Affections, Attachments, Loves

I read the sermon “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection” by Thomas Chalmers yesterday.

It was pretty cool.

The first 6 or so pages out of the 11 were basically saying the same thing over and over, but I needed to hear it. Some things, you have to hear repeatedly to really understand. I think Thomas knew that. The first two paragraphs read:

There are two ways in which a practical moralist may attempt to displace from the human heart its love of the world – either by a demonstration of the world’s vanity, so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon simply to withdraw its regards from an object that is not worthy of it; or, by setting forth another object, even God, as more worthy of its attachment, so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon not to resign an old affection, which shall have nothing to succeed it, but to exchange an old affection for a new one.

My purpose is to show, that from the constitution of our nature, the former method is altogether incompetent and ineffectual and that the latter method will alone suffice for the rescue and recovery of the heart from the wrong affection that domineers over it.

So that’s the basic idea.

What is “domineering over your heart”?

What do you think about? Daydream about? Talk about?

I know a few things that are dominant in my heart that shouldn’t be.

And I know they are wrong affections, because they don’t get me anywhere and they don’t help anyone, including me.

But our hearts are quite deceptive, and they’ll latch on to any temporary thing that seems good, that makes it jump, or brings a little comfort.

I don’t want to be dominated by these affections. I want all of my affection to go to Jesus, because His affections are so strong for me. They are steadfast. They are eternal.

If I forget that this week, I need look no further than the Cross.

We love because He first loved us. 

We can’t earn that love. We can’t lose that love.

And we can love people and things properly when they are secondary to our first and forever love.

Oh Spirit, expel the old affections, and ravish me with the NEW.

The Good Shepherd > The Thief

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

John 10:1-18

The God Who Hears

Prayer works.

By this I simply mean that when you have the faith to speak to God, humbly and adoringly and repentantly and expectantly, He hears you.

And things happen.

I was reminded of this fact this week in a small but significant way. After God answered a specific prayer, and so sweetly, it made me think, “I deliberately don’t ask God for things sometimes, and I avoid talking to Him, because I don’t think He really wants to hear me or talk to me or bless me.” Not all the time, but sometimes, that is my view.

Rubbish.

What can I say? Our relationship is not perfect (because I’m involved).

But times like this, I remember: there are no coincidences. It’s all personal. It’s fun and exciting and surprising to know Him.

And I see how much more glorious He is.

And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Mark 11:22-24

It’s Him

The fear of the Lord leads to LIFE,

and whoever has it rests satisfied;

he will not be visited by harm.

Proverbs 19:23

Life.

Rest.

Satisfaction.

Everything you’re looking for.

Everything I’m looking for.

It’s Him.

And don’t believe my words.

Try Him.

And don’t just write words, Claire.

Believe them.

Cared For and Loved

I have been meditating, or attempting to meditate, on this passage all day.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:28-39

And I have been thinking about my parents tonight. I never earned their care. I was just born to them. I didn’t begin working out of the womb for my place in their household. I didn’t have to rent my room, or work for the groceries Mom brought home. So much of their time and energy and work has been put into loving and caring for me well.

Of course I have grown up (somewhat) and they have pointed me to maturity in being able to take care of myself (somewhat).

But really, their love and their care for me is never going to stop.

I thank God that He has shown me His character through my parents in that way.

And even as their care towards me has been excellent and completely undeserved, how much more excellent and unstoppable and undeserved is my eternal Father’s care for me?

Jesus lived, died, and rose from the grave to earn life and care forever for us.

It is too much to fathom. But I do believe it’s true.

Ask Him for bread, and humbly expect it. What pleasure is there in giving a stone?

A Chilling Idea and the Truth that Trumps It

A Chilling Idea:

If this life is all there is, then everything will eventually burn up in the death of the sun and no one will be around to remember anything that has ever happened. Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any difference, and all good endeavors, even the best, will come to naught. 

The Truth that Trumps It:

Unless there is God. If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one,  and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavor, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever. That is what the Christian faith promises. 

Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavor

My heart and mind sing at the reality of our existence, and shudder at the thought that some cannot, or refuse, to consider it.

WWJD at a Wedding?

One of my favorite stories about Jesus is the one where He goes to a wedding with His mom and His disciples. You know, the water into wine story. I was prompted to read it again today in my Bible study homework. We were asked to read it “imaginatively”.

I wonder how close Jesus and Mary were to the couple.

I wonder if He danced with anyone.

I wonder if any of His disciples had crushes on the bridesmaids (if there were such things).

Was there any music?

How ’bout that food?

We know ’bout that wine.

It was the “good wine”.

The party must not have been too dull if they ran out of the first batch before Jesus made it even better.

Did they stay out late, or head in early?

And did anyone find out, other than the servants and the disciples, about the wine miracle?

How many people came to faith that night, talking to Jesus after He manifested His glory, after His first miracle? Did they sit around and talk for hours? We know at least some began to know the fear of the Lord.

Hmm. It’s cool to think about Him doing such normal things, like attending a wedding.

He was, and is, a real person. Divinely different from us, yet like us, too.

I would like to think about Him less abstractly as I read about His life walking around on earth.

Unite My Heart to Fear Your Name

I sometimes do this thing where I turn secular (aka non-Christian) songs into songs about God. I hear them, and some, or occasionally all, of the lyrics will remind me of my relationship with the Lord, or something about the Christian life.

One of my favorite songs I think of in this way is “Steal Your Heart” by Augustana.

Music gives us hope sometimes. That song has the essence of epic.

