Word-Filled Wednesday: Isaiah

I am sorry I’ve been such a bad blogger. The Spain update is same as always: we are plugging away at homework, scheduling planning meetings with our church and preparing to speak at churches beginning in January.

In honor of my study of Isaiah with Bible Study Fellowship, I did a word-filled Wednesday image of one of my favorite sections, Isaiah 1:16-17. Nothing fancy in terms of graphic design, but I hope you like it. Please feel free to head over to my Flickr page and download the large size for your desktop.

Isaiah wallpaper



Gratitude

You know how good it feels when someone thanks you for something from the bottom of their heart? Maybe you received a sweet handwritten thank you card. Maybe they cried, or maybe they did something nice for you in return. Maybe your love language is “words of affirmation” and they shared their gratitude for you with someone else in front of you (am I the only one for whom this is swoon-worthy? Hm?).

Last night, lifting my hands in worship at an intimate Starfield concert, I was full of gratitude. I was thankful for the obvious things: my good health, my warm shelter, my full belly, my happy home, my fulfilling job, my sweet family. But more importantly than that, I was filled with gratitude for one thing I often take for granted: my assured salvation.

The Starfield tour is for their album The Saving One. I should rephrase: the tour is for the Saving One. Jesus Christ.

Every religion in the world, including false Christianity (known or unknown!) and including non-religion, is about self. Self-fulfillment, self-gratitude, self-evaluation, self-assurance, self-improvement, self-worship, self-exultation. It comes masked as other things: inner peace, social justice, enlightenment, tradition, seeking, a journey, a path, a command (this one gets me every time!), but we’re all worshiping something. Maybe your religion is self-sacrifice and you find that fulfilling. It’s still about you.

Loving Jesus, though, is about the opposite of self. It’s not about self-anything, including self-sacrifice. Because the moment we make loving Jesus about hating ourselves, we aren’t loving Jesus.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. -Jesus

Loving Jesus naturally can only come from being grateful for what He did. I don’t do anything selflessly, out of love for Him or others, unless I am motivated by His love for me.

We love because He first loved us. -John, about Jesus

And the reason His love is so motivating is not just because He was an amazing person. Certainly my love for the poor and needy doesn’t measure up to Jesus’ in spite of my best efforts to care for the marginalized, and that is motivating because He is a perfect example. He was non-judgmental, he went out of his way to offer wisdom, comfort, food, water, healing and relationship to people who lacked one or all of those things.

Bono has this famous quote where he says that my generation will be known for three things: the internet, the war on terror, and how we watched an entire continent go up in flames with hunger, sickness and war.

It is maddening, and I agree, and I do hope that our generation begins to see the tremendous impact it does have and it can have on Africa. But Bono’s statement is only partly true. Yes, we can and should give more. We can and should sponsor more children, build more wells, staff more hospitals and stop preventable epidemics (that’s plural, friends. You know about AIDS, but don’t forget malaria and fistula). And yes, developed countries can and should send more aid to Africa without ulterior political or economic motive.

But if aid were what it took to save Africa, Africa would be saved. If aid were all it took, the world would see results and would respond with more aid, until the goal was met.

Africa needs a savior who can actually save. Africa needs the Saving One.

And so does Spain, and Latin America, and Asia, and the Middle East, and the United States of America. And me.

The reason Jesus is worth loving is because He did something no one else can do. He saw the world and all its problems, and he made a way to solve every single problem: He died, and then he broke the spell of death by coming back to life again.

You see, all the problems in the world are because of death, the consequence of our not being good enough (like Jesus). And that consequence has been paid by Jesus himself.

He’s the Saving One.

And I am grateful.

Don’t Miss This Freebie!

One of the most powerful books I’ve ever read is John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad. It’s a powerful read for anyone who wants to understand God’s heart for missions. I’ve posted some sort of negative thoughts (uptakes) on Piper’s stance on the importance of reaching the unreached, but this book helped me understand just how Biblical it is to be focused on the unreached. There are many arguments, but the main one is that God has been, from the beginning. It doesn’t invalidate our call to Spain, which is loud and clear, but it does demonstrate just how dire the situation is that God would be calling us there, a place that has already been reached.

