The Lord is Our Lodestar

Supposedly people are leaving California by droves. I saw a Babylon Bee this week to the effect of awarding Governor Newsom the highest salesman for U-Haul trucks. I do not want to get political. I think I am largely allergic to politics. 

That being said, I felt the weight of the world this week. I felt the weight of the reality that God has led us to have our children in public schools in San Diego (if you disagree, please take it up with the Lord himself, as we get our orders for our children each year from him). Even those who are not called to raise their children in an urban, postChristian, postmodern city must grapple with the incredibly strong cultural currents that are ripping through once seemingly (though only seemingly) serene cultural seas. 

This Friday, I spoke to our youth, a motley crew of 12-15 years olds, about identity. I had to contend for things that were once commonly presumed and assumed. But I was glad for the chance to be sharpened and concise enough in my communication of biblical identity to be heard and semi-understood in fifteen minutes before fifteen year olds. 

Our identity is not the same as our identifiers. Our deepest identity is not merely the sum of our surname, our sport, our successes, and our sex. Our deepest identity is who our Creator says we are irregardless of our feelings, failures, or foibles. As his created image-bearers, we are his by birth (Genesis 1:26-27; Psalm 139; Isaiah 43:20). And those who are in Christ are twice-his. His by birth and His by rebirth (Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3: 5-8).

As those purchased at an unthinkable cost, our lives are no longer our own (Galatians 2:20-21; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

I wish I could say that I always lived in the peace and with the purpose that comes from these rock-solid realities. But, as I was teaching them, I was reminding myself. 

If I were my own, I could make decisions on my own. I could at least pretend to be in control of the circumstances around me and my children. Alas and alleluia, I am not.  

When I think about what our children are hearing and seeing, I cringe and cower in fear. I want to remove them from any trace of the evil one and lewd lies (John 8:44). But, then the Spirit leads my stirred-up spirit to truth as spoken by our Savior. 

“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out  of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you send them me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17:14-18).

As I was praying this for our children, the Spirit opened my eyes to a new reality. When Jesus was praying this for his disciples (and us, as his future disciples), he knew exactly what this meant. He could not claim ignorance or partial knowledge of evil and its power, as He, being fully God and fully man, knew evil in its full, unalloyed strength. 

Jesus could likely see Peter hanging upside down on a cross when he prayed these words. He prayed this costly prayer knowing full well what Nero would do in the Roman colosseum. His all-knowing, all-seeing, all-pure eyes knew evil in a way that we never will, as we would be crushed and undone. Jesus prayed with one eye wide-open to evil and the other expectant of the keeping protection of His Father. 

Yet, he still prayed, “I do not ask that you  take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” These words, spoken on behalf of his disciples, only reiterate what he had spoken directly to them:

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs are on your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:28-31).

When fear of what my children may be hearing or seeing fills me, a greater fear must do the work of expelling it. My God sees, hears, and knows all. He knows the boundary lines allotted to my children. He knows the days they are living in. He chose their zip code. 

Far more important than these realities, he knows them. He knows their hearts as he knows the hairs on their heads. I am limited. I am fallible. I often don’t know what is best. 

But their ultimate Keeper does not grow weary and does not follow a circadian rhythm. He stands alert even when I sleep. He goes where I cannot go. He guards constantly, keeping watch over their souls (Psalm 121). He alerts me through his Spirit and his Word. He directs us both. He is our lodestar, the fixed point who steers us through cloud-shrouded days and dark nights. 

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Lodestar

God is the lodestar of our lives;
He keeps our course set aright.
Above even the fiercest storm,
He guides us through the night.

The Lord, our designated Captain,
With great cost has gone ahead.
He charted a course through Hades
As the firstborn from the dead.

The Spirit, our steadying compass,
Cabins ever-so-closely within.
With Christ-exalting accuracy,
He points both to comfort and sin.

