There is a fullness of blessings of every sort and shape; a fullness of grace to pardon, of grace to regenerate, of grace to sanctify, of grace to preserve, and of grace to perfect. There is a fullness at all times; a fullness of comfort in affliction; a fullness of guidance in prosperity. A fullness of every divine attribute, of wisdom, of power, of love; a fullness which it were impossible to survey, much less to explore. “It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell.” O, what a fullness must this be of which all receive! Fullness, indeed, must there be when the stream is always flowing, and yet the well springs up as free, as rich, as full as ever. Come, believer, and get all thy need supplied; ask largely, and thou shalt receive largely, for this “fullness” is inexhaustible, and is treasured up where all the needy may reach it, even in Jesus, Immanuel — God with us.

-Charles Spurgeon

“…and from His fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” John 1:16

Why It Matters

This is a devotional I recently wrote for our homeschool co-op.

Sara Groves wrote the above song in tribute to a man in Sarajevo whose name is Vedran Smailovic.  Vedran was the principal cellist for the Sarajevo Opera Orchestra.

In Sarajevo in the 1990s there was a great war and many people died.  Some of those people were civilians — people who were standing in a breadline, hoping to take some food home for their families.  Twenty two of them were killed by a mortar shell.  They were not soldiers or politicians or involved in the conflict at all — other than the fact that they lived there.

That was on May 27, 1992.  On May 28, Vedran Smailovic went to the blackened part of the city where this tragedy happened, took out his cello, and began to play.  He played in that park for twenty-two days, in tribute to the twenty-two men, women, and children who died there.  It was his way of answering the tragedy.  He mourned with music.  He brought lavish beauty to a place that was war-torn, chaotic, and tragic.

The story of Vedran expresses some of God’s character.  God created the world out of chaos.  He spoke it into being and it was very good.  If you look at creation, what He has made, it is amazing and beautiful.  It works perfectly.  And there are so many details that are there that didn’t need to be.

Think about this season of fall.  God could have intended that autumn happened in a week or so.  The trees would close up shop, lose their leaves in a pile of brown, and be done with it.  But no — in His generosity to us, He intended for the season to be colorful:  full of reds, yellows, oranges, and the bluest skies you can ask for.  He didn’t have to do it that way, but the fact that He did means that beauty matters to God.

For thus says the Lord,

who created the heavens

(he is God!),

who formed the earth and made it

(he established it;

he did not create it empty,

he formed it to be inhabited!):

“I am the Lord, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:18, ESV)

And so I want to encourage you students today that when you take an extra moment on your homework to get it right; when you stop to jump in the leaves that are turning; when you color a picture for your mom; when you draw what you see; when you sing with all your heart in church — YOU are creating and YOU are reflecting God’s glory when you do that.

And moms, when you light a candle at dinner even though the rest of the house is chaos; when you take an extra minute to love that child who is giving you a terrible attitude; when you bring beauty in what seems to be a darkened place, YOU are reflecting God’s glory.

These efforts can seem to go unnoticed for years at a time, maybe for our whole lives.  Like the single cellist in the blackened park, we might feel as though our efforts are fruitless.  They cannot raise the dead.

But we serve an audience of One, who made us like Him, in His image.  Be encouraged.  He sees.  He knows.

Jonathan Edwards’ Final Words

Written to his daughter, Lucy:

Dear Lucy, it seems to me to be the will of God that I must shortly leave you; therefore give my kindest love to my dear wife, and tell her, that the uncommon union, which has so long subsisted between us, has been of such a nature as I trust is spiritual and therefore will continue forever: and I hope she will be supported under so great a trial, and submit cheerfully to the will of God. And as to my children, you are now to be left fatherless, which I hope will be an inducement to you all to seek a Father who will never fail you.

Another Favorite

On the Indelible Grace live album, Kevin Twit introduces this hymn with the idea that worship is formative.  “If we’re singing songs where people feel like they have to put on a happy face to be part of the worship, we’re lying to them about what the normal Christian life feels like, and eventually that comes home to roost.”

Do you feel free to say that your hope is fainting?  Can we say that to one another?

You Ought to Know Rich, Part II

Part I here.

