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 9: Reflections on glory

This is a post I wrote a little over a year ago. I was reminded of it as we sang All Creatures of our God & King today in Karis Church. I’m sharing to focus on God’s kingdom today.


Since the temperature has dropped a bit, I slipped out on the back deck tonight with a drink and my music to practice for Sunday morning.

If you’re at all like me, when you find yourself in a quiet space outdoors and the sky begins to kaleidoscope in hues of blue, purple and pink with the setting sun, you’re gonna look up and watch the sky at some point.

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in heaven along

These are the words that floated through my ear buds as I watched a drifting cloud.

Thou rising moon in praise rejoice
Ye lights of evening find a voice

And then I realized fireflies were dancing around me.

Let all things their Creator bless
And worship him in humbleness

Now the rhythms of the cicadas and crickets catch my ear.

Oh, doesn’t your breath catch sometimes with a glimpse of God’s glory?

I know there are times when God feels distant and you think your prayers don’t go past the ceiling. I know that sometimes there are hurts and pain that are mountains high and healing seems or is unreachable this side of eternity.

But the in-between times, when you just glance around and see a bigger picture than the one you usually focus on?


Can you join me? If not now, then later today, or this week? Stop and look for God’s glory that is shining out around you.

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing
O Praise Him!

20130629_195854 (640x358)

Praise! Praise the Father! Praise the Son!
And praise the Spirit, Three-in-One!

O Praise Him.


Want watch/listen to the whole song? Find it here.

What did you notice? Would you like to share it in a comment?


You can read all the posts for this 31 day series here.

Day 5: Sit in the hard places


Why am I focusing on crushing kingdoms this month? It’s sort of an odd turn of phrase, I know. Here’s a little back story to fill in the gaps:

A friend with a small handful of young ones recently reached out to me asking for prayer and declaring she was going to lose it. After a few questions to clarify what the issue was, she shared this:  “The house is clean. Dinner is done. Bathroom’s done. Laundry done. – The kids are not done.”

Yikes. I get that. Do you get that? There are times when surface things are running smoothly and it appears that everything is in place, but the reality is we’re falling apart. My friend continued, “My problem — I try everyday to build my own kingdom. We have a schedule, a plan, chores, worksheets, field trips planned. Then things don’t work out like I wanted to and I just get so frustrated. I don’t know any other way. How do I crush my kingdom? What does letting God build the kingdom look like?”

This and the ensuing conversation has stayed with me since that day. While I’ve been praying for my friend, I’ve also been mulling over my own kingdoms and what must happen to crush them and let God build the kingdom. This is what I hope to walk through this month.

I don’t know how to fix things. I only know a God who fixes. He is Healer. At times, he has to (figuratively) break bones in order to reset them properly.

Sometimes there’s not a pretty wrap up and moral to the story. Sometimes we have to sit in the hard places for a while. This is one of those times. Reflect on your own kingdoms and what must happen to let God crush them and build His kingdom.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Click here to read Day 4: Counting Blessings & Revealing Messes.
Move forward to read Day 6: Stop building on sand.

Catch the whole series indexed here.

crushing your kingdoms

Day 3: Before the Throne of God

I’ve spent much of the day continuing to extract water from our basement, so this is going to be short and sweet.

Today, look not at your own kingdom, but go before the throne of God.

We sing this song in Karis Church. I hope you enjoy it. My favorite is verse two:

When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within.
Upward I look and see Him there, who made an end to all my sin.
One with Himself, I cannot die; my soul is purchased with His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high, with Christ my Savior and my God.

This was Day 3 of Crushing Your Kingdoms. Did you miss Day 2?
Keep going and read Day 4.

You can view all posts in the series here:

crushing your kingdoms

Day 2: Four lessons from a flood

morning surpriseThis morning, I had an unpleasant surprise. On opening the door to our storage room, I was greeted by a rush of water coming out at me. Five inches of rain overnight on already soaked ground was more than our house could handle. The water continued to spread through the entire basement as the day wore on and storms continued to roll through the area.

The rest of the day was spent trying to dry the space with towels, removing boxes and items out of reach of the spreading water, and lots of squeegee action and shop vac suction. As the sun set (and another shower began), 12 friends and brothers & sisters in Christ basement floodshowed up to help us move all the furniture out of the carpeted areas, run shop vacs to remove the standing water as much as possible, and generally get wet and dirty trying to help us deal with the mess. What a blessing it was to have church family jump in and help as much as they could!

