Glorious Interruptions


I am not my own.

The Heidelberg Catechism begins with the simple notion that my only comfort can
be found in this truth – that I am not my own.

Many times I’ve read in Scripture where Paul says that I am not my own and I have
been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). This truth has allowed me to see
all that the Lord has entrusted to me. Not only am I not my own, but neither is my time.

Lately, God has been successful in interrupting my plans. Last Thursday, I set aside
40 minutes to read at a coffee shop. But God, in His goodness, decided I needed
to spend that time talking with a complete stranger who sat down at my table
when she saw I had a Bible. Even today, God decided that my one hour in between
meetings should be spent listening to a dear friend who needed to talk. God has a
bigger picture in which I am currently only seeing the inconvenient parts.

I even caught myself feeling a little envious of my friends that get to sleep in on
Sundays and go to their evening church service. Are they aware that when they go
see a late night movie on Saturday that I will be in bed several hours before they
even buy their tickets? We often view such joys as serving on Sunday mornings as
interruptions. We desire our own comfort and our children’s comfort in only going
to one service.

But as I look at these so-called “interruptions”, I see that God has purposed them
for one thing – His glory. He would rather interrupt my Sunday morning slumber,
knowing that children will get to hear the Gospel. Ultimately, He is not as concerned
with children’s naptimes or soccer games as much as He is with their spiritual
formation. What a great opportunity to teach children how to honor others above
ourselves by serving! I’m often convicted by Romans 12 in which Paul instructs us
on how to live as followers of Christ:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one
another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Are we intentionally loving and serving the people that God has entrusted to
our care? Parents, do you model for your children how to cling to what is good?
Leaders, are you constantly in prayer for your church body? Church, do you seek
opportunities to contribute to the needs of others, within the church walls and out? I
pray we can be a people that seeks to display the genuine love of Christ to a hurt and
dying world.

Something Borrowed, Something Blue and the Gospel, Too

they walked off into the sunset and lived happily ever after
Creative Commons License photo credit: plousia


My husband (then boyfriend) had a “two year rule”. Said rule states that you can fool someone for a year, but you’re sure to disclose the “real” you by year two. At this point you should be able to tell if your sweetie reveals any red flags and is suitable to marry. As a twenty-two year old romantic, this seemed like torture to me. We decided that we wanted to marry about 5 months after meeting, thus I had 19 months to learn about patience.

Before the ring is on your finger you put your best face forward. As women, we have that extra time to dress up. Men put forth a little more effort and clean out the car before a date. When you see each other, the responsibilities of everyday life melt away. Needless to say, our expectations for marriage tend to be a tad skewed.

This is where solid, biblical premarital counseling comes in. Are we merely planning a wedding or preparing for marriage? What does the Bible say about marriage? Talking about our roles and expectations for each other are important, but what does God expect from each of us? Yes, communication, conflict resolution, in-laws and financial preparedness are important topics to cover.

And we do. But the crux of the issue we deal with in premarital counseling is this: We are fallen people, married to fallen people. There will be joy and happiness. There will be times when we feel our spouses are easy to love. But, what happens when our loved ones disappoint us? How do we respond when our spouse forgets to put gas in the car when the tank’s been dry as a bone for three days (I’m SO guilty)? Or, when your spouse tells you they’re running late, AGAIN.

What does it look like to live out Ephesians 4:32 in everyday situations?

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.

God uses marriage to help refine us. Contrary to popular notion, marriage is not about being in love. We are confronted daily with our own sin in marriage. If we go into marriage with this in mind, it can make a huge difference in the way we respond to each other. Our marriage is a testimony to the world around
us. Make it a great one!

Premarital counseling shows couples how they can not only survive, but thrive in marriages that proclaim the gospel. We encourage, as well as, challenge all engaged couples to take part in this vital preparation. Fortify your union and then enjoy the cake. Just try to resist the temptation to smash it in your beloved’s face!

