose to say “Yes!” to all the promises God has given me in Christ – all the ways He has provided the power to bend the will of my flesh by the change of my heart. Destruction is not unavoidable. The noise of desire is not so deafening that the silent sound of hope cannot penetrate it. A hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5) is as brilliant and as sure as this morning’s sun.

In 2 Corinthians 1:20 we read, “All the promises of God find their ‘Yes!’ in Christ.”

The God of creation sees our desire like dynamite and yet still offers a hearty and infallible YES in the person of Christ, who secures every promise God has ever given. Within this profound security, we can say “Yes!” to those promises – to the hope that makes no sound.

We can walk out this week in a way that doesn’t leave destruction in our wake.

I am reading through Future Grace by John Piper and this particular post is inspired by his words in Chapter 7 as well as Sandra McCracken’s song. 

what if you didn’t open your gifts?

I know – it sounds crazy.
Who doesn’t open gifts?

I was sitting across from a new friend tonight and I wondered what would have happened if we hadn’t taken advantage of that awkward “turn and greet your neighbor” moment at church last Sunday. What if I didn’t turn around? What if she didn’t extend her hand and say more than, “I’m Sarah, nice to meet you” in that wonderfully Sunday morning way? What if she hadn’t asked for my phone number?

I can tell you exactly what would have happened: after an appropriate amount of time passed (shaking hands, nodding heads, exchanging hellos), I would have sat down content that I had “been social” at this new church and prepared myself for the sermon. And then we would have exchanged “nice to meet yous” as we bundled up and got out the door with minimal awkwardness or personal exposure.

Well, thankfully, things worked out differently.

Tonight, I met a kindred spirit and it was a gift I almost didn’t unwrap. I almost didn’t know the heart in the row behind me loved books and theology and the gospel. I know it sounds strange to be surprised to find such a heart in church.

But it is a gift, to be sure. I listened to her crazy story of God’s faithfulness and she listened to mine. We very quickly had an understanding – an openness that is only grown in the fields of faith.

My friend Alejandra tells me, “You just know… when someone is a believer, you can feel a connection like you are related.”

That’s what happened tonight and I almost didn’t open the gift. God is so gracious to patiently introduce us to His community – to invite us into relationships that reflect Him. In His grace He offers gifts – often many inside every moment – and our opening of these gifts glorifies Him because we revel in satisfaction at what we find.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

and definitely take a few risks during that meet and greet time

the conversation

I used to feel guilty when I had the conversation with the Lord.

Do you know the one I mean? It always starts incredibly sheepish and shameful – littered with my apologies for not coming sooner, not trusting deeper, not being a more regular penitent.

The words come like a flood at the beginning, offering all sorts of explanations for why I’ve been away, and then everything calms down and God reminds me of His promises – those beautiful truths with a floor that won’t fall out.

I used to feel guilty when I had the conversation, but now I just feel freedom because I’m not bargaining anymore. I’m not asking for fair exchange or bartering for a better deal. My apologies and excuses and guilt feelings change nothing about the transaction about to take place when I commune with my Savior.

Now the conversation is like sewing a tapestry instead of sewing a button hole. Have you ever sewed a button hole? You need very little thread and it takes very little time… you’ll also likely have to come back and sew it on again when it comes off because buttons get a lot of wear and tear. A tapestry is very different – 12 inches of thread and a needle won’t do it. The thread weaves in and out and in and out.

Yesterday, there was a beautiful baby in my backseat. She didn’t let out a single complaint about my driving or about our little road trip to see her mom for a supervised visit. She didn’t seem to mind that I needed to have the conversation with the Lord the whole way to our destination, but it wasn’t a bargain she heard.

I think I’m beginning to understand the sweet grace of the Lord’s promises. The salvation He offers daily is filled with everything I haven’t earned. I know I will be on the receiving end before the first word of apology can leave my lips. But a funny thing happens when I trust His freely given promises – love prompts me to promise back.

I don’t mean the rushed-and-desperate promises that I’ll get better, do more, try harder.

