What God can do in 10 years

We recently wrapped up a huge celebration of 10 years of God’s grace in Karis Church, and I realized that I spent so much time celebrating other people’s stories that I never shared my own.

It all began on a Monday morning, April 17, 2006, the day after Easter, as I read a news article about a new church in town that had its first public Gathering on Easter Sunday. At the time, my husband and I were pursuing membership at a church we loved, but the article intrigued me so much that I even poked around on this new church’s website. I remember being struck by the church’s values: truth, beauty, worship, community, mission, gospel, and mercy. I especially loved that beauty was included.

Fast forward two years to a Saturday night, January 2008. Tom and I found ourselves running Google searches – he on his laptop, me on the desktop computer – to decide on a church to attend the next day. We had, through much prayer and not lightly, separated from the church that had originally welcomed us to Columbia and were now ready to find a church to call home. God had been at work in our hearts, helping us question and sift through what we believed the Bible taught. We had grown, but we had been hurt, and we had walls up between the world and between each other.

At some point in our internet searching, Tom asked me to check out a website he found at the top of page two in his Google search. The church name was unfamiliar, but as soon as the page loaded I remember getting excited – I know this church! I read about their first Sunday!

It feels weird to say we never looked back, but it’s true. Instead of that Sunday being the start of yet another long search for a church family, we never went anywhere else. Kevin, the lead pastor, encourages other men to preach at times, both to give him a break and to raise up new leaders. January being one of those times, it took three Sundays before we could hear Kevin preach. I also remember, very uncomfortably, leaving church on each of those three Sundays under conviction about sins I had allowed to control me and recognizing how distant my relationship with God had become.

Karis in Tiger Hotel

Karis Church Sunday Gathering in Tiger Hotel. c. 2010

It’s a little fuzzy to think back on those early days and what it was about Karis that made it home, but here are a few things I remember:

  • being warmly welcomed by Brian and Christina Weaver
  • the senior pastor wanting to have lunch with us
  • Rob’s contagious enthusiasm for the mission of Karis
  • that we were two of the oldest people in the room on Sundays!
  • that a group of mostly 20-somethings were so excited about the gospel and about sharing it with the culture around them
Decade of Grace Block Party

Westside Block Party

Fast forward again, to a Friday afternoon, April 2016. I can barely recognize that hard-hearted, secretly wayward girl who walked into the Tiger Hotel in January 2008, though there are still some of the same insecurities and fears, still the bent toward the same sins. God has done so much through the community of Karis to soften my heart. He has used people in the church to call me out on stuff and ask the tough questions to help me see where I need to change and grow. Through the preaching and teaching, I have been stretched in my faith, widened my view of God and his holiness along with deepening my perception of my own sin. My relationship with Tom has been strengthened, as people in the church have lovingly shown me where I have been selfish and unloving toward my husband. By being given some leadership opportunities, I have been humbled again and again.

There is nothing perfect about this church over any other church. We try, by God’s grace, to live lives that give him glory. It’s not easy. Community is messy, as they say. As my friend, Anne, said about Karis: “Not many churches have people…who will love you where you’re at, but also encourage you to not stay there and to deepen your relationship with the Lord.” I’m excited to think about spending the next 10 years in this lovingly invasive community.

Decade of Grace

Celebrating a Decade of Grace at the anniversary party

 

I don’t know what you’re doing

green teaMy husband is addicted to Lipton Diet Green Tea.

I suppose (full disclosure) you could say that I’m addicted, too, but not quite to the extent that he is.

So, when we go to Sam’s Club about once a month to stock up on green tea, we don’t just buy a case or two. We buy 10-12 cases. Of 24 bottles of tea. 10*24=240 bottles of green tea. Minimum.

I stopped by there tonight on my way home from work and grabbed a modest 9 cases to get us through a few weeks. Did I mention the addiction?

What I neglected to consider is that my trunk is full of boxes, so I ended up stacking the cases in my backseat. During the ten minute drive home the cases slid or fell over as I rounded several curves. With each plastic crunching crash, I cringed. And then sighed. Now my car – like my house and my life – is a mess.

(It’s not as hopeless as all that, and I’m reminded that my mom reads my blog and hurts with a momma’s heart when I talk about hard things. But I’m learning that I can’t always stay silent to spare her further pain. To all the mommas, your children are going to go through hard stuff in this life, both when they are under your roof and years after they have flown the coop. Of the joys and pains, heights and depths of being a mom, this is one of the lows).

