Loving God in the Ordinary

Sometimes, we reach the point where life feels like it’s filled with nothing but Tuesdays. The days are ordinary. Nothing special is happening. We don’t dread the day like we would a Monday, and we don’t really have too much to be excited about like a Friday. The day is what it is. Which leads us to the question: how can we find joy on the Tuesdays? How do we love God in the ordinary?

Part of the reason why I ask this question is because I’m consistently seeking to push my students towards loving God and making much of Him in the ordinary. One of my biggest goals for my life and those in my ministry is to destroy the divide we place between the sacred and the secular. Sunday worship is meant to spill into Monday-Saturday life.

One of the ways we can push back against this separation mentality is by seeing our primary identity as Believers in Jesus. So, before we are a husband, wife, or single, we are a follower of Jesus. Before we are a mother or father, we are a follower of Jesus. Before we are a student or work somewhere, we are a follower of Jesus. All of these things are secondary to who we are in light of the gospel.

When we begin to live this way, we’ll begin to live in the way God has intended for us to live. We begin to walk in the abundant life Christ promised to bring us in John 10:10. Suddenly, we are no longer a spouse seeking our own gratification, but a servant seeking to meet the other’s needs. Then, we begin to see our roles as parents in light of eternity, understanding that we have an opportunity to raise a child up in the faith. At school or in our job, we do all things with excellence as unto the Lord, knowing we have an opportunity to worship through this work.

It’s in living for God that we begin to find the extraordinary within the Tuesdays. As Christians, we have been invited into living for the eternal each and every day, even in the smallest things. How will you use the ordinary to love God this week?

Marriage and the Mission of Christ

This Valentine’s Day marks the fifth year my wife and I have been celebrating this holiday together. This year looks a little bit different. With a baby arriving this summer, we’re in a bit of a transition as this is the last time it’ll be just us in our family. As I look ahead at what’s to come, it gives me a good reason to pause and to look back at the wonderful story the Lord has written for us, and to look ahead with joy at what’s to come.

On our first Valentine’s Day, we had only been dating for a couple months. Everything was new to us and we were still getting to know one another. I still remember planning a surprise trip to see her since she was out of town that weekend. When I showed up with flowers and chocolate in hand, the smile on her face reminded me that she would always be the one for me.

The next year was a time of stress and anxiety for us, as we had been engaged for over two months and still hadn’t decided on a wedding date. We didn’t know what was in store for the future. I had no jobs lined up, no place to live, and I would be graduating a year before her. For a while, I thought we’d have to wait another year to get married (honestly, I prayed against it- the Lord hears our prayers!), but God provided. Even in the midst of all this, I knew she would always be the one for me.

For three years now, we’ve celebrated this day. Each year, I think about how my love for her has grown- something I didn’t realize was actually possible when I said “I do.” Marriage is interesting in that way- not filled with the drama of butterflies, but with a love that is quieter and deeper serving as a foundation for a life together can sometimes only be described as “normal”. This isn’t a bad thing, but a beautiful thing. Emotions come and go, but the covenant we made is meant to be for a lifetime.

Naturally, that’s where my mind goes next- to the lifetime in store. I don’t know what God has for us; I’m learning to trust Him more than trying to figure out what’s years down the road. But as I consider these things and think ahead, I want this marriage to be marked by faithfulness. I want to look across the table at my bride in ten years, knowing that she’s the one. Then twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, and even more. One day, I want to look into her eyes, think of all the memories we’ve shared, and be able to say “We did it.”

I know it will be no small accomplishment to remain faithful. In fact, to have a marriage that stands the test of time is one of the most radical and counter-cultural things we can do as Believers in this fallen world. To be faithful is to paint a picture of a Savior who is faithful and has given Himself up for His bride, the church. This is the reminder Paul gives to husbands in Ephesians 5:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself…This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Ephesians 5:26-28,

These verses give me hope. These verses remind me that I can be faithful in a world where infidelity is pushed upon us from nearly every angle without ceasing. Paul’s reminder is one that shows where we can find the fullness of all our marriages are to be, but the road there isn’t easy. Christ give Himself up for us, living a perfect life and dying on the cross for us. He won the victory and purified all who would come to Him in saving faith.