I remember listening to it on my drive moving to Hattiesburg in August 2011, thinking, “This is big. A lot is going to happen this year. A lot I’ll probably be uncomfortable with. And it’s going to be fun.” I may have had a faint idea of the God-parallel then.

I listened to it a lot over the next not one but two years in Hattie as I worked in college ministry. More idols than ever were revealed in my heart during that time. I woke up to them.

I don’t remember when, but I realized one time while listening to this favorite that God might as well be singing it to me.

I don’t really know what Augustana is really trying to convey in this song. It’s probably a persistent guy singing to an oblivious girl with whom he’s in love. But that doesn’t mean God hasn’t used it incessantly in my life to remind me of His character and His love for me.

When I hear it, I am always reminded that many things are competing for my heart every day. God has ultimately won it, but I cheat on Him, sometimes a lot and sometimes a little, each day of my life. With approval from people. With the hope of romance. With my own little plans for greatness.

So He’s gotta steal it back.

Because you are precious in My eyes, and honored, and I love you…

Isaiah 43:4

Remember, He’s a jealous lover. He’s going to steal our hearts away from the things of the world. The things that won’t last. For our good and for our joy.

He never stops pursuing us.

And if you haven’t ever given into His pursuit, I would like to remind you that He won’t stop. And if you didn’t know He was pursuing you, I would like to let you know that He is.

(My first time watching this video…I like the fireworks, or firewords, rather)

Meet me at the water
Where all your dreams come true
Tell your sisters and your brother
Well I’ll be waiting for youAnd when all of this is over
When all your silver turn to gold
Say a prayer for each other
Someday I’m gonna steal your heart

I’m gonna steal your heart
Gonna steal your heart away
Gonna steal your heart
Gonna steal your heart away

Now love is like an ocean
Take it down to the depths
Yeah I’m taking you with me
Taking every step to steal your heart

I’m gonna steal your heart away
Gonna steal your heart
Gonna steal your heart away

Life is like a shadow
It never stays in one place
I’m standing here anyway
However long it takes to steal your heart

Gonna steal your heart away
Gonna steal your heart
Gonna steal your heart away
I’m gonna steal your heart
Gonna steal your heart away
I’m gonna steal your heart
And then I’ll steal your heart away
I’m gonna steal your heart
Steal your heart away
I’m gonna steal your heart
Steal your heart away

Fearing and Flying

The fear of God is what is left of the storm when you have a safe place to watch right in the middle of it. And in that place of refuge we say, “This is amazing, this is terrible, this is incredible power; oh the thrill of being here in the center of the awful power of God, yet protected by God Himself!”

And so we get an idea of how we feel both hope and fear at the same time. Hope turns fear into a trembling and peaceful wonder; and fear takes everything trivial out of hope and makes it earnest and profound.

The terrors of God make the pleasures of His people intense. The fireside fellowship is all the sweeter when the storm is howling outside the cottage.

My friend Sarah is reading a book by John Piper called The Pleasures of God. These quotes she couldn’t help but share with me the other night make me want to read it too. What a great picture of what the fear of the Lord is like.

The way Piper describes it makes me think of being on an airplane.

I highly dislike flying. I pretty much hate it. It keeps getting worse the older I get. I am afraid we’re gonna go down. I know the statistics. I know it’s not likely. But with each little shake of the water in the cup on the seat tray in front of me, I assume we’re a little bit closer to being out of control, a billion miles up in the air.

image03

Another fearful lady: Diane Court in Say Anything

This past summer, five other girls and I traveled to and around Asia. That involved getting on a lot of big birds. Most of the flights were “fine” – minimal bump-age. Still not enjoyable.

But there was one flight that had just a little more bump-age than I considered usual. It just. wouldn’t. stop.

Thank the Lord for His provision in seating me next to Shelby, who is one of the most joyful women I know and who literally laughs in the face of danger. Or at least, she did in this “dangerous situation”. In the same way the plane wouldn’t stop bumping, she couldn’t stop laughing. She’s just a goof : ) And it strangely began to make me feel at ease.

She knew I was nervous – if it wasn’t noticeable anyway, I said something like, “I hate this”. She could have been like, “Aw, it’ll be okay Claire, planes don’t usually fall out of the sky” or even “God is in control!” (which I already know, but practically believing that is sometimes difficult, especially when encased in a relatively small metal object in the sky). Instead, she made fun of the turbulence. She narrated it a little. Like, “Ooo shaky shaky…” or something. Because I know her and love her, it was hilarious. It made the “storm” I was sitting in the middle of – the bumpy flight – seem so small and insignificant. I am thankful for her confidence and pray to have the same on future ventures.

What is she confident in?

More like who.

In the same way we can be confident in the pilot of the plane taking every precaution and caution necessary to ensure a safe flight – because he knows about planes and he knows how to fly them – we can be infinitely more confident in the One whose knowledge and power is greater than ours. Greater than the pilot’s. And, His purposes are better and more sure.

I can’t worry that plane into being perfectly still for me. I have no other choice but to trust the dudes (or dudettes) in the front know what they’re doing, even in the face of a literal storm.

On the next flight, it got bumpy again. It was the long, 13+ hour one. I prayed, “Lord, I know You’re in control, but it doesn’t feel that way. I need a word from You. From Your word.”

Immediately, something came into my head. “Do not fear…”. Simple. Something the Lord says hundreds of times in His word in a variety of situations. No matter what context we find ourselves in, what kind of fear we are facing, the instruction from Him is simple and it is always the same when it comes to fear or worry.

Don’t.

Look at Me. Fear Me.