What I mean is that a conversation wove into my yesterday – a day that would have bent me to bargaining in the past. Yesterday was a day that I desperately needed everything to go well for my job and for the kiddos involved. Normally, the conversation might have happened a couple times in those real clinch moments but instead it got woven in.

As I made my morning coffee, I prayed for love that casts out fear and then claimed the casting out. When I got anxious, I petitioned for peace and then walked with calm, bold steps. With the little ones in transit, I trusted the Lord to cover my car and I drove.

Promises are a big deal. But my promises to God are held together by His promises to me. I cannot bargain and barter with the Creator of the universe, but I can live out the promises He has made for me and in me.

I can promise because He is faithful and my promises are nestled deep in the well of my salvation. I can promise because it magnifies the Lord who saved me.

What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. Psalms 116:12-14 

I don’t feel guilty about the conversation anymore. I just feel freed.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

protection & presence

The front room is now a grayish color and the dining room looks like a latte. There are crafted things hanging on the walls and thrifted lamps lighting the corners. We have too many pillows, but they are all too wonderful and quirky to store away somewhere. The furniture is nearly all free or craigslisted or thrifted or clearanced. There’s a bronze candlestick holder that our great Aunt used as a doorstop (and could easily double as a defense weapon) that sits on a trunk-turned-sidetable.

My sister mainly brings the inspiration for the decorating of our house and I make sure we’re stocked with cleaning supplies. We’re a funny team – living together for the first time since she left for college in 2001. After about one month, we’ve snuggled in to our new home. Well, our landlord tells us it was built in 1887, so it hasn’t been new in a very long time, but we are shrugging into it like you would a good, worn-in pair of shoes.

And it feels good.

This city has life and we’re pretty close to the downtown heartbeat. If you’re used to the suburbs, our neighborhood would definitely earn the title “sketch” (especially if you stop by at night). But, if you’re inner-city familiar, then you would know our street is pretty quiet by comparison.

In any case, someone said we should get a deadbolt. Our front door is about 50 feet from the sidewalk and the doorknob locks like a bedroom. My sister and I aren’t worried about it, but enough people are that we mentioned it to our landlord.

Protection is something people get a little bit desperate about, a lot of fearful about. We want walls – tall ones – between us and danger. We want schools far away from any threat. We want bad people to stay away from good people. We want there to be some sort of buffer – a moat, perhaps, to keep safe away from unsafe.

I don’t have children, biological ones, anyway. But I am a child and I saw the tension in my parents’ eyes when I said I was going to Honduras. I heard their voices waver even while they said they were trusting the Lord. I could see their raised eyebrows in my rearview mirror as I drove them around Tegucigalpa. “Where’s that moat?” They seemed to ask. When we moved to this part of Des Moines, my dad raised those same eyebrows.

This morning, I read from Zechariah in my devotions,

and said to him, “Run, say to that young man, ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it. And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the LORD, and I will be the glory in her midst.’”(Zechariah 2:4-5 ESV)

The prophet said Jerusalem would grow out of her walls. She would increase in number so that the walls could no longer hold her. John Piper writes,

But walls are necessary! They are the security against lawless hordes and enemy armies. Villages are fragile, weak, vulnerable. Prosperity is nice, but what about protection?

To these questions, God lays out His promise, “I will be a wall of fire all around.” In the end, walls are still manmade and can be scaled and stormed by men. But a wall of fire – a divine wall of fire – is a force of protection that cannot be reckoned with. As the city expanded beyond its manmade protection into a weak and vulnerable state, God makes a promise to hover over the weak and vulnerable to offer miraculous preservation.

Piper continues to work through the passage,

And it gets better. Inside that fiery wall of protection he says, “And I will be the glory in her midst.” God is never content to give us the protection of his fire; he will give us pleasure of his presence.

I had to read this on replay this morning. God said, “I will be the glory in her midst.” God is not a cold, stone wall. He is not an inch thick defense plan. God is alive and God loves His people. The fire protects them in the most vulnerable and exposed situations and His presence comforts and pleases like nothing in this world.

