Change

Heraclitus of Ephesus, a Greek philospher said this: Πάντα ῥεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει, meaning, “Everything flows, nothing stands still.”

He was quoted by Plato in Cratylus, and by Diogenes Laërtius in Lives of the Philosophers Book IX, section 8
Various translations of this saying are below, but all make the same point – that the only thing constant in life is that life is always changing.

Variant translations:
Everything flows and nothing stays.
Everything flows and nothing abides.
Everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.
Everything flows; nothing remains.
All is flux, nothing is stationary.
All is flux, nothing stays still.
All flows, nothing stays.
Nothing endures but change.
From Lives of the Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius
Variant translations:
There is nothing permanent except change.
Nothing is permanent except change.
The only constant is change.
Change is the only constant.
Change alone is unchanging.

Change alone is unchanging. That’s terrifying. As followers of Christ, we are constantly being called to change to conform more to the likeness of Christ. Sanctification is not an easy process.

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“Fighting Verses”

Feeling downcast, weary, or just plain unable to get through today?

Here are a few of my “fighting verses,” as I like to call them (and all emphasis is my own):

1 Cor. 15:58 – “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

2 Cor. 4:7- – “ But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Hebrews 12 – please, please read this chapter. It is so relevant to any situation you may be encountering right now that may be causing you to doubt, particularly verses 12-13: “Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” This whole chapter is an incredible follow up to the chapter just before it – Hebrews 11, where we learn about the amazing faith given to the fathers of our faith! I encourage you to live in and meditate on these chapters for as long as it takes for your heart to gain strength!

Also, Romans 4 is the first place I head to when I need to be reminded of what faith in action looks like. I draw incredible strength from the life of Abraham. I want to have the kind of faith that we see evident in his life. I want what was said of him to be said of me as well: “But he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:20-21).

You Need to Hang Out With Married People…

I’m not just saying that because I am married, I promise.

Josh and I had the opportunity to hang out with an incredible young family last Tuesday night and it really impacted me. It’s remarkable how much you can learn in a short amount of time as you watch a couple interact with one another, interact with their child(ren), and talk about marriage. They took precious time out if their schedule to serve us by making us dinner and sharing their home and lives with us for an evening. We talked about our families, our ministries, theology, and much more. They encouraged us that marriage and ministry do get easier – if only because you grow in unity as a couple and the Lord continues to refine you. Those three or four short hours had a long-term effect on my heart. I’m still thinking about our conversation and what they had to teach us about marriage, even a week later.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to stay within our comfortable friend groups made up of people in a similar life stage or age range. However, when you keep your social circle limited to a particular group or age range, you deprive yourself of an important segment of the body of Christ. And even more importantly, you might be limiting opportunities for you to grow and mature in your faith.

Let me challenge you to spend time with people who aren’t just like you. Get outside of what is comfortable or convenient. Spend time with younger children and elderly people. If you are single, spend time with married people. To those of you who are married, invite single people into your home. Serve them. Show them the realities of marriage, coupled with the blessing of covenant. Reflect the Gospel with your life.

The rewards will be great – both for those who step outside of their normal friend group as well as for those who welcome new friends in.

Quotes on Marriage

I’m currently reading Gary Thomas’ Sacred Marriage and I wanted to share some incredible quotes from his book and from others today:

“Merely being faithful to your spouse is quite a testimony in this society. But as you go beyond that to communicate love for your spouse in a consistent, creative, and uninhibited way, the world can’t help but notice. God will be honored.” – Betsy and Gary Ricucci (from Sacred Marriage, pg. 153)

“The couple is unlike the individual in that it must act for its own preservation in a much more deliberate way than the individual. Individuals might contemplate suicide, but rarely forget to eat, whereas couples often forget to nourish their relationship.” – Mary Anne McPherson Oliver (Sacred Marriage, pg. 153)

“Passivity is as foreign to Christian love as the moon is to the earth. Christian love is an aggressive movement and an active commitment. In reality we choose where to place our affections.” (Thomas, 155)

“Marriage based on romanticism embraces an idealized lie (infatuation) and divorces the reality once it presents itself. Marriage based on life in Jesus Christ invites us to divorce the lie (an idealized view of our spouse) and embrace reality (two sinful people struggling to maintain a lifelong commitment)” (Thomas, 165).