With such Triune involvement,
Even broken vessels have hope.
We’ll be guided safe to harbor
Bound by love’s threefold rope.

Irrigated Souls

Our satisfaction does not have to depend on our situation or location. Our soul’s refreshment does not follow the rule of real estate, “Location! Location! Location!” The locus of our refreshment does not depend on our proximity to an external water source, but on God’s proximity to us.

If we find ourselves on a dry lot in a draught-ridden desert, our hope need not wither with heat and exposure. Consistently through the mouthpieces of the prophets, God reminds His people that He is a master irrigator. Threaded through Isaiah 42, 43, and 44 are promises of irrigation in the desert.

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water…that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it (Isaiah 42: 17-19 & 20).

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people; the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise (Isaiah 43:19-21).

But now hear, O Jacob, my servant; Israel, whom I have chosen! Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring and my blessing on your descendants (Isaiah 44:1-3).

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To a people whose lips were parched and who trod incredibly parched places, these promises themselves must have been like drips of refreshing water. However, we, on the other side of the cross, are the recipients of such flowing promises.

We have been given the indwelling Holy Spirit, “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). We have a built-in irrigation system until the day when we finally sit by the river of life in the restored city garden of the New Heavens and the New Earth.

However, I forget. You forget. We live like those deserted in desert places. We pine after different circumstances or seasons. We envy those with water-front or water-filled external lots. We pout as only a parched people can.

But we have springs of living water. We have Him who created the waters and all they contain. We are siblings of the One who said boldly, “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’.” (John 7:37-38).

Our souls are better irrigated than Augusta National golf course. We don’t need a new lot. We need a fresh look at the hidden springs we have been given.

Under the Sun

This morning at church, we read through the entire book of Ecclesiastes. If you are looking for a booster shot to bolster humanity, I would not recommend it. Although, as an antidote for the prosperity gospel, it has great effectiveness.

About midway through the book, I looked over at my teenage son who was taking notes with a look of confusion. He literally wrote, “Solomon keeps saying everything is vanity under the sun.”

I looked over at him and whispered, “Under the sun, yes. But, that’s the whole point. The book is meant to lead us above the sun, beyond the sun, outside of humanity’s constant attempt to create meaning for itself.”

As James so wisely realized in his words to the early church, wisdom had to come down from above (James 3:13-18). When we had thoroughly malled God’s good purposes for humanity, we needed the God-man to step onto the course He created for the earth.

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Under the Sun

Under the sun on our collared run,
All’s been tested, tried, and done.
Looking for novelty, finding none.
With each rotation tedium is spun.

Here, both rags and riches ravage,
And evil dwells in sage and savage.
Emptiness follows caviar and cabbage.
Vanity is an often verified addage.

Even the wisest of men is confounded,
Pessimists proven, optimists astounded.
Favor is fleeting while folly is founded.
By meaninglessness we are hounded.

Oh, my friend, but beyond the sun –
Past the path earth was taught to run –
Stands He who its orbit has spun,
Speaks the meaning-dripping One.

Seeing our toiling under the sun,
He to His sin-sick people did run
To be stuck in a web he hadn’t spun
Until the Savior cried, “It is done!

Death itself He did repugn,
For three days later, life won.
Meaning now in us does run
For all our days under the sun.

I am so thankful our self-revealing God did not leave us with our own wisdom-folly to discover meaning under the sun. I am thankful for the lifter of our eyes and the One whose light will outshine our dying sun. In Him we trade vanity for victory and hopelessness for living hope!

Weighted Love

Love carries weight, both literally and metaphorically. Just ask the momma carrying a toddler who is tired in addition to his or her bike to the car from the park. Or ask the father of a child who is differently abled as he loads a wheelchair into the van.  Ask the parents of a soldier whose child is deployed in Afghanistan the weight of their heart lately. Contrary to the cultural view of love as flitting feeling or whimsy, love is weighty.