Then, He empowers us. This is the beauty; this is the hope. In Christ, I’m empowered with everything I need to reach that day where I can know that we made it. Where we can smile and see how God cultivated our love for one another. He gave us everything we needed to beat the odds.

At times, it can be easy to despair what’s ahead, but if I’m honest, I’m excited. He has been faithful to us before and will be faithful in what’s to come. Our story together is a reminder of this hope.

Leaving a Legacy

What is the one thing you want people to remember about you when you’re gone? This is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot this week. For me, the idea of leaving a legacy has been rooted in thinking about the new life joining our family in July. For many others, the passing of Kobe Bryant has given all of us a reason to pause and consider the reason we’re all here.

If you don’t know, Kobe was one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He won five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, was considered the NBA’s League MVP in 2008, and also had eighteen All-Star selections to his name. For an entire generation of basketball, he was their icon. He had a distinct, competitive nature to his personality and his approach to basketball, but a deep, passionate love for his family, as well.

What Michael Jordan was to kids of the 90s, Kobe Bryant was to kids of the 2000’s. And so, when news broke Sunday afternoon of his tragic death in a helicopter accident, along with the news of multiple others involved who died unexpectedly, the entire nation stopped to reflect on his life.

One of the interesting trends I’ve seen in light of this tragedy has been how unanimously people have talked about Kobe making a difference. From basketball teams honoring him in games throughout the week, all the way up to talks of redoing the NBA logo in his likeness. It would be wrong to argue the things he accomplished are pointless- because they’re not. People agree that he really has left a legacy.

I think this points to a desire wired deep within us to live our lives for something greater. All of us what to know that we’re making a difference. All of us want to know that our lives mean something. All of us are searching for that answer.

In Ecclesiastes 3:11, it says that God has “put eternity into the hearts of man.” We’re all searching for the answer to some of life’s hardest questions, but we don’t realize that the answer to these questions is found in the one who made us. How can we know that we’re making a difference?

It’s in glorifying God and enjoying Him forever that we find the means by which we can leave a legacy. This legacy isn’t always marked by fame, but instead by faithfulness. It’s about training our kids up in the knowledge of God, loving those around us, and living a life seeking to honor God in all the decisions we make. It’s about asking for forgiveness when we mess up, encouraging our brothers and sisters in the faith, and inviting others to be reconciled to God.

But it’s also in the quiet mornings in the Word of God and in prayer, in the listening ear we offer a friend in the tough times, and in the wisdom we hope to share from a verse that has impacted our lives. In all of these moments of steady faithfulness we find what our hearts are searching for: satisfaction for the desire God has placed within us all. A desire shown clearly this week in the legacy left behind by a legend.

Rainy Days and Rest

We’ve all been there before: it’s a weekday morning before we go to work, and we can’t help but lay in bed and dream about how perfect it would be to go back to sleep. The sound of the rain hitting the roof only adds to our desire to rationalize the decision, and the knowledge of getting out of our warm bed and entering the cold January day seems to be the final nail in the coffin. For most of us, the story ends with being a little more rushed than usual that particular morning. But there’s something deeper I want to look at in this scenario. I believe our Creator has wired the desire for rest deep inside of us.

When most of us think of rest, we quickly turn our minds to the physical reality of sleep. While sleep is definitely connected to rest, I also want us to consider about a spiritual reality for rest that we all have. Rest is a theme woven through the Old and New Testament in Scripture. In the Creation narrative, God speaks all things into existence over six days, breathes life into Adam, and rests on the seventh. In doing so, God is not displaying any weakness. He’s setting a precedent for us to follow.

When we fast forward to God’s covenant with the Israelites after the exodus from Egypt, rest would be one of the ways God would mark His people as His own. Sabbath rest is part of the instructions for when the people gathered manna (Exodus 16-17). Sabbath rest is a commandment given by God in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-10). Also, God’s instructions regarding the Sabbath serve as bookends at the end of the instructions regarding the tabernacle (Exodus 31:12-18) and the beginning of its construction after the covenant is reestablished (Exodus 35:1-3).