So, here’s what I learned from the flood in our basement today:

  1. Circumstances can crush your kingdom. We had absolutely no control over the weather or the water entering the basement. All plans for today (and tomorrow) had to be abandoned in an instant.
  2. Our kingdom, the house and its appearance, really didn’t matter. Having the house torn apart and possessions potentially ruined, is unsettling. But, in the big picture, even if all is lost, thanks be to God.*
  3. When our kingdoms are crushed, there’s room for God to (rightfully) be on the throne. When I step back and look at that big picture, how can I do anything but trust God? I’m so clearly not in control (as water continues to fill my basement). I suppose I could stress and worry, but what would that do? It wouldn’t stop the flow of water. It wouldn’t save my carpet or household furnishings.
  4. Kingdom crushing can lead to surprising blessings. If our basement had not flooded, I would have gone to work, had a normal day, come home, chatted with my husband over dinner and then written a blog post. Instead, I prayed. A lot. While running the shop vac, I spent several hours praying. Rather than a quiet dinner at home, we had twelve friends from church come by to help us move furniture and clean. Instead of watching a movie or Doctor Who, I had gospel conversations about trusting God in hard times.

Well, this isn’t the post I thought I’d be writing for Day Two, but that’s what crushing our kingdoms sometimes looks like. I hope your kingdom crushing takes a drier turn than mine has. 🙂

*a poem by Dom Julian, O.S.B., as recorded in A Severe Mercy:

If everything is lost, thanks be to God
If I must see it go, watch it go,
Watch it fade away, die
Thanks be to God that He is all I have
And if I have Him not, I have nothing at all
Nothing at all, only a farewell to the wind
Farewell to the grey sky
Goodbye, God be with you evening October sky
If all is lost, thanks be to God,
For He is He, and I, I am only I.

This post is Day 2 of 31 Days of Crushing your Kingdoms. If you missed it, here’s Day 1 (or Day 3).

Read all posts in the series here:
crushing your kingdoms

God’s Got This – a peek into His sovereign will

berries of winterWe all have ideas of how we expect things to go in life. We make plans and expect they will turn out as we planned. Large project or small, we start down a course with a set expectation.

Sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s an epic mess. Sometimes we end up with our own version of a Pinterest Fail.

I’m at Camp CUMCITO this week. We planned to have a fully staffed week. We planned to be able to fill the camp with campers. My husband planned to be here with me. My church planned to have a team of 15 people and bring 25 local campers with us.

God’s been teaching me a lot about His sovereignty lately. I had a refresher course a couple of months ago during a class my church taught. God’s in control. He’s so much bigger than my plans. God doesn’t scramble to figure out Plan B. For Him, there is no Plan B. It’s all His Plan A.

Basically, God’s got this.

I’m here at camp as a team of five from my church – not 15. I’m so glad that these four came with me. I’m so thrilled that they committed to serve. God planned exactly who should be here this year.

We ran into difficulties in getting parents on board and ended up not being able to bring any campers with us this year. God is not surprised by this.

My husband had a flare-up of back pain and is not able to work right now, let alone serve a week at camp, so I’m here without him. God orchestrated that he would be home and I would be here.

We not expecting to have a full camp. Campers weren’t able to attend this week for various reasons and we think we’ll be short about 30 campers. God knows and planned the exact campers who will step off the bus on Monday.

We have not been able to find enough volunteers to work at camp this week. Not sure if it’s the Independence Day holiday or what. We are short about 12 staff positions and people are having to stretch and do double-duty and get creative about how we make ends meet. Even this is part of God’s plan.

Not one single bit of this is a surprise to God. While we do all we can to fill the gaps and make plans, God knows exactly who will be here. He’s in charge of exactly what will happen this week. He is in control.

God’s got this.

Maybe there’s something in your life that’s not going according to your plan. Perhaps it seems like everything is falling apart. God is over all. He is at work in your life with His Plan A. He’s got this. I hope you can trust in that today.

winter berries


Where is the Joy?

Welcome back to Five Minute Friday. The general idea is to receive a prompt word and write about it for 5 minutes. No major editing, no fixing things to make the perfect post. It’s about writing.

This week, I left it really raw. It was one of those words that I wanted to overlook, but I stepped up to the challenge to write anyway. What follows is a rough estimation of how my brain works. I like where we finally ended up, but the getting-there was H-A-R-D. Disclaimer: I went way over 5 minutes, but you’ll see why.

This week, the prompt is Joy.


The clock is ticking… The meter’s running… 

And I sit and try to figure out what in the world I could say about joy.

|    |    |    |    |    ← the cursor keeps blinking at me.

The Bible is filled with promises of joy. The 2nd fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace…

But I don’t feel it. Life is hard sometimes and my joy seems to dissipate like morning fog as the sun rises.

Nope. No.

I don’t remember a joyful moment today.

And I wrestle with how that balances with the people who are bubbling over with joy so much of the time.

I remember how, just before Christmas, a friend had a really exciting thing happen in her family. She couldn’t contain her joy (rightfully so!). One day she shouted on Facebook, “JESUS IS SO GOOD!”

At the time I was working through Advent, preparing to greet the Christ-child anew in celebration of his birth. My heart was raw, wounded, and sore. I mulled over her triumphant shout, happy for her, aching for me. It struck me at the time, that while I couldn’t shout in joy that God is good, I could still whisper it in pain. I could sob it in prayer.

Jesus is so good.

God even used that to allow me to encourage a few other people during the Advent season, to shyly show a tiny window of my pain so that someone else’s day would be brightened. There was a quiet joy in that.