Today, God is expanding His kingdom out into vulnerable, exposed, unguarded territory. We are not to fear.

Our Holy God is the best, surest protection and the most pleasing company.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

the beauty of holiness

As a follow up to yesterday (and as a point of clarification), I’ll let John Piper give a little background for the “killing sin” comment in my post. This is an excerpt from the sermon yesterday that concluded the conference, available here in manuscript form.

The beauty of holiness in God’s children is the harmony, or the concord, between our lives and the infinite value of all God is. And that God predestined us to holiness because his aim is that earth be filled with the beauty of holiness — the expression of the infinite worth of his transcendent fullness.

And on the way to that predestined beauty we have seen that God cancelled the sins of his people by the death of his Son. And then he commanded that we break the power of this cancelled sin — that we kill sin and pursue holiness. And then he instructed us to act the miracle of holiness by the power of the Spirit, and because he is at work in us to will and to do this very miracle. He authors it, we act it. And then he showed us that we tap into this sanctifying, sin-killing, holiness-producing power by the hearing of faith. By hearing all that God promises to be for us in Jesus, and embracing this as our supremely satisfying treasure.

I love that “on the way to that predestined beauty we have seen that God cancelled the sins of his people by the death of his Son.”

We are swept up into this way-more-than-my-lifetime journey toward predestined beauty, but not by accident or afterthought. We are swept up intentionally, commanded to break the power of our cancelled sin and instructed to act this miracle of sanctification by the power of the Spirit and through the hearing of faith. On the way to an end God could already be enjoying, He sets us (saints in Christ’s name) on the holiness path with eyes to see both the abundant joy of the path and the unbelievable delight in God’s aim is to fill the whole earth with His holiness.

Do I make much of my Savior – do I love Him supremely by acting the miracles He has authored in my life?

I’m still chewing on this, but there’s plenty of meat to go around. What are your thoughts?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

God the author, we the actors

I assume a certain posture when words escape me. Thankfully, it’s a much more culturally acceptable posture than the one of my mind in the same moment (jumping, leaping, and exploding with wild gestures). It looks like pursed lips, furrowed and thoughtful brows, shoulders bent in, and eyes fixated on the thought threatening to wriggle free of my grasp.

This is how I spent the weekend – with body borderline catatonic while my mind raced after revelations that came as a steady stream through the preaching and teaching from the Word at the Desiring God Conference. My pen sped across journal pages to scratch out notes and doodle inspirations; every once in a while I would nod or grunt or breathe out an “Amen!” with an agreement my heart could feel.

I think I would say this is one of many postures of praise, informed by a grace I still don’t fully appreciate. It is in this posture I heard these words,

God works in you as the Author of the miracle and then you act the miracle.

Jesus gave sight to the blind, but it is the blind man who opened his eyes to do the seeing.
Jesus healed the lame man, but it was the lame man who stood up to do the walking.
Jesus canceled my debt of sin at the cross (Colossians 2:15), but it is I who must do the living out of my new sinless status. Through faith, it is I who must daily conquer that canceled sin by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Imagine if the blind man had not opened his eyes or the lame man had not stood up to walk. Imagine the miracles begging to be acted out, already authored by God but with hearts unwilling to be the actors. If the blind man does not open his eyes or the lame man does not stand, there is no evidence that he can see or stand. We must act out this miracle because in its acting out we see its reality.

I must act the miracle God authored because, as John Piper said, “Killing sin – pursuing holiness – is essential for salvation. The will to kill sin is the SIGN that sin is canceled.”

Whooooosh. Like the thrill in knowing a roller coaster must descend with the rush of gravity after climbing to its highest height, my heart raced with these words that explained a truth already hidden in my soul.

Though my arms waved wildly in my mind, I maintained my outward posture of praise as I considered sanctification. I felt literally swept up in the joy and exhilaration of acting out the miracle God has already authored in my life. The process of becoming holy begins with the reality that God is holy – and we are invited to share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10).