But, if love carries weight, it also bestows weight. Love deposits substance and significance. I’ve watched it happen. A student otherwise overlooked and underperforming receives a teacher who sees and speaks potential over her. Daily deposits of love and care slowly compound into a more settled confidence. An adult with autism finds an employer who believes in his abilities and gives him the dignity of significant responsibilities. A counselor gives a client who has a history of abuse the weight of agency.

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The Weight of His Love

In Isaiah 43, God says something astounding about his people:

Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life (Isaiah 43:4).

What an undeserved laundry list of words: precious, honored, loved. At first, these words may sound like the flippant words describing love in our culture. However, the context of these verses within the book of Isaiah help us to understand the weight of God’s love. Repeatedly throughout the book of Isaiah God uses court language regarding his people: he calls them to come before him in an attempt to defend themselves, he indicts them of their crimes, both obvious and hidden, he provides overwhelming evidence of their idolatry. On the backdrop of this grim reality, verses like the aforementioned one shine brightly with the incredible reality of God’s love.

Convicted, defenseless children though we are, God declares us precious in his eyes. The Hebrew word yaqar can mean to be esteemed or appraised highly, but it comes from a Hebrew root which means to be heavy. God, who sees us with eyes of piercing honesty, appraises us as valuable and precious. This value does come from within us; it is placed in us because of his love. His love gives us weight and significance in his eyes.

The Hebrew word kabad translated honor above, literally means to be heavy, weighty, or burdensome. Often it is used to describe the honor and weight due to God himself, but here, God uses to describe us! The word choice here literally stopped me in my tracks. We are honored, not because of our merit, but because He has honed in on us with his love. We have weight with him, not because of any substance of our own, but because he has filled our lives with blessing of knowing him. 

We are precious (weighty) and honored (weighty) because we are loved. The order is significant. If the order were reversed, we might get the false impression that because we are important and carry weight, we are loved by God. However, this verse and the thrust of the entirety of the Scriptures assure us that we are loved, and because we are loved, we are appraised as weighty to the God of all wonders!

The Cost of His Love

Inspired by the Spirit, the prophet Isaiah spoke with the language of redemption and ransom. The weight of God’s love for his people would lead him to redeem and ransom them at great cost.

In Psalm 49, the psalmist writes about the weight of a ransom saying, “Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice” (Psalm 49:7-8). No merely human sacrifice would carry enough weight to ransom humanity. God himself would have to do it. Inspired by the Spirit, Isaiah would prophesy about a coming Messiah, a suffering servant, who would redeem his people with a costly love. Now, we, indwelled by the Spirit, carry the weight of such a love.

His sacrificial love has bestowed unthinkable weight upon us. As such, we are invited to love others in a way that bestows honor and dignity upon them. In a world of conditional, flippant love, such costly loves provides gravity and grace.

Risk, Reward, and the Redeemer

I’ve had risk on my mind of late.

It may have been taking three middle school boys (whose prefrontal cortices are not fully developed yet) hiking on a dangerous trail that triggered such a topic. Then again, it may have been the fact that we recently switched our youngest son from a small private school to a larger public school. My risk-mindedness may also be attributed to the fact that my husband and I transitioned from a ministry we have served for decades into church planting. Likely, all of these rivulets have added to the river of risk into which I have been wading.

According to a model devised by Gerald White and his collaborator John Adams, every human has an optimal risk threshold. In order to stay within the risk threshold that feels most right to who they are and how they are wired, each person is constantly balancing three factors: risk, safety, and reward.

If their theory is true, my risk temperature is arctic. I do not like the heat of change or risk. I would much rather stay within the lines and follow my norm than try something different, especially if it causes me to feel insecure or unstable. I eat the same breakfast nearly every morning; I walk the same walking route every morning; we eat a rotation of essentially the same meals every week. I sure hope the rest of my family does not have a higher risk threshold than me. If so, my methodical nature is blunting them.