These are just a few of the ones that have impacted my heart a lot this week. Whether you are single, engaged, or married, I highly encourage you to read this book! It will encourage your pursuit of Christlikeness and will help to eradicate our culture’s definitions of love, commitment, and marriage from your heart.

What Do You Treasure? On Deception, the Heart, and Ministry

Before I entered full-time ministry, it truly was not a struggle to spend time with the Lord daily. That sounds crazy, I know, but it’s true. Even when I was working crazy hours on Capitol Hill and volunteering part-time with The Gathering, I still reached for my Bible and gave it my full attention at least once a day. I rarely missed a day. But this season has been different. Full-time vocational ministry is full of daily struggles and victories and is more spiritually challenging than anything I have experienced before. This dichotomy pushes me to spend time in the Word every day and to be more like Christ, so that I can be a more effective minister of the Gospel.

However, I often struggle to balance investing in others while also investing in myself and my own spiritual life. I also struggle to delegate and equip others rather than just doing everything myself and in my own power. Now, all too often, I am distracted by yet another need or task and have to remind myself frequently that I need to put my time with the Lord before everything else. He must be my first priority! My two years in vocational ministry have taught me that ministry absolutely must be driven by the overflow of Christ in my heart. If ministry is driven by my will, rather than by my love for Him, it is meaningless. Likewise, I have also learned that my passion for ministry must be exceeded by my passion for Christ Himself. Jesus is not only my motivation; He is my treasure.

Just as the man who found the treasure hidden in a field in Matthew 13 and sold everything he had to buy the field, I want to live my life in passionate pursuit of Christ, regardless of the cost.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
(Matthew 13:44-46 ESV)

While these verses reference the kingdom of God, the Lord has used them recently to show me much about my own heart. It is so easy to think that just because I’m pouring out my life in ministry, that Christ Himself is my treasure. When you sacrifice much for ministry, it’s easy to point to your clear prioritization of people as prioritization of the Lord Himself. Unfortunately, I’ve found that in the midst of rushing around to accomplish things and do ministry, it is simple to begin to treasure the ministry above Christ.

It’s a slow transformation.  One day you wake up and realize that your identity is completely wrapped up in your ministry – how successful you are, the ministry’s growth, and even how your leaders are doing spiritually themselves. Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

I’m thankful for the discipline of the Lord. I’m so grateful that He is willing to pursue and recapture my heart and redirect my attention back to Himself. I’m thankful that He is a jealous God and that He will not allow my heart to be satisfied outside of Himself. Don’t allow ministry, even great ministry, to replace Christ’s position in your heart. He, and He alone, is your treasure. Cherish your people. Treasure your God. Don’t allow the lines to be blurred. 

Together for the Gospel 2012

I highly recommend that you head over to www.t4g.org to listen to all of the main sessions from #T4G2012. The theme was The Underestimated Gospel and the messages were AMAZING! I’m still working my way through all of them, but based on what I’ve seen from Twitter and heard from Josh, you will not be disappointed.

Let me know what you think! I’ll be posting more of my thoughts as I am able to get through each sermon, so check back soon!

Jim Newheiser – “Why (and How) I Get Up on Monday Mornings”

It’s always good to start your Monday morning with a good, gospel-centered article on why and how you should face another potentially grueling week of ministry. This article was really encouraging to me this morning and I hope it will encourage you as well!

Here’s an excerpt of what Jim had to say:

“So, when Monday morning rolls around, I may initially groan about my physical and even my spiritual weakness, but I will get out of bed anticipating what God will do for His own glory through His Word in the lives of our counselees and trainees. Time and time again, I have been amazed to see Him use my “weakest” state and seemingly ‘foolish’ choice of days to confound me and my counselees with the glories of powerful gospel change.”

If you are interested in reading further on counseling or need counseling resources, I highly recommend that you check out The Biblical Counseling Coalition’s blog. Another great counseling resource is Biblical Counseling for Women.

Join the Conversation

When you’re exhausted, what motivates and empowers you for ministry?

