April 23, 2018

Jesus Left Things Unfixed

The author Zack Eswine says, “We cannot expect to change what Jesus has left unfixed for the moment.” He calls these unchangeable realities, “inconsolable things”: the sins and miseries that will not be eradicated until heaven comes home, the things that only Jesus, and no one of us, can overcome.

We cannot expect to change what Jesus has left unfixed for the moment.

I’ve lived practically my entire life trying to disprove that statement. I’ve obsessed over perfection like a child attempts over and over to build a tall block tower only to watch it fall each time.

If I just try harder this time….

If I just use a little more willpower…

If I am more exacting with my work….

If I take more control….

If I finally figure out what will produce the results I’m looking for…

If I just do a little bit more…

If I could just figure out what it is that God has called me to do…

If I pray harder or have more faith…

If I could only accomplish all that I’ve set out to do…

If I could finally get my life in order…

What then? What is the conclusion I’m looking for exactly?

Well, in my mind, I’d experience peace, satisfaction, and joy. I'd finally reach the pinnacle. Everything about my life would be brought into order, including my marriage, my children, and my own mind and heart. More importantly, I’d avoid experiencing longing, unfulfilled dreams, pain, loneliness, disappointment, or failure. Somehow, if I can fix it all, I might be able to bypass what I’ve seen others walk through: betrayal, depression, cancer, and prodigal children.

In my obsession with perfection, I can pretend inconsolable things aren’t there.

I can earn my blessing.

I once heard of a pastor who spent time each week on a farm pulling weeds, hoping to bring about the renewal of all things on this earth. There is a reason he had to go back each week. The weeds kept growing back, because the weeds are always with us.

And my weeds are always going to be with me, just as yours are always going to be with you. To believe otherwise is to believe according to the Old Testament law, a dead stalk in dry ground, telling us we’re able to fix inconsolable things ourselves, that perfection on earth is possible. These are words of death, although often rather than sounding like death they sound like a noble dream. These are beliefs, however, that remove us from Jesus' fixed attention, beliefs that purposefully set him aside and force us to look inside of ourselves for the hope and power we need for living. We become the answer unto ourselves.

Jesus did address this, remember. He said these are the ways—the ancient ways—man has tried to eradicate sin and seek the conclusion their implanted seed seeks—peace with God. He said the only true conclusion is gifted blessing, gifted peace, gifted power, and gifted faith.

Gifted means it comes from someone else. He said that someone else was himself. He does it all for us according to our faith, but we have to wait to see with our eyes the completion and fullness of the blessing.

It is often an affront to us that Jesus left inconsolable things, that in his goodness he asks us to wait on the promise while also enduring pain and suffering. It is often offensive that he asks for us to go all in in the form of obedience that is hard and self-sacrificing. We stamp our feet and question how anything beautiful could be made from our suffering. We much prefer the pursuit of beauty we can grab onto in the present: immediately-satisfying things. Jesus doesn’t offer consolation to what cannot truly be consoled in the present; the world, however, will offer this false comfort.

Among the crowds, Jesus warned his listeners about this very thing. He described himself as a seed sower and his words as the seeds. There will be some, he said, who hear his words but don’t actually listen and still others who listen but then fall away, either because of suffering or because they are drawn away by the world’s offerings of false riches. (Matthew 13:1-23)

Our perpetual problem is that we don’t know true beauty when it is right in front of us. In our definition, beauty means no negativity, no suffering, no longing, and no waiting. Beauty is, in other words, instant and consumable.

We must be careful what we call beautiful. We must be careful not to attribute words to the Word that he never said. If picking weeds is our hope, than we have none at all. If we demand the present be perfectly beautiful, we not only prove we weren’t actually listening to Jesus’ words, but we become deeply offended that God is not living up to what we thought he'd be.

But as we look to time past, the inconsolable things communicate to us that there is still time to come, still creating left to do, and that there is a important element of waiting and faith involved in getting to see and experience ultimate beauty. Following Jesus still means going all in on commands and promises.

We are not meant to be completely fulfilled on this earth. This is a beauty held out by the world. It is shiny and sounds good and we believe if God really loved us he would fulfill us completely in the here and now.