Underneath these tendencies is a deep desire to perform well and get things right. I do the same things because I know those things work. I have learned to perform well in certain lanes. As such, I tend to limit my world to those lanes where I know what to expect and what is expected of me. While I would never outright say it, I don’t feel a desperate need for the Lord when I stay in my risk threshold.

Thankfully, the Lord is constantly turning up the heat and forcing us into risk thresholds that feel terribly uncomfortable. He won’t let me settle for false-safety and insulated risk. He continually calls us to new tasks and new risks which induce healthy fear, new successes and failures, and deep dependence.

The Christian life should be marked by obedient risk which is motivated by the promise of reward. Like a catalyst that helps to lower the rate of reaction, God’s promises and presence help to get us over risk high thresholds as we seek greater reward. While heaven will be rewarding, the secret to its reward is the presence of Christ. As God told Abram, who risked all he had ever known to follow a barely-known God, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15:1; NIV).

We leave known jobs and known cities to faithfully follow God’s call on our lives only when we are convinced that the reward is greater than the risk. To get more of Him, we leave what we know and love.

My husband and I encouraged our son to risk a new school because we want him to know Christ not only in exposure but also in his own personal experience. We want him to have a record of God’s faithfulness to him. We want new risks to produce new rescue which produce new songs of praise to God.

Knowing our unconditional security in Christ and the unshakeable nature of the kingdom, we are enabled to take real risks this side of glory. For, as scary as they are, these risks will induce new rescue and new songs of praise.

Sing to the Lord a new son; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day! (Psalm 96:1).

If you find worship falling flat or self-reliance gaining strength, perhaps there is a risk which God is calling you to consider ? It may be as simple as initiating to someone new or seeking to share the gospel with an old friend. It may be as elaborate as a career move or a new venture. Whatever it is, let your Redeemer lead you through risk to more of Himself!

A Word to Bruised Reeds and Dimly Burning Wicks

I have been running on fumes lately. The beginning of our summer felt like a gentle crawl; however, by the beginning of August, our pace was more sprint than stroll. School supplies to buy, well checks to be scheduled, sports games to attend. In addition to the normal hustle, God has birthed an infant church under our care. This means support to raise, insurance plans to shift, and souls to shepherd. In the midst of many necessary and good things, I tend to lose sight of the best thing: time spent in the presence of the Father.

I know I am not alone. I have friends whose faith is running on fumes as they continue to wade through difficult diagnoses. I have friends who feel like bruised reeds, barely standing after a series of storms. I have friends who have walked with Jesus brightly for decades who feel like dimly burning lanterns after the events of the past year.

A languid lot of lamps we are.

Thinking of them and of my own barely-puttering heart, I sat down yesterday for desperately needed time alone with the Lord. I have been slowly meandering through Isaiah 41 and 42 for the past few weeks. And, in God’s merciful timing, the Spirit led me to pick up where I left off in Isaiah 42.

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him…A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law (Isaiah 42:1 & 3-4).

Isaiah sets up a juxtaposition between God’s people (bruised and dimly burning) and their God who won’t be bruised or dimmed until he brings forth justice for his sin-struggling people. In fact, he ties verses 3 and 4 together by using the same Hebrews words: ratsats which means crushed, oppressed, or struggling and keheh which means dim, dull, discouraged, or faint.

Yesterday, this juxtaposition of our nature to His was just what I needed to be buoyed. I cannot tend to bruised reeds alone, as I myself am a bruised reed. I cannot fan dim lights into flame, as myself am a charred, barely burning wick. But He can. In fact, He already has.

Isaiah said the coming Servant would’t be bruised until he established justice; yet to establish justice for us bruised reeds and dimmed wicks, he let himself be beyond bruised. He chose to be broken on the Cross to buttress His lot of bruised reeds.