Where was I? Oh, yes, the mess. There’s a lot going on that I cannot control right now. I can’t fix the problem in our basement. I can’t fix my husband’s chronic pain. I can’t fix problems with relationships. I can’t fix my heart. Etc, etc. It’s all way too much for me to handle. And lately, I’ve been not handling it in very destructive ways.

Who You Are

So, I’m driving home with cases of tea scattered across my back seat and Great Is Thy Faithfulness (Jimmy Needham’s version) playing through the speakers. I found myself asking God, how? How can I sing that your faithfulness is great? How is it great?

I know the answer as soon as I ask. It’s faith. It’s believing everything I know about God as revealed in the Bible – that he is true, that he is unchanging, that he is sovereign. It’s also God’s faithfulness, not mine that I lean on. I run away. I abandon him. He never leaves me. He never stops loving me.

And, so, tonight, this is where I am. This is what I can say: I don’t know what You’re doing, but I know who You are.

I had never heard this song before today, but that line hits home so perfectly and gives me the strength to hold on for today. And then one more day. And then another.

I hope you take the time to listen to this song. I hope it helps you find faith to trust what God is doing in your life.

I’m linking up with:

Day 31: Continually crushing

crushing your kingdoms

Every day for the month of October, I have participated in a 31 day writing challenge and today is the last day! If you would like to read all the posts in this year’s series, click here for the index post.

One thing I’ve recognized this month is that, while on this earth, we will never completely crush our kingdoms. We have the sin nature in us, always at war within us to regain control, to put self back on the throne. It’s part of the sanctification process that we continue to journey to be more like Christ.

To fight against this tendency, we need to learn to preach the truth about God to our hearts. Tim Chester, in the book, You Can Change, identifies four life-changing truths that we can cling to in this daily struggle:

  1. God is great – so we don’t have to be in control
  2. God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others
  3. God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere
  4. God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves

This is a continual process. We are to be continually crushing the kingdoms of our own making as we grow closer to God. You can follow these steps as you grow.

  • Acknowledge: I’m completely sinful, but I’m completely loved.
  • Admit: I see the sin in my own life and I own that it’s wrong.
  • Determine: I choose turn from the sin to not do it anymore.
  • Recognize: I’m a bigger sinner than I thought.
  • Rejoice: I’m a bigger sinner than I thought, but he’s a bigger Savior than I knew.

Thank you for journeying with me this month. I hope you will continue with me as we continually crush our kingdoms and build up God’s kingdom.

Day 29: How to crush your kingdoms

Yesterday we looked specifically at the approval idol and how we need to look to God to fill the need for affirmation and approval.

Continuing that thought, let’s look at how to overcome the control, power, and comfort idols.

~~~

If you greatly value self-discipline; if you hold everyone, including your self to certain standards; if you worry constantly about things you can’t change, then you may be dealing with an idol of control. With a control idol, life only has meaning if you gain mastery over a specific area(s). This one trips me up a lot, though not nearly as much as approval. It’s also interesting because control can go to both sides of the spectrum. Sometimes people who are constantly dieting or obsessing over weight/size are really struggling with an idol of control. When a lot of my life might feel out of control, I sometimes find myself overeating because it’s one thing I can control. Some people may obsessively clean their home or body in an effort to control, while others may exhibit slovenly behavior from the same need to control.

Contrast this with Romans 8:28:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Our vain attempts are control are just that – in vain. Pointless. God is the one who has all things under his control.

~~~

What about power? Are you someone who has to win at all costs? Is success the name of the game? This may mean that you prize work and climbing the corporate ladder above everything else. It could mean that you wish to exert your influence over the people around you. It may be that you want to win at anything you do. Other people are often seen as pawns to be used as you feel helps you the best. You may feel anger at others who attempt to exert power over you or when you cannot have influence over a circumstance. With a power idol you only feel that you have worth if you have power and significance over others.

The answer to this lies in Psalm 145:8:

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

God is gracious and compassionate to you and so you can let go of your need to exert power over others and instead be gracious and compassionate. 

~~~

And, lastly, for those of you who identify with the idol of comfort. As pointed out in a comment, this doesn’t necessarily mean luxury, but instead seeking ease or lack of stress as the most important thing. If you desire your privacy above serving others, you may be struggling with a comfort idol. You may find yourself choosing the easy road, the path of least resistance. You may not accomplish as much with your life, but you’ll make sure you don’t have a lot of stress put on you. Life only has meaning if a certain quality of life, pleasure or experience happens.

Cling to this instead, from Psalm 16:11:

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Instead of looking to pleasures to bring you comfort, look to Christ for the fullness of joy and pleasures that never end.