We are invited to be like God (1 Peter 1:14-16) as we effectively conform our feelings, thoughts, and actions into complete harmony the infinite worth of the transcendent, trinitarian fullness of God.

What. an. invitation.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

you are not enough

What a funny word.
“Enough” means sufficient, even if it means barely squeaking by.

I wonder what happens when enough is a challenge. Are you man enough? Are you strong enough? Are you brave enough? Are you mom enough?

These questions issue a challenge to those places in us that can’t resist – those places in us that say, “I’ll show you…” in response. We might even get a little carried away in proving that we are, indeed, enough of whatever quality is in question. We might even, on the wild proving grounds of this challenge, reveal just how great is our need. Because when we start to think that our adequacy is found in what we do, we’re beat from the start.

We were never meant to rise to the challenge of enough. We were meant to see our not enough and recognize our need.
We were made to find our enough in Another who is always sufficient, always abundant, and always.

This little excerpt (thanks, Tim Challies) from John Piper’s book Pierced by God gives helpful perspective. I realize it’s a bit much for this morning, so if you don’t read the excerpt below, just know that you are not enough.

You will never be brave enough, strong enough, smart enough, or mom enough. You can’t reach down deep and muster up the willpower. It’s not in you. And it’s not failure to admit that – it’s just recognizing that you are not God. You are made to depend on God’s enough-ness (if you will) and bring Him glory.

We are not God. So by comparison to ultimate, absolute Reality, we are not much. Our existence is secondary and dependent on the absolute Reality of God. He is the only Given in the universe. We are derivative. …We were. He simply is. But we become, “I Am Who I Am” in His name (Exodus 3:14).

Nevertheless, because He made us with the highest creaturely purpose in mind—to enjoy and display the Creator’s glory—we may have a very substantial life that lasts forever. This is why we were made (“All things were created through Him and for Him”, Colossians 1:16). …This is why we eat and drink (“So whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”, 1 Cor. 10:31). …This is why we do good deeds, (“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”, Matthew 5:16).

That is why we exist—to display the glory of God. Human life is all about God. That is the meaning of being human. It is our created nature to make much of God. When we fulfill this reason for being, we have substance. There is weight and significance in our existence. Knowing, enjoying, and thus displaying the glory of God is a sharing in the glory of God. Not that we become God. But something of His greatness and beauty is on us as we realize this purpose for our being—to image-forth His excellence. This is our substance.

Not to fulfill this purpose for human existence is to be a mere shadow of the substance we were created to have. Not to display God’s worth by enjoying Him above all things is to be a mere echo of the music we were created to make.

This is a great tragedy. Humans are not meant to be mere shadows and echoes. We were to have God-like substance and make God-like music and have God-like impact. That is what it means to be created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). But when humans forsake their Maker and love other things more, they become like the things they love—small, insignificant, weightless, inconsequential, and God-diminishing.

Human life is all about God, isn’t it? So, why do we love being enough more than the One who is enough? Piper continues,

Listen to the way the Psalmist put it: “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes but they do not see; they have ears but they do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them” (Ps. 135:15-18: see also 115:4-8).

Think and tremble. You become like the man-made things that you trust: mute, blind, deaf. This is a shadow existence. It is an echo of what you were meant to be. It is an empty mime on the stage of history with much movement and no meaning.

Dear reader, be not shadows and echoes. Break free from the epidemic of the manward spirit of our age. Set your face like flint to see and know and enjoy and live in light of the Lord. “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5). In His light you will see Him and all things as they truly are. You will wake up from the slumbers of shadowland existence. You will crave and find substance. You will make God-like music with your life. Death will dispatch you to paradise. And what you leave behind will not be a mere shadow or echo, but a tribute on earth, written in heaven, to the triumphant grace of God.

In God, we find all our desire for enough so that our lives can be a tribute on earth to the triumphant grace of God. You are not enough, but in Him we have more than enough to

let LOVE fly like cRaZy