Piper doesn’t address this in his book, but I am struck by just how merciful our God is. Because the church has so failed in some of the places it has already preached the Gospel, God is allowing us to go back. It is His will that none should perish, and He’s essentially set aside His original plan, which was that one by one, the nations would come to know Him. Well, one by one they know Him, and one by one they rebel against Him.

And yet He restores. And yet He restores.

Read this book. I implore you.

Happily for you, the audio version of Let the Nations Be Glad is available for free through www.christianaudio.com until the end of the year. Here’s a description of the book from Desiring God’s website.

“This book is not just for missionaries.

It is for pastors who want to connect their fragile, momentary local labors to God’s invincible, eternal, global purposes.

It’s for lay people who want a bigger motivation for being world Christians than they get from statistics.

It’s for college and seminary classes on the theology of missions that really want to be theological as well as anthropological, methodological, and technological.

And it’s for leaders who need the flickering wick of their vocation fanned into flame again with a focus on the supremacy of God in all things.”

To receive the free copy of the audio book:

  1. Visit www.christianaudio.com and create an account if you don’t already have one.
  2. Locate Let the Nations Be Glad
  3. Select the download format
  4. Use the coupon code GLAD10 during the checkout process
Christianaudio.com, John Piper, and Desiring God have no idea who I am. I recommend this book of my own volition and love for freebies and received no payment in return.

13 Things I Want for Every Youth Ministry Kid

Our passion is to motivate young people to surrender their lives to JESUS CHRIST and to influence the world for His glory.

That’s the mission statement of our youth ministry. Here are 13 things I want for every kid we encounter:

1. A fun, safe place to go and hang out with peers while having real needs met, no matter what they are. If the kids who come to us are hungry, we feed them.

2. A love for the scriptures.

3. Inspiration to follow and obey God.

4. The experience of playing weird games like racing across a pool while wearing a giant hooded sweatshirt or stuffing 12 people into a phone booth in downtown Seattle.

5. Someone to consistently pray for them.

6. The regular opportunity to serve those less fortunate.

7. Practice evangelizing their friends, family and neighbors.

8. A youth pastor they will talk about in old age. Or, more specifically, when sharing their testimony as missionary candidates. (Shout out to our youth pastors, Chris and Randy!)

9. At least one life-changing and emotional spiritual epiphany. Maybe it happens at a youth conference, or a missions trip, or at a Christian concert.

10. Encouragement through the seasons that seem spiritually stagnant. (See #2)

11. An understanding of the vital role a church family plays in surviving tough times. I especially worry about this when our students go off to college and have to find a church on their own.

12. A safe environment and enough confidence to speak up in discussion. This is a valuable characteristic in school and beyond, and what better place to hone it than at church.

13. The desire to glorify God in everything. Growth, which produces fruit, which produces more glory for God.

For Such a Time as This

Romans 15:4
(just scroll your mouse over it!)

Truly, I don’t have time to do Bible Study Fellowship this year. With work, prefield, youth ministry and school, all of which certainly come first, my days are filled. There are weeks right now where Chris and I don’t have a single evening together at home because we have to (or we didn’t want to pass up) be somewhere.

But I love it, and we’re studying Isaiah, and I have not been in the Word in the mornings consistently since finishing our study on John, so I went. I decided that I would go until it was clear I needed to drop something from my schedule in order to survive.

And then, after our lecture, I remembered why I go back each year. The way that BSF gets me into the Word is what helps me survive my crazy schedule! What is one exhausted Tuesday morning if I have consistent, sweet time with my Lord each morning? What is one more super quick dinner-on-the-run if the scriptures are being embedded in my mind and imprinted on my heart?

And what better book to study than Isaiah as Chris and I try to carry out our calling?

Our lecture leader gave us a reminder last night:

Do you ever feel like you were born in the wrong decade? Maybe the wrong century?

*corporate nodding and agreement*

You weren’t.

(Imagine her grinning from ear to ear as she says it.)

After starting my lesson this morning, with a cup of coffee and a bright light to simulate sunlight pouring through my window (which it wasn’t), I really feel like now is the perfect time to make studying Isaiah with BSF a priority. And I know God will give me the strength (and schedule) to do it.