He, the light of the world, and the sun He created were snuffed out so we could be fanned into flames that might light this dark world. He who has gone to these lengths for us will naturally continue to care for his languid lot of lamps. He will provide the fresh oil of the Holy Spirit; He Himself will breath fresh air over our souls to coax tiny sparks into flames. He Himself will trim our charred wicks with his scarred hands. He is a gentle light keeper. For no one cares more that the dark corners be lit than He who is its true light.

Dimly burning 

What a languid lot we are,
What barely burning wicks
Who could fan these flames, 
Our feebleness could fix?

If we are to light the world,
We’ll need fresh oil and air.
We’ll need a tender keeper,
Our charred parts to pare. 

Such a keeper we have 
In the Father of all light.
He tends His little lamps,
He’s patient with our plight. 

The Need for Spiritual Specialists

A rock hound who could speak for hours on variations of gems. A car enthusiast who knows the intricate details of a particular make and model. A botanist who knows the subtle differences among species of the same genus. An historian who has spent his or her life in a concentrated study on a condensed time period or people group.

Whenever I speak to a specialists of any kind, I always walk away with wonder: wonder that God wired someone to find such a nuanced, committed interest to one particular cause or subject or trade.

Whether its a particular genus of plants, a condensed part of history, or a car type, I am blown away that someone could expend so much energy and focus so much attention on what seems, in the grand scheme of things, such a narrow subject.

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Specialists sometimes come across as eccentric, as few can understand such a sustained passion towards such a singular subject. True specialists sometimes struggle to understand how others could live uninterested and unmoved by the subject of study which has so captured their imagination and affection.

As Tom Nichols expertly explains in his book The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters, expertise is a dying art. As I am generally a generalist myself, I will leave the expertise on expertise to him; however, it struck me this morning that all believers are called to at least one object of expertise.

The Call for Spiritual Specialists

Everyone who has been saved by the good news of the gospel and captured by His irresistible grace is invited to become an expert on Christ. The lyrics to the song “One Pure and Holy Passion” perfectly capture this call.

“Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me one magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You.

To know and follow hard after You
To grow as your disciple in the truth
The world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing You, my Lord,
Lead me on and I will run after You
Lead me on and I will run after You.”

The Apostle Paul was a renaissance man before the term existed. He seemed to excel in all that he did, as he so clearly shares in his letter to the Philippians (Philippians 3:3-11) and in his defense before Agrippa (Acts 26:1-11). However, after his encounter on the road to Damascus, he became a specialist in Christ. From an outsider’s opinion, Paul’s life suddenly looked obsessive and off-kilter. His focus narrowed dramatically to the One who narrowed Himself from the expanses of eternity to a human body on our account.

Whereas he used to be celebrated in many Jewish circles, he began to be judged as myopic. As he told the church in Corinth, if the resurrection were not true, he would be of all men most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).

The Hazards of Specialization

While we are not uniquely called as an Apostle in the same manner as Paul, all who trust in and believe upon Christ are called to see Him and the gospel as supremely worthy of study, wonder, and worship. As J.I. Packer wrote in Knowing God, “The more complex the object, the more complex is the knowing of it.”

Our Christ is supremely complex and marvelously multi-faceted. For all eternity, we will explore Him and expand in our knowledge and worship of Him. We will never come to the edge of understanding him or the precipice of knowing His purposes.

As with all specialists, we will likely be labeled imbalanced and obsessive. We will be written off as narrow-minded in a culture that prides itself on being broad-minded. People will likely roll their eyes in a there-they-go-again attitude when we speak of our central love for Christ. People may tire of hearing about our love for Christ, but we ought never tire of worshipping and studying Him.

He is worthy of our wonder. He is infinitely complex. To know Him is to have life and life abundant.

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

On Homecomings

Last week, our two older sons went off to camp. I imaged five quiet days of bubble baths and lattes and productive work. In reality, I found myself busy missing my boys, tidying their rooms with a maternal energy that had few other places to flow.