~~~

I hope that this look at idols hasn’t weighed you down too much. It’s hard to look face-to-face at some of the ugliness of sin within us. Don’t be discouraged, but look to Christ instead. We’ll talk more tomorrow about the joys that wait on the other side of the coin.

Because it’s national cat day (who knew?) – I’m sharing this of one of my two babies:

Silly cat playing in tea package

~~~

Catch up on every post in the series here:

crushing your kingdoms

Day 15: King Me

My Dad used to play checkers with my sister or me on the pull-out drawer of his massive wood desk. We’d pull up a kitchen chair across from him and sit down to match wits against our beloved father. I can still remember the glee of being able to shout, “King me!”

firehouse checker by sciondriver (CC BY-NC 2.0)

firehouse checker by sciondriver (CC BY-NC 2.0)

King me, right?

King me. Put me on the throne. My thoughts, my preferences, my desires, my issues, my wants and wishes. King me.

Our Facebook posts, instagram feeds, and tweets shout it out – king me.

We spend our days building up a kingdom that centers around us. Our home, our family, our job, our school, our needs. It just keeps going. King me.

I guess I would call this the kingdom of self. We all reign in our own kingdom at times. We selfishly want things to go our way. We act or scheme or direct conversations so the focus stays on us.

It calls to mind Mark 8:

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

This kingdom may be the hardest to crush. It seems to be a back and forth struggle. Sometimes I feel that I can put myself aside for others, and then the next thing I know it’s “king me” all over again.

Do you see yourself calling out “king me” sometimes? I don’t think that this is one we can crush on our own or quickly. It takes prayer and constant handing over to God. Daily.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

crushing your kingdoms
← Read all the posts in this series here.

Day 12: My best guess

winter berriesThe words aren’t coming tonight.

*thinks a moment*

Nope, they just aren’t there. I have a ton of thoughts in my head, but none that make sense working on this series. So, I’m dumping out the words as they pop into my head and we’ll see where they take us.

I’m feeling quite a bit like a failure tonight.

Not just for my lack of coherence with the blog, but in not staying disciplined to work on house-related things, in lacking the stamina to continue vacuuming out water from the (still) flooded basement, for not planning out meals for the rest of the week (church friends have graciously helped out with meals every other day for the past 10 days), for not organizing the mess that sits around me – remnants of the stuff brought upstairs by helpful friends, for falling behind in my volunteer work for church, for not leading others well, for complaining again & again.

For giving into temptation again & again. For giving up hope again & again. For believing the lies repeatedly.

berries of winterI’m tired. I’m worn.

I don’t have beautifully strung out words for you tonight. I don’t have the answers tonight. I don’t have the solution to the problems. I do have a laundry list of problems.

I do know the answer is in Christ. I know the eternal picture makes sense, even when this temporal view is jacked up.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. — Colossians 1:11-14

I think this may have been crushing the kingdom of I-have-it-all-together. Or, at least, that’s my best guess.

Today was just one random day of:

Click to read all posts in the series

Day 10: Idol factories

It’s time to get a little deeper in the topic and really “get to meddling” in some of our root issues. First, however, I want to lay a foundation of what we’re talking about. Unfortunately, committing to post every. single. day. makes it near impossible to spend the time crafting a theologically heavy post. So, instead, I’m going to defer to a few well-studied men to more fully explain this.

Related to the idea of kingdoms is the concept of idolatry. I’m not necessarily talking about a statue that someone might bow to, but the heart idols that lead us all astray in our on way. An idol may be anything that can be a substitute for God. John Calvin has said:

“From this we may gather that man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols…Man’s mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity; as it sluggishly plods, indeed is overwhelmed with the crassest ignorance, it conceives an unreality and an empty appearance as God.” – John Calvin, Institutes, 1.11.8

Here are a few thoughts pulled from a video excerpt of C.J. Mahaney‘s (former president of Sovereign Grace Ministries) sermon on the subject.

fernsThe evil doesn’t lie in what we want. Often as Christians what we want are gifts from God. The evil isn’t in what we want, the evil is in wanting it too much. The desire for a gift from God becomes a sinful craving – a ruling craving.

If our hearts remain unmonitored or unmanaged, they will regularly create substitutes for God.  Within each of us, in the form of remaining sin. is a fully functioning idol factory – at work and open for business 24/7. 

If the essence of idolatry is wanting a gift from God too much, how can I determine if I want something too much? What is your response if you don’t obtain it? What is your response if it’s taken away?