Joy God is good

Back to today. A joyless day? God is still so good.

But my heart aches. God is so good.

And today’s problems will still be here tomorrow. He is good.

But I just want to scream out my frustrations! Jesus is so good!


Today is the first day of spring. We’re between the two holidays of Christmas and Easter. The joy at the manger to the joy of the cross. You see that now, right? The sorrow has a bright side. God is so good. He orchestrates everything for good, for His glory.

The joy of today is that even on a hard, exhausting, stressful day, God is so good.



You can read more of this week’s Five Minute Friday posts here – Joy.

I’m linked up with:

Five Minute Friday       

The Lover Of Your Soul Sings Over You


(Photo credit: flickr-rickr)

Here’s the thing, just as money can’t buy happiness, having a love in your life doesn’t guarantee you will feel loved.

It just doesn’t.

There is only One who loves perfectly. No other love will satisfy. Not fully. Not forever. The whole “you complete me” bit? It’s only gonna be found in one place, and that’s God.

He is your bridegroom, singing over his Beloved.

I adore this song by Kari Jobe. It’s a prayer, one that the Lover of your soul sings for you throughout Scripture.

Listen to it and read the lyrics below. There are verses embedded throughout this song, some of which I’ve listed by each line. If you mouse over them, you’ll see the phrases that are echoing throughout the Bible – a love song for you.

Soak in this prayer by your Bridegroom:


Just Write

Joining Five Minute Friday for the first time this year. The writing prompt is encouragement. Set a timer and write for 5 minutes. Go.

This is my first post since mid-November.

Sad, really. I posted daily through October, but then burned out the rest of the year.

It’s because if I can’t have a perfect post, I don’t post at all. If I can’t put an image that inspires next to my words, it’s not worth the time. If I can’t be an Ann Voskamp or Emily Freeman or Mary DeMuth (or Lisa-Jo), why even try?

Of course, you see the lie. I do, too, when I look.
A) God didn’t make me to be those women. I can reach people that they may never have the chance to reach.
B) They didn’t start at the top. They started with faithfully writing and asking God to guide their words. They worked – and hard – to get the platform/tribe/following/whatever that they now have.
C) Hidden in those complaints and excuses is a deeper question:

For whom am I writing?

Is it for some Facebook friend who I hope to impress?
Is it for a Five Minute Friday reader?
Is it for my glory?

Is it for the Lord?

Today’s encouragement is mainly for myself (though you may feel it, too). Write, not for others, but for God. Write to glorify Him and spread the light of His truth.

Just write, or paint, or raise babies, or deliver babies, or clean houses, or sell tools, or clean teeth, or type letters, or park cars, or answer phones, or whatever you do…do it for the Lord.

Thanks for joining this edition of Five Minute Friday. You can go to Lisa Jo Baker’s blog to read more posts on Encouragement.


Disturbed, Satisfied, and Enough

Why are you crying? C’mon, you can tell me. What’s wrong?

The last click of high school[Day155]*

Photo credit: Chapendra (Creative Commons)

Has anyone ever asked you this, but you couldn’t answer? More than that, you didn’t know the answer?

I can picture myself on the floor by my high school locker, with my best friend, Andre’, patiently trying to figure out what was going on.

Poor boy.
Like he could ever understand a teenage girl. He had no idea what was wrong.

Problem is, sometimes neither did I.

There was so much comfort when I discovered David’s words,

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

David, king of Israel and called a man after God’s own heart, knew what it was like to be down and not fully understand why. Wow! As a confused, hormonal teen, that was music to my ears. Even today, that is so comforting.

Now look back at the beginning of the Psalm (verses 1-2):

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

It all begins with desiring God as a basic necessity for life. Like water to a living thing. Do you remember, as a kid, how you would play and play, not thinking at all about food or drink, when suddenly it’s hits you – you’re starving! And you’re dying of thirst! That’s when drinking from the hose tasted the best (yeah, I know kids aren’t allowed to do that anymore and this blog does not endorse such behavior, blah, blah, blah). But it’s only after being that thirsty that the water tasted best.

I love this song that we sometimes sing in Karis Church, Satisfied in You. It’s one of those songs that I often have to sing as a prayer, because I’m not often in the place where I can say I’m satisfied in God. I want to be. But I’m often not there.

Yesterday, Justin and Trisha Davis posted The Most Important Question on their blog. Please click over and read the whole post, but in case you don’t, here’s the question: “Is Jesus enough?…Is he truly enough or do I desire the things he gives me more than I desire him? If everything else goes away…is Jesus enough?” The post goes on to list specific scenarios. You may find yourself in one or more of them. I did.

So where are you today? Disturbed and downcast? Satisfied and thirsting for God? A little of both?

Will you, with me, live these words from the song?

Let my sighs give way to songs that sing about Your faithfulness.
Let my pain reveal Your glory as my only real rest.
Let my losses show me all I truly have is You. Because all I truly have is You.

I’m linking up with

  • 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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