For the first half of the week the three of us remaining home mentioned often how much we missed them; by Wednesday, we found ourselves eagerly preparing for their homecoming on Friday. We made signs and all the things.

As right as it was for them to be gone, their absence felt so wrong. Things felt incomplete without them. The house was too quiet.

Even though they were mostly being held together by Skittles and running on fumes, our reunion was sweet. Having them back, messy and loud as they are, things were set right.

Thinking of our reunion with the boys we love so dearly made me think of the Father and His reunion with His Son. Even though it was the agreed upon plan of the Trinity before time was wound, the Son’s stepping into time surely tugged at the Trinity.

While he was on earth, Jesus kept up communion with the Father, but the communion was different than what they had from experienced from eternity. The Incarnation involved leaving and loss. It involved distance that reached its climax in the agony of the Cross. More than the unimaginable physical pain of a cruel crucifixion, the turning away of the Father wounded the Son.

While I realize it is anthropomorphic, I imagined the Father lovingly tidying the universe with excited energy, waiting for His beloved Son’s return. Our God is Trinity, so it so hard for our minds not to slip into modalism; however, I am thankful that God has given us pictures of human relationships that help us vaguely understand the nature and the heart of our Triune God.

Homecoming

Eagerly awaiting His Son’s arrival, 
He passed time straightening stars.
Though their plans were eternal,
Heaven had not yet seen the scars. 

A Son lent, a curtain rent,
A Son risen soon returns. 
A curse stayed, a debt paid,
A Father for His Son yearns. 

A wave of relief overcame him;
Searing separation was done. 
The Son would sit beside Him 
Until Heaven and earth be one.
 

The Trinity danced in delight,
Before the Spirit descended. 
Redemption was secured, 
Satan’s tyranny upended

One more reunion is coming,
A homecoming of epic scale.
Exiles will enter the eternal city 
Whose King will never fail.

For now, I am thankful that my crew is home and under one roof. But I also realize that our days together under one roof are numbered, as are our days on this spinning globe. Our deepest, most lasting home is with Him. Little homecomings this side of glory give us a tiny taste of that ultimate homecoming which will be the believer’s experience of heaven.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations, before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God (Psalm 90:1-2).

To Give You the World: Thoughts on my son’s fourteenth birthday

Yesterday, my oldest son turned fourteen. I swear we were just taking pictures of him at fourteen months, when his nearly-Irish-twin brother and best friend entered the world. In some ways, everything has changed since then, and in others, very little.

Just last week, his giant hands gently captured a tiny lizard to befriend. My eyes leaked as I remembered that his tiny hands used to do this frequently when he was a toddler. The size of those hands may have changed, but the spirit of the boy donning them has not changed too drastically.

I remember experiencing delight and wonder as his little personality began to emerge. I did not imagine then that the wonder continued even into their teenage years when little boys start to grow into increasingly independent young men.

Amidst the worshipful wondering, there is also a lot of quizzical wondering. Are we doing this right? Are we missing some glaring gaps in his development? What are his unique passions and proclivities? Will he find friends who will help him run the race God set out for him?

Amidst all those deeper questions, I also found myself wondering, “What in the world do you buy a fourteen year old for his birthday on a budget?” It was easier when it was wooden trains and bubbles. As I wondered about what to get for our growing son, the Lord led me on a deeper journey as I realized I wanted to give him the world.

If we had the means, I would want to take him to all the places to see and experience all the things. If it were in my power, I would want to secure for him the best education, a spot on the best sports teams, and all the other superlatives.

But to do all in my power to point him to Christ is better than the world.

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

In fact, to have Christ is to have the One who made the world and everything in it (Acts 17:24-25). To have Him is have all things (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). To have him is to have the friend who sticks even closer than his best friend of a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

If we could barely afford the ear buds, we definitely cannot afford to give him the world. But we don’t have to do so; Christ has already paid the exorbitant price with his body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24).