My two oldest kids take piano every Friday.  Cameron just reached the point where he is able to transpose a bit and play popular songs in different keys.  The teacher and I were talking about the songs he had chosen, and he commented on how easy it was to find popular music or Christian music for his less-experienced students, because so many of them have the same exact chord progression in different keys.

At first he sounded excited about this, but as we talked about it more, his voice trailed off a bit and he said, “It’s really pretty boring.”

And the moon is a sliver of silver
Like a shaving that fell on the floor of a Carpenter’s shop 
 And every house must have its builder 
And I awoke in the house of God 
Where the windows are mornings and evenings 
Stretched from the sun 
Across the sky north to south 
And on my way to early meeting 
I heard the rocks crying out 
I heard the rocks crying out 

When I turn on the Christian radio station and the music is cutesy and shallow, it’s a big disappointment to me.  Currently, there is one song that’s so bland, it’s featured in a department store commercial on TV.  Is this what God-honoring creativity has gotten us?  Advertising jingles?

Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands 
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land 
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made 
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise

When I was in college, I attended a conference at Calvin college where I heard a professor suggest that secular music, too, can be used in the life of believers.  He questioned the disparity between Christian and secular music and resented the “Jesus factor” that existed in Nashville.  We then proceeded to listen to Natalie Merchant’s song “King of May,” which is one of the most moving pictures of the crucifixion of Christ I’ve ever heard.

And the wrens have returned and they’re nesting
In the hollow of that oak where his heart once had been 
And he lifts up his arms in a blessing for being born again 
And the streams are all swollen with winter 
Winter unfrozen and free to run away now 
And I’m amazed when I remember 
Who it was that built this house 
And with the rocks I cry out

I get excited when people get creative and it glorifies God.  Storytelling, metaphor, symbolism;  these are all tools that we see being used in the Bible.  Christians have the greatest story to tell:  the one that is told and re-told in nature, in classic literature, and in redemption stories all around us.

Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land 
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made 
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise

This Actually Happened

You’re not going to believe me, but it really did.

The week after we moved into this new place, we had one of my friends over in order to meet her new special someone.  They’d been hanging out together for a bit and we decided we needed to be nosy and check him out to get to know him and welcome him into our circle of friends.

We stood in the entryway and welcomed them, introducing ourselves to the young man.  Upon walking through the hall and into the kitchen, he remarked that he thought I’d like a friend of his, because my house looked a lot like hers.

“She has a blog.  You should check it out,” he said.  “She’s called The Nester.”

…because my house looked a lot like hers…?

Well, on the spot I decided that I absolutely approved of him and asked them if they could move next door after they were married.

Not really.

I will own up to the fact that my house looks like a lot like the Nester’s partly because I was so refreshed to find someone who decorated her home in cool tones.  After we moved here to Charlotte, I felt like every home I was in was warm browns, golds, and reds, which was very pretty in its own way, but it wasn’t me at all.

And I will own up to the fact that when I went to the Nester’s house, I asked her what the color of her front room was.  She told me the name of it, and then said that her sister had the shade that was a bit cooler, and it was called Oyster Bay.  Remember when I told you I never wanted to live without it?  I brought it with me to the new place….I wasn’t ready to part with it.

This week the Nester is in Tanzania, reminding us all that hospitality isn’t really about what your house looks like at all.

I hear so many excuses as to why people avoid hospitality.  Their house isn’t ready…isn’t big enough…isn’t perfect.  They think their cooking is substandard.  They’re too busy.  They’re just not cut out for it.  They need time to themselves.

These are all delightful weasel words for disobedience to the command given in I Peter 4:9 to “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

I get told a great deal that I’m “just good at it.” I will be the first to say that no, I’m not “just good at it.”  I am quite bad at it.  Those excuses above run through my head regularly.  But maybe I have a bit more practice at beating them back and putting my foot down in obedience.

Practice.  Prayerfully putting one foot in front of the other.  Getting a plan.  That’s all it is.

It’s not about the house at all.

I’m Back!

After a whirlwind week of Easter celebrations and the Together for the Gospel conference, I’m back at home!

I have a lot to share, and I don’t know where to start.

So since I left you hanging with my Holy Week music selections, I’ll give you a conference goody that would be a great “Sunday” song.  “Behold our God,” from Sovereign Grace‘s Risen album.  We sang this quite a bit last week.  It’s straight out of the Bible!