J.D. Grear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC, also posted recently on 5 insights into idolatry. I encourage you to read the full article, but I want to highlight two of those insights.

Idols engage the deepest emotions in our hearts: When something we love is threatened, people get violent, because many of our deepest emotions are connected to idols. About what do you think, “If I ever lost this, I’d never survive”? What possible loss makes you not only frightened, but despairing? The irony here is that idolizing something ultimately keeps you from being able to enjoy it at all. Gaining more of an idol only heightens that sense of fear, because nothing other than God can sustain the weight of your soul.

Idols demand sacrifices to keep them happy:  An idol is like a fire. It never says, “That’s enough.” Instead, it just keeps asking for more. The altar of idolatry is terrifyingly insatiable: the more you sacrifice for an idol, the more it will demand. What part of yourself have you sacrificed on the altar of an idol? Where do you feel that “pull” to keep cutting corners or making excuses? Don’t fool yourself into thinking that this sacrifice will be the last one.

Ack. There’s just too much good stuff on this hard subject.
Darrin Patrick, pastor of The Journey Church in St. Louis, has an excellent sermon (or two) on idolatry.
Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, wrote the book, Counterfeit Gods. Good read.
Finally, I haven’t read it yet, but Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins we Tolerate by Jerry Bridges has been highly recommended to me.

Heavy stuff here. Has it made you think about what idols you may have in your life? Has it brought up more questions than answers?

This is another post in the #write31days series, Crushing your Kingdoms.

crushing your kingdoms

 

 

Day 8: Put on the new self

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:  sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness,humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:1-17

crushing your kingdoms

Day 6: Stop Building on Sand

If you grew up in the church, you may recognize that story as the parable of the wise man and the foolish man. Read the words of Jesus:

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his hoDay 6: Stop Building on Sanduse on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.  — Matthew 7:24-27

Building kingdoms in our own strength or on our own foundations will leave us standing alone, cold and wet. They will fall around us when life gets hard or trials come.

I love urban explorer (urbex) photography, like Niki Feijen,  Chris Luckhardt, and Detroiturbex. I recently stumbled across a series of photographs of abandoned Six Flags New Orleans, which was flooded during Hurricane Katrina. It was originally built on swamp land and is a low-lying area, so the entire property was under water for nearly a month after the hurricane hit.

Katrina Killed the Coaster by Keoni Cabral via Creative Commons license 2.0

When we build our kingdoms on foundations that aren’t stable, whether sand or swamp, we run into similar problems. Growth isn’t sustainable. The first “storm” that hits, sends things crumbling into ruin.

Stop building on sand. Build the foundation of your life and kingdom on the rock, that is, Christ Jesus.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, — Psalm 46:1-2

What areas have you been building on a shaky foundation in your life? Repent and start building on the rock.

Go back, if you missed Day 5.

crushing your kingdoms

Day 1: Wanting our own way

Welcome to Day one of Crushing Your/Our/My Kingdom(s). Let’s start with a brief look at why it is that we want to build our own kingdoms in the first place. Going back to the beginning, we are reminded that Eve, in the Garden of Eden, was the first human to start building her kingdom.

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”  Genesis 3:6

We all, every one of us, have the desire born in us to think we know what’s best for us and, sometimes, for everyone around us. We push, scratch, and claw our way to the top, building what we think is a good thing, only to find that we had a flawed view of what was good or were relying on faulty reasoning that X would satisfy and fulfill us.

Do you remember going to the beach as a child and desperately trying to build sand castles? Mine usually ended up as somewhat off-balanced lumps that vaguely resembled a bucket (cue: sad trombone). If, by some miracle, a modest sand castle was erected, then the incoming tide was sure to wash it away.

Striving to build sand castle kingdoms

This is how I feel when I take an objective look at the kingdoms I try to establish in my own strength or for my own glory. Something I expected to be a tower of strength is, in reality, an unsteady, ready-to-collapse bucket of sand. Do you ever feel this way? Things you thought would lead to success or happiness only disappointed.

As we focusing on crushing our kingdoms this month, may we see where we are still striving, with bucket and shovel, to build sand castle kingdoms.

Read to read Day 2?

Click here for the index to the whole series:

crushing your kingdoms

  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

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