To Give You the World

I want to give you the world,
I want your joy to be complete. 
I want to secure every good thing,
Wrap it and lay it at your feet. 

The bossy, glossy ads entice me
To buy into their counterfeits-
To give you all the fancy things,
To seek satisfaction in the blitz. 

But the world I want to give you
Money and effort cannot secure,
The world I want to give you
Seems like less but is far more. 

Having Him, you have the world;
Without Him, all is for naught. 
I long for you to be wrapped
In the righteousness He bought. 

We will do the birthday lunch and the cake and all the things. But the most important work is already done by Christ, my son. May you know Him as long as you have breath.

Can Crossfit Coach the Church?

Full disclosure: I do not do Crossfit. I do what I have dubbed “Mom Fit” which means that I daily carry heavy children and groceries and book bags in addition to my brisk walk. That being said, I have been observing the Crossfit movement from afar for quite some time. Many of my dear friends are involved in various Crossfit movements and gyms, and I have even nearly died a few times trying to join them.

As such, I have been pondering this morning what the Church might glean from the Crossfit movement. After all, I see these gyms mobilizing people to do insane and often terribly uncomfortable things daily. I see people involved becoming raving fans who cannot help but invite others to join them. I see Crossfit bringing people together across political, economical and racial lines.

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Clarity & Incremental Goals

It took me quite some time to realize what in the world WOD meant. For those who are couch potatoes or brisk walkers like me, WOD is an acronym meaning Workout of the Day. Each day, the people walking into the Crossfit gym are challenged to a very specific workout. The goal for each day is clear. If the WOD is too challenging, there are adaptable exercises that help participants incrementally gain the strength and form required to eventually do them with greater comfort and ease.

While I am not suggesting that our churches post a daily workout on a chalkboard sign, I do think that we could learn to offer people more clarity. What does it mean to be a member? What is required of volunteers? What does a community group (gospel community, life group, cell group, etc…) actually do for its members?

Rather than expecting that everyone who walks into our doors already possesses the necessary skills to open, read, study, apply and cherish the Word of God, we might learn to offer incremental trainings to get people to place where they can do their daily spiritual workout with confidence and skill.

Community & Consistency 

It seems that people who Crossfit love Crossfit. The community that begins over squats and burpies tends to bleed into other parts of life, morphing into friendships and dinner parties and the likes. From the outside, it seems that they have done an excellent job creating community around challenging tasks, around a shared mission. I most certainly find it hard to imagine waking up and getting excited about pushing my body to its uttermost limits, yet these gyms seem to have done just that!

Perhaps such a sense of community comes from the near-daily expectation of working out; perhaps the community is birthed from the consistency of having a shared public space which is neither the workplace nor the home. Either way, Crossfit gyms seem to have done what the Church continues to try to do: create an intimate community around a shared vision and task.

I recognize that the Church delves into messier areas of life than a gym; however, as a women’s ministry director, I sense I have a lot to learn from the contagious community around a terribly uncomfortable mission.

After all, the Church exists to make much of the name of Christ, to be the family of God here on earth and to equip its people to do the hard work of mortifying sin and living to righteousness (which is a far from comfortable task).

Long-Range Goals & Celebration

I don’t imagine that the Crossfit community promises results overnight. If I were to walk my not-so-toned self into a gym, I presume that they would tell me that while results take time, the end result will be well-worth the sore muscles and torn hands.

Similarly, sanctification and depth of relationship in the context of the local Church will not yield instantaneous results. We would do well to continually set the end-goal of Christ-likeness before our people while also reminding them that day in and day out practices might not always feel good or worthwhile. For no discipline at the time seems pleasant, but painful, but in the end, it produces the peaceable fruit of righteousness in those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:11).

Perhaps by celebrating the small wins more regularly and highlighting the reality of the struggle on the backdrop of the greater goal, the Church might move closer toward equipping its people for a long obedience in the same direction.