How do you begin your week?

Leave a comment – I’d love to hear from you!

Dear World Georgetown

The photo project Dear World comes to Georgetown every year and here is the link to the photo album they’ve created:

Dear World Georgetown 2012

If you are not familiar with this project, essentially it promotes freedom of speech and allows students to be photographed with whatever they want written on their arms, legs, hands, faces, etc.

Here’s what they say about their work: “Robert X. Fogarty founded Dear World, a photo project that unites people through pictures in his distinct message-on-skin style. It began as Dear New Orleans, a photographic love note to the city. Before launching Dear World, Fogarty noticed that the simple portraits could be a vehicle for shared communication regardless of race, religion or language.”

As I looked through this album this week while I was stuck at home because I was sick, I was moved to pray. Most students’ messages are humanistic (“I can, through my own strength”), while others focus on love (“love conquers all, love one another”). My heart for them is that they will come to know their all-powerful Creator, and live through His strength and love.

I just wanted to share this with you all do that you can pray with me – that the Gospel will illuminate the hearts of Georgetown’s students and that Christ will be exalted on the Hilltop.

A Desire to be Comfortable and the Call to Suffering

This past week has been one of the best weeks I’ve had with the Lord in a long while. You know how sometimes you are so stuck in yourself and your situation that you can’t see clearly where the Lord is taking you? All too often that is the state of my heart. I allow my heart to get caught up in all of the “what ifs” and “I can’ts.” Maybe it’s just me that’s this hardhearted, forgetful, and stubborn, but I’m so thankful that the Lord is willing to continue to speak to my heart and reinforce His message everywhere I turn. After going through a season of confusion and doubt, I can often see proof that the Lord’s been working on my heart for a long while but I haven’t had ears to hear or eyes to see what the Lord has been working to reveal.

I often identify with Jesus’ apostle Peter. This is the guy who Jesus referred to as “a rock” in Matthew 16:18, but who though he was willing to get out of a boat and walk on water to Jesus, eventually faltered as he took his eyes off of Jesus to look at the situation surrounding him. The cool part of these stories to me is that Jesus didn’t call Peter a rock and say He would use him to build His Church BEFORE He saw all of Peter’s weaknesses in Matthew 14. No, Jesus’ statement about Peter came in Matthew 16, even after he faltered on the water. Jesus knows our weaknesses. He knows my heart’s tendency to wander. He knows my tendency to take my eyes off of Him. He knows of my desire to stay safe and dry in the boat. And He still wants to use me.

I had a startling revelation on Monday. I was watching C.J. Mahaney’s T4G2012 talk “The Sustaining Power of The Gospel,” and the Lord made so many different things click into place in my heart. I realized that all of the confusion I’ve been feeling lately is a direct result of unbelief that has taken up residence in my heart. Like the Israelites of old, I’ve made myself comfortable with where I am and I’ve become unwilling to venture out, even in response to God’s call. I’ve forgotten the perfection of God’s provision. I’ve convinced myself that suffering isn’t inevitable and that security lies exactly where I am right now. I’ve let fear of the future and the failures of the past convince me that God isn’t faithful. Me, the girl whose favorite attribute of God is His faithfulness. I took my eyes off of Him and didn’t even want to venture out. I desired comfort more than I desired Christ.

Mahaney’s talk was phenomenal. If you are in ministry, you MUST listen to it. If you’re close to giving up, you MUST listen to it. If you need to remember His faithfulness, you MUST listen to it. If you need an eternal perspective, you MUST listen to it. The entire sermon was phenomenal but his second point was the one that penetrated my heart – the Apostle Paul understood that the context and condition of Christian ministry is suffering. His text was 2 Corinthians 4:1-18, and he referenced verses 7-12 as he stated that “the proclamation of the gospel, by definition, involves persecution, suffering, trials, afflictions, bewilderment, being struck down, etc.”

And this sentence is the one that changed everything: “You need to have this theology of suffering in place, before you experience these things, or you will be blindsided.”

