why faith is both simple and hard

Faith is both simple and hard.

Faith is simple because it is believing – believing the ground won’t fall out before your next step and believing the sun will dawn on this day. We believe a lot of things without much struggle, even things that shouldn’t be so easy. We trust governments and money and weather men when they give us assurances and possessions and forecasts – we believe in them and make plans around this wily, presuming confidence.

Faith is simple because it is believing… and if we can believe in governments and money and weather men, shouldn’t it be simple to believe in the power that holds even those together?

One of my favorite thoughts to think grows out of this little gem in Colossians, speaking of Christ:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17 ESV)

All things hold together in Christ. Not a single ruler – tyrannical or gracious or otherwise – breathes a breath without being held together by Christ. Not a mountain or valley or cave keeps its form without Christ constraining its particles. Not a single atom inside the vast universe is itself held together apart from Christ. All things.

Shouldn’t it be simple to believe in this kind of power? Oh, but faith is also hard.

The believing part is simple – I can believe the ground won’t give out beneath me before my next step. Simple. But, believing the ground won’t give out doesn’t mean I have to ever take a step.

I can sit on my front porch and believe the front door is unlocked and there are homemade cookies on the table inside without ever living like I believe that is true. I can comment about how easy I believe the door is to open and how delicious I believe the cookies are to eat – all from the pontificating position of my deck chair without ever opening the door to taste the cookies.

And that’s why faith is hard.

That’s why, I think, there are a lot of Christians sitting on the front porch of faith “believing” without ever experiencing the life their belief promises.

Today, friend, reach for the handle that you believe is there and turn it like you believe it’s open. If you are afraid at what you will find, maybe you don’t really believe after all.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

don’t give up on me.

There are a lot of reasons I’m crooning this jam from Milo Greene. It’s not because I know what he’s about – I don’t. I am just the kind of person who has a soundtrack to my days and this is making the list.

This song got stuck on me because I wish my clients would sing it. Some of them do, yes. Some of them want their kids back more than they want anything else in life. And when I get their voicemails about completing treatment or a picture text of the parenting class they are attending, a little part of me leaps with them for joy. Some of them are the reason I have a job – because they prove change is possible.

Others of them, well… I have to sing these lines on their behalf. I’m not sure how badly they want their kiddos back in their care, even though I am sure that they love their littles. But I want them to be reckless with their love – I want them shaken out of the stupor that addiction has buried them inside. I want to see them look those littles in the eyes and say, “Don’t you give up on me. Don’t you do it.”

Because, sometimes I wonder if the children want to. I wonder if they are tired of getting tossed about. I wonder if they get lonesome for home – one that stays in the same place with the same people. I wonder that.

And then there’s the other thing. There’s the other thing I think when my day’s soundtrack is stuck on this song.

I know the song isn’t about holiness or the Lord or probably anything spiritual. But, my heart is the Lord’s and I suppose it always stretches to hear Him even in unlikely places. And when I hear this song, I can hear my heart singing to the Lord about my holiness.

I know, sounds strange.

I’m just so far from holy – so very far from even feeling like there is progress, sometimes. And those times I imagine God shaking His head at my efforts as He patiently directs my steps (often in the direction opposite my footprints).

My friend and I read Kevin DeYoung’s book, “Hole in Our Holiness” and went to the Desiring God conference last fall where both Piper and DeYoung spoke. The incredible importance of our holiness sunk in so deep that it’s in almost every conversation we have now.

Though we are called positionally holy as sons and daughters of the Lord, bought with the price of Christ’s shed blood, we are still being sanctified. That is, we are in the process of becoming holy right now, in this life. 

And so, when I sing this song a bit of my heart asks the Lord not to give up on me. I know the progress is slow. I know I go backwards as often as I go forwards. I know I need to learn lessons I’ve already been taught.

But, I know [far above everything else I know] that the Lord will not give up on His sanctifying work. Even as I plead for His patience I am believing that He is giving it in grace. He has called me, and therefore He is doing a work that will be brought to completion.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
(Romans 8:29-30 ESV)

My holiness, the messy progress of it all, is a victory I can claim in this moment. I know I’m not near finished – there’s a whole lot more in my life that needs sanctifying. But, to the degree that my heart mourns my waywardness as I sing this song, to that degree my heart is lifted with hope that God won’t ever give up on the progress.

The progress of my holiness is His alone to claim. He receives the glory for every victory over sin and He will not fail.

I guess that’s the difference between putting your hope in a person and putting your hope in God.

God will not fail.
He won’t give up on me.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

thoughts to make your heart sing

“Why does God need us to make a big deal of Him?”

Just take a listen to this devotional (designed for tikes) read by the author, Sally Lloyd-Jones. And then maybe spend some moments thinking about God’s invitation for you into His forever happiness. Today, He is inviting you to glorify Him because he knows what your heart needs to be happy… Him.

Sometimes, the simplest lessons are the most affecting. The mature believer is not one who is found to be the most well-read in doctrine or the most well-versed in competing theologies. No, the mature believer is one found accepting the invitation to glorify the Lord, believing boldly while knowing it is by grace that one receives.

Paul Tripp says it better in this clip, “Knowledge Does Not Mean Maturity.” He is speaking to pastors in the ministry, but I confess my puffed up chest about knowing things and “academizing the faith.”

He says, “You can be theologically astute and be dramatically spiritually immature.” That’s a crazy bold statement and it hits hard with the growing number of reformed thinkers.

And that is why I’m drawn humbly into the pages of a children’s devotional – knowing that I will come before the Lord always as a child. I will always need more of His wisdom, grace, strength, love, and kindness.

And He will always invite me to shake off my pretenses and dance with joy, unashamed, in His forever happiness.

I highly recommend picking up a copy of Thought To Make Your Heart Sing and don’t feel like you have to give it to a little one, either.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

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.