But that’s not what Jesus said. Dear heart, Jesus didn't say he'd save you from affliction. Instead, he asked you to go all in on a promise of unexpected beauty sprouting up through that very affliction. He asks you to shift your eyes from tangible pain to an invisible hope.

Do we still think he is the most beautiful person we’ve ever encountered?

Friends, I hope you'll join me at the Enjoy the Word online Bible conference for women, May 2-4. I'm teaching a session entitled, "Understanding the Big Picture of the Old Testament." There is a great lineup of topics and speakers, including Elyse Fitzpatrick and the ladies from Risen Motherhood. Register here. 

April 18, 2018

By Faith Episode #11: Jamee Brick on Alcohol Dependence

Each week this season on By Faith I’m talking to someone who is walking forward by faith, many of them through difficult circumstances. We’re asking the question, “How does God meet us in our deepest, darkest pain and how does He turn that pain into beauty?”

Today my guest on the show is Jamee Brick. Jamee is a wife, mom of three, and a teacher of kids with autism. I first got to know Jamee when my family and I still lived in Texas. She and I attended the same church and soon after we moved to Virginia, Jamee told me that she had a problem with alcohol. I had no idea, and there were several reasons for that, which you’ll hear us talk about in our conversation. So not only will you hear about her dependence upon alcohol, and how God has acted in her life since she confessed that problem, but you’ll hear us talk about friendship and what keeps us isolated from one another.

A few notes before listening: 
To close Season 1 of the podcast, I’m going to do an “Ask Me Anything” episode. One of my closest friends is going to join me and we’ll discuss anything you send in. You can submit your question here.

I’m truly enjoying producing this podcast and have big plans for it. Recently I asked one question to pastor’s wives on my author Facebook page and got so many responses that I decided to do a mini season this summer just for pastor’s wives. I’m also already interviewing folks for Season 2. If you’re enjoying these podcasts, would you consider supporting this work? You can find out more about what that might look like here.

Listen to my conversation with Jamee on iTunes or, if you're on my website, in the embedded player below:

April 11, 2018

By Faith Episode #10: Taylor Harris on Charlottesville, Race, and Faith

Each week this season on By Faith, I’m talking to someone who is walking forward by faith, many of them through difficult circumstances. We’re asking the question, “How does God meet us in our deepest, darkest pain and how does He turn that pain into beauty?”

Today my guest on the show is Taylor Harris. In my conversation with Taylor, we talked about the city in which we both live: Charlottesville, Virginia. We talked about the events that unfolded last August, which you may remember seeing on the national news as alt-right groups gathered in our downtown area for a “Unite the Right” rally, which quickly became violent. August 12th was a defining moment for our city and one that joined a long line of defining moments for our nation in terms of race.
My guest, Taylor Harris, is married to Paul, who is a professor at the University of Virginia. She is a compelling writer and a mom to three kids and soon Taylor and Paul will be planting a church in our city. My husband and I are grateful to be co-laborers with them for the gospel in Charlottesville.

In our conversation, Taylor shares about how she experienced the events of August 12th, the grief she felt at having to tell her daughter about what happened, and the opportunities that difficult moments like Charlottesville offer us all as a people of faith.

Friends, I have truly enjoyed all of the conversations I’ve had so far on By Faith. I originally planned to produce this podcast only for a short time, around the launch of my book, Searching for Spring. But once I got started I realized I don’t want to stop! I’m having too much fun, and I believe there are many more important conversations to have that, I pray, might benefit the Church.

If you’re enjoying these podcasts and would like to help me keep them ad-free, would you consider supporting my work? You can head to my Patreon page to read more about what costs I need help covering but also how your support will give you access to exclusive rewards. I’m so grateful that you listen, and I would appreciate however you can help me in support of this work.

Listen to my conversation with Taylor on iTunes or, from my blog, on the embedded player below.