It’s not supposed to be easy. Life isn’t easy, just as marriage isn’t easy (see Marriage is Nothing Like a Hallmark Card). We’re not called to the American dream. And God made it this way on purpose. Despite my desire to be safe, secure, and comfortable, God is calling me to suffer. And what makes it all worthwhile is that “these realities have a divine design. They are purposeful. Each of these times of hardship is an opportunity to show His power… when [others] watch you in suffering, they want to see if the Gospel makes a difference.” He is developing our character, building our witness, and bringing Himself glory.

It is the grace of God that enables us to follow His call. His Spirit can penetrate even the hardest of hearts, strengthen the weakest of knees, and illuminate the darkest of paths. This week I’ve been encouraged by Paul’s theology of suffering, his expectations of ministry, and by his eternal perspective that is captured for us in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Take heart today! Be willing to step out in faith to follow God’s calling on your life. Our current (or future) suffering, when compared with future glory, is completely worth whatever hardships may come our way. The Apostle Paul even goes so far as to say that there is no comparison with the eternal glory that will come as our reward!

Marriage is Nothing Like a Hallmark Card

Josh and I are currently reading Tim Keller‘s The Meaning of Marriage with our small group.  Here’s a short taste from the first chapter (and it’s also the quote from the back of the book):

“I’m tired of listening to sentimental talks on marriage. At weddings, in church, and in Sunday school, much of what I’ve heard on the subject has as much depth as a Hallmark card. While marriage is many things, it is anything but sentimental. Marriage is glorious but hard. It’s a burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat, and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories. No marriage I know more than a few weeks old could be described as a fairy tale come true. Therefore, it is not surprising that the only phrase in Paul’s famous discourse on marriage in Ephesians 5 that many couples can relate to is verse 32 [‘A man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery…’]. Sometimes you fall into bed, after a long, hard day of trying to understand each other, and you can only sigh: ‘This is all a profound mystery!’ At times, your marriage seems to be an unsolvable puzzle, a maze in which you feel lost. I believe all of this, and yet there’s no relationship between human beings that is greater or more important than marriage” (Tim Keller in The Meaning of Marriage, 21).

Josh and I just celebrated (well, remembered) our 9 month anniversary in marriage yesterday. It’s actually quite weird though because despite the fact that it’s been 9 months, it really feels like we’ve been married for five years or longer. We already have trouble sleeping without each other, something I had equated to a problem only known by people who have been married two decades or longer. I’m sure that when we actually hit the five year mark and then the twenty year mark, I’ll look back on this post and laugh, but truly, it feels that we’ve matured and grown more in the last nine months together than we did on our own in the last few years.

There’s much about marriage that IS sentimental. What I love most about marriage is the “little stuff” that makes up the fabric of our lives. I love holding Josh’s hand, taking walks, just talking, teasing, snuggling, cooking together, chasing him around the condo to retrieve whatever item he’s most recently stolen from me, and just sharing life with him. And yes, that sounds like a Hallmark card (and in fact, there’s a card sitting on Josh’s nightstand that says pretty much what I just said here). But that’s not all there is to it.

Marriage changes everything about your life. You’re no longer able to do exactly what you want, when you want to. It grows you. It shapes you. It teaches you about the gospel. And yes, it’s hard. I’ve heard people say that love and marriage shouldn’t be too hard or something’s wrong with your marriage, but I disagree. That’s why I really like the Keller quote above.

I’m currently in the middle of another great book on marriage – Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. Thomas says that marriage is “the greatest challenge in the world,” and also asks some really important questions about marriage and cultural perceptions and expectations of marriage. He asks his readers “What if God didn’t design marriage to be ‘easier’? What if God had an end in mind that went beyond our happiness, our comfort, and our desire to be infatuated and happy as if the world were a perfect place? What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” (Sacred Marriage, 13).

I think God designed marriage to be hard. He wants us to be holy. And thankfully, I can say that marriage has made me both happy and holy, but I know that there are seasons of even greater difficulty ahead. In those seasons, I want to remember that the point of marriage isn’t that I am happy. Instead, the point is that God is working in my heart to make me holy, humble, and totally committed to the covenant that I made to Him, to Josh, and to hundreds of others last July. It’s an incredibly beautiful thing to share your life with someone. But make no mistake – it’s hard – but it is absolutely worth the struggle.