God places emphasis on His people resting, not just physically, but spiritually. The reality is that true rest can only come from Him.

This rest is something we’re all searching for. We feel it on the cold, rainy days as we long to go back to sleep. We feel it at the end of long times of work. We feel it on those days that are more emotionally taxing. Each and every time, our exhaustion reminds us of two things: we aren’t God, and we need the rest only He can provide.

The Israelites needed the reminder that God was in control. Everything they were given, including the Promise Land to which they traveled, was a gift from God. Their blessings were not a result of their own striving, By taking a day and pausing everything, they were not only imitating their Creator and King, but showing that they trusted God would take care of them.

The same is true for us today. Consider for a moment that we spend roughly 1/3rd of our lives asleep- powerless, defenseless, and unaware of the world around us. For the most part, this trend is unexplainable. We sleep because, well, we need it. And even in this simple act of stopping everything to lay down and recharge, it’s an opportunity for us to worship God and show how we trust He is in control.

Ultimately, we need the spiritual rest only He can provide. Look at these words of Jesus from Matthew 11:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

We all feel the pressures of the world around us. Stress, anxiety, and worry are the defining characteristics of man of our lives. Where can we find hope and rest? Where can we go to finally be able to breathe a sigh of relief and remove the weight of the world from our shoulders? Only Christ can rescue us and provide the rest that we need.

Only Jesus has given us a salvation which is secure. Only Jesus has given us a hope which is never changing. Only Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). So the next time you feel tired or feel the stresses of the world around you, remember the desire for rest has been placed inside you for a reason. Look to Christ and be satisfied.

Legalism and the Tower We Build

For a long time, I used to think that God’s delight in me was somehow attached to my performance on any given day. If I spent most of my day wrestling with sin and messing up, I would think God was unhappy (and maybe even angry) with me, but if I read my Bible and did enough good things, I would think He delighted in me. This thought process was rooted deep in my mind and my heart. 

On the surface, some may think it’s beneficial. After all, doesn’t this provide motivation to be a good Christian? And while our lives are to be marked by a healthy desire to please our Heavenly Father, I had let this pattern of thinking get out of control.

The difference was a misunderstanding in my identity. It wasn’t that I was serving God because He already delighted in me. Instead, I was serving trying to earn His delight. Suddenly, I found myself becoming frustrated even on my best days: Why can’t I just do enough to make God happy with me?

This type of thinking is closer to believing in Karma than it is to the gospel. Now, to be clear, it’s still a battle I face each and every day. I need to remind myself of the gospel and my need for Christ. But that’s just it- the answer has already been provided in Jesus. I no longer have to earn God’s favor because Christ earned it for me. Let me give you an example:

Genesis 11 contains the story of the Tower of Babel. The descendants of Noah had spread out on the earth. At this point in history, all humanity spoke one language. Having one language, and having invented a reinforced brick and mortar, they set about seeking to make a name for themselves. They decided to use this incredible new technology to build a tower to Heaven, thus making a name for themselves and proving once and for all that they didn’t need God. 

As the people were striving and trying hard to reach Heaven, God came down in ease to look at what they had created. In loving kindness, and to slow the evil within the people, He confused the languages and dispersed the people. So, why do I share this?

My desire to earn God’s favor with my performance alone was the tower I was trying to build to reach to Heaven. It may not have looked prideful on the surface, but it was an attempt to earn His favor without needing Him. This is dangerous on two levels: first, it’s dangerous because trying to earn Heaven apart from the finished work of Christ is impossible. It’s like trying to make a deal with God in a currency He doesn’t accept. On another level, even if we’ve submitted to Christ as Lord and repented of our sins, this is dangerous because only following the rules isn’t what Christ has called us to. First and foremost, God wants our hearts. 

Living as a Christian Legalist is like trying to build a tower after God has come down to offer life, peace, and rest. In fact, He’s offering us His delight in a way that is far more secure than any favor based on our actions, because it’s based in the finished work of Jesus Christ. This favor now belongs to all who will place their trust in Jesus. I write this as a recovering (and still struggling) legalist: stop building the tower. Rest in the God who came down for you.