Links from the show

Order Your Copy of Searching For Spring 

Connect with Taylor
Twitter // Website

Connect with Christine
Blog // Facebook // Instagram // Twitter 

April 9, 2018

What I'm Doing Next and How You Can Help

In the past year, I've released two books, started a podcast, traveled occasionally in order to teach the Bible to women, and continued to write here for you, my readers. It sounds like a lot, I know, and at times it's felt like a lot, but the primary emotion welling in my heart has been gratitude. I'm thankful the Lord has given me opportunities suiting my passions. I've walked forward into them with a spring in my step and a prayer on my lips that my small contribution to the Church would be helpful in some way and would complement the ways I serve in my local church among people I love.
I want to continue serving as the Lord allows, but I'm also sensing an urgent nudge from him to narrow my focus, a reminder to be embodied and present, not always "out there" in my attention and drive. There is a reason this nudge is coming more and more: I have growing children who need an engaged mom even more than ever, and we serve in a growing church that is a joy to my soul as I both give and receive within our community.

I've been praying about what a narrowing of focus looks like, how God would have me serve him in this season of life, and the answer that's come is nothing new. I am a writer at heart. God's created me to worship him through words and stories, and so that's what I'll do. I'm committed to writing words and telling stories that help myself and others know the beauty of the Lord and follow him.

I'm telling you this because you've been with me through it all, some of you for many years and some as enthusiastic newbies. I can't tell you how grateful I am for each of you.

I'm also telling you because I've reached the point where I need your help. In order for me to focus on writing and podcasting, which are my two primary loves, and in order to produce both with thoughtful and relevant content, I need help covering the costs I'm incurring. For several years, I've paid out-of-pocket for tools I use to get content to you that are increasing in cost and are starting to add up, things like Mailchimp (sending out blog posts), Link in Profile (for your ease of use on Instagram), domain registration, and website redesigns. With podcasting, I've added costs for Zoom (recording podcast interviews) and Buzzsprout (podcast storage). I've considered ads, but the bottom line is that ads just aren't me. Instead of ads, I'd rather focus on continuing to provide biblical content to serve you, and I'd rather recommend books and opportunities that I really believe in.

And also? This work is hard and sometimes isolating. I'd love the support and encouragement of a team of cheerleaders behind me, urging me on, and acting as a sounding board when needed.

Here's what I'm committed to create for you: written content here on my website and a podcast episode once per week (with a month break this summer). I hope also to continue writing books as the Lord gives me opportunity.

If you read anything I've written and found it helpful, or if you're enjoying the By Faith podcast and want more episodes like what you've heard, would you consider partnering with me in order to make my continued work possible? I'd be incredibly grateful. I do not take lightly the opportunities God has given me, nor the audience he's directed my way, and I promise, with your help, to continue to be faithful to the work God has called me: speaking and writing gospel truths in a compelling way.

I've created a Patreon page, where in exchange for your financial backing, I'm offering rewards and opportunities for you as you partner with me in my work. Head over to find out more about how it works, what's available for my supporters, and what I plan to start when we reach our goals together.

Become a patron today. Thank you!

April 4, 2018

By Faith Episode #9: BJ Garrett on Sexual Abuse, Sexual Sin, Abortion, and Forgiveness

Each week this season on "By Faith," I’m talking to someone who is walking forward by faith, many of them through difficult circumstances. We’re asking the question, “How does God meet us in our deepest, darkest pain and how does He turn that pain into beauty?” 

All of the podcasts in this season of "By Faith" have been conversations with people who are living out what I’ve written in my recently released book, Searching for Spring: How God Makes All Things Beautiful in Time. If you’ve resonated with the men and women I’ve talked with who say life has been hard in certain ways but that they've also learned to see the beauty and goodness of God through those very things, Searching for Spring is a book for you. My hope and prayer is that it will encourage you in your own walking forward by faith. Grab your copy here.

Today my guest on "By Faith" is BJ Garrett. Before I introduce BJ, you need to know that today’s episode covers adult topics and, although not crass or crude, the subject matter is not suitable for children. BJ is a wife, mom, and grandmother. In my conversation with her, she shares about her experience with sexual abuse, sexual sin, and abortion. She also shares about how she came to understand who God is, how she finally embraced His forgiveness, and what she’d want women to know who have chosen abortion for themselves.

Listen to our conversation on iTunes or in the embedded player below.
Links from the show

Order Your Copy of Searching For Spring 

Connect with Christine
Blog // Facebook // Instagram // Twitter