So here I am, 8 days out from what is the 2nd most important event in my life, getting married to Hannah. I feel like I’ve gone through a couple stages: Denial – “Did I really do this?” Terror – “What in the world am I going to do?” and now it’s mostly just excitement – “Oh wow! This is really happening!” Needless to say, spirits are up =D.
I’ve moved into the new place since beginning of February, affectionately named the Turret House. You can google map it and see why: 2520 18th Ave. S, Minneapolis, MN 55404. It’s the blue house with a blue truck parked in front of it – According to google maps, its approximate address is “2540.”
We just moved in a lot of furniture on Tuesday – 4 bookshelves (very important!), bed, dresser, couch, desk, kitchen table, and chairs. And the wedding planning is happening (relatively) smoothly largely due to the incredible “on the ball”-ness of everyone around me. Wow. I’ll say it again backwards, Wow.
Learning Lessons –
Don’t apologize immediately – Recently I wronged a friend. Of course the best thing was to immediately say, “I’m sorry.” That’s what a Christian ought to do right? But for some reason, that didn’t help things. My friend accepted my apology but the hurt was still there for him. Then, when I sinned in a similar manner against him later on, the past hurts surfaced all over again.
It was only through a bit of talking things through and personal reflection that I realized that I had apologized too quickly. Rather than being a true repentance and change of mind, my apology was actually a personal attempt to avoid guilt and change. I didn’t understand how much I had hurt him the first time, and had no real change of heart to not do the same thing in the future. What I thought was godly repentance was mere words – worldly repentance masquerading as godly repentance.
Thankfully, God is far more gracious than I deserve and didn’t leave me in my sins, but allowed me to repeat the same mistakes and compound the problem so that I could finally come face to face with my sin. I really wronged my friend, and it cost him dearly. Realizing that, and asking for forgiveness, makes the restored relationship that much sweeter. It made for a challenging week, but a very good one too.
I think there is parallel here for my relationship with God. Too quickly I come to the cross saying, “oh forgive me for my sins,” without a moments thought on what exactly I did that wronged God, and how deeply it grieves him. And I wonder why I go away unchanged! Without a grasp of the depths of my sins, I will never have a taste for the sweetness of grace and forgiveness and its empowering role in fighting sin.
Just in my small group this past week we read Luke 7, which had a relevant passage-
41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
“till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet” – Thomas Watson
Preaching is draining – I was given the opportunity to preach to the Senior High students about “honoring the opposite gender” as part of the continuing series on biblical manhood and womanhood. After working on it, thinking through it, baring my soul to the Lord on it, and going up and preaching it, I was absolutely wiped out. The weight of trying to tell these people what the Lord declared along with the feeling of complete inadequacy made preaching an incredibly draining task. I sat down with my small group after preaching and simply could not do anything. I had nothing left to talk to them about. No more thoughts, nothing. Thankfully, they were very receptive and encouraging.
I can’t imagine having to do this every week. This reminded me afresh of Hebrews 13:
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Momentum builds– During my 6 week break (Dec. 18-Feb.4), I was reading various books on productivity- From Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap – and Others Don’t; Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress Free Productivity; Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations; and am now working on 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The recurring theme is the idea that if we focus our attention on something and work for it continually, making minor (and sometimes major) adjustments, incredible things can happen. One thinks of Jonathan Edwards (I’m taking a class on him) and his relentless pursuit of the glory of God. He spent the majority of his life thinking and meditating and working to glorify God, and 200 years later we read him with great benefit.
Sometimes I’m paralyzed with decisions - How do I make the best decision about my studies? Should I go for an M.Div or a Th.M? What about with youth ministry? I want to help these guys so much – should we organize more gatherings? Put more time into preparation? Visiting students at home?
When paralysis happens, I need to remind myself that I can’t always do the best thing first. Sometimes all that has to happen is that I pursue the best thing by doing a good thing first, and another good thing second, and another good thing, always moving upward and onward, carefully evaluating results and moving forward from there. God doesn’t expect me to be perfect instantly, but calls me to a life of faith-filled obedience, one step at a time.
Bible arcing – As part of my studies, we’ve been going through a process called “Discourse Analysis,” or “arc-ing.” The point of arcing is to understand what the main point of the author is by tracing out, proposition by proposition, how each thought is related to another. (Feel free to look at www.biblearc.com for more information). The major benefit of this is that it forces me to slow down and actively engage with the text. What is this phrase here for? Why is it significant? How is it related to the rest of the thoughts?
For a person who loves to read and finish books in one sitting, it is maddeningly slow, but worth every second. Let me share with you what I wrote when I arc-ed Titus 2:11-12 for my Greek Exegesis class (removing/modifying a bit of the arc-specific and Greek notation):
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
In Titus 2:11-12, Paul closes up his exhortation about teaching to Titus begun in Titus 2:1 by giving the reason for the commands of verses 1-10.
There are two main verbs (appeared, live) in this passage connected by a purpose clause, so they sum up the main point of this passage: The grace of God was revealed so that we might live holy lives.
The phrase “training us” describes what the grace of God does when it appears. Thus, it stands as a purpose for this act of appearing. Grace that brings salvation does not merely leave us with a deliverance from our guilt, but it actively is training us.
For what? Verse 12b introduces the purpose for the training with the phrase “in order that”. Then Paul contrasts a former way of life that was renounced- ungodliness and worldly lusts- with the new way of life that we now live: soberly, upright, and holy.
To sum it all up - We’re not left in our sins but freed from our guilt, and on top of that, God not only saves us but trains us for godly living through his grace.
So we ought not to feel like we’re on our own in this battle against ungodliness, the grace that has saved us is actively training us to live in holiness. What good news!
Friends in the Gospel – this grace is for you, and this grace is for me. I need grace for every day: grace that covers over past sins and grace that teaches me to live rightly.
May the grace of God the Father and of Lord Jesus Christ be with you.