As you gave the ring to one another and have now received it a second time
from the hand of the pastor, so love comes from you, but marriage from love, from God. As high as God is above man, so high are the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of love. It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, Letters and Papers from Prison, 27-28

Expectation Corner

But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer. – Psa. 38:15

I read a great short story the other day that really left me with a deeper understanding of what it means to watch and pray. The story is called Expectation Corner by Emily Steele Elliott written back in 1828. You can read the entire story online here: Expectation Corner

It’s a short story about a man named Adam, who lives in a little cottage on Redeemed Land. The reason why it was called Redeemed Land was because long ago there was a rebellion among the people which devastated the land and placed all of its citizens under bondage. But the land Owner sent his son to live among the cottage people. The Son rescued and bought back the people and leased their property back to them and even gave them special rights and privileges of love and favor while they lived in the land. If they had a request or a need all they had to do was refer to their book of the Covenant and write up their need on a slip of paper and send it to the Owner of the land. Each day the Land Owner would send out his messengers to his various storehouses where each request was filled with the request or with something better and then delivered on wagons to every home.

Unlike his neighbors who lived richly around him, Adam lived poor in the land. His windows were dulled over and darkness filled his little house. He often complained about his own lack of fresh water. His next door neighbor would often remind him that he needed only to check his pipes to make sure they were connecting to the right place and that they were not blocked then he could enjoy the fresh water from the living fountain just over the hills like he did. But Adam never got around to checking it and he never wiped the dust from his windows that would have flooded his little house with so much sunlight. Adam never took advantage of the rights and privileges that his citizenship in the Redeemed Land afforded him.

Adam was old and weak. He just didn’t consider himself to be the scholarly type like his neighbors and his sight wasn’t that good to look things up in the Covenant-book. One day his good natured neighbor Widow Full-joy talks him into sending his request into the rich Father, who lived in the Great Palace and reminded Adam of how difficult it is for the rich Father to watch his children go around poorly clad and complaining of scarcity when he had provision stored for them at his Great House according to the Covenant-book that laid on Adams table.

With Widow Full-joy’s help and encouragement, Adam drafts up a petition and sends it off to the Great House. Widow Full-joy reminds Adam that in accordance to the Covenant-book in sending in his petition, he must wait by continuing in prayer and watch for the delivery to be made.

The very next day a messenger from the Great House arrives at Adam’s house in answer to his petition. The messenger cleans Adam’s window and cleans a bunch of rubbish out of Adam’s pipes and begins telling him of the Lord’s loving care for his tenants and the great may storehouses that the Lord has to provide for all his tenants needs.

The messenger takes Adam to the center of the Redeemed Land to see these grand storehouses for himself so that he might understand the goodness of the Lord and his great provision for his tenant. It is here that Adam sees all the attempts that were made by the Lord, to deliver daily provision, answer petitions and even send him gifts of favor, but they were all returned because Adam in his great depression, and dark windows never watched and never answered the door to receive them.

The story continues and Adam soon comes to enjoy all the benefits of living in the Redeemed Land through learning how to watch and petition the Lord for all his daily needs. He no longer lives as a poor man in the Lord’s rich land.

It is a great story that reminded me of our great position living in the Redeemed land, and how I too often neglect to take advantage of the benefits our new land has to offer. Not making requests, or not being prepared to receive them when they do. I wonder how many petitions I have missed because I did not wait for my Lord to answer but rushed ahead with my own solution or didn’t believe he would take the time and answer them anyway. I wonder how often I too have eaten stale bread when fresh bread was waiting to be delivered to me. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis quote,

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Rebekyah Brewer

A Child’s Game & The Word


For as long as I can remember there was always an expectation (and usually requirement) that a Stone child would regularly work. When we were younger our “work” consisted of regular chores around the home and it was a rare occasion that we got a pass on our domestic duties. To this day my twin sister is somewhat bitter about having to pull weeds for an entire morning on her birthday.

She does not always remember that I was there too, pulling weeds on our birthday absolutely living out, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” Philippians 2:4.

At least that is how I remember the story. ;)

At the age of twelve we were encouraged to earn a steady wage in order to save up for a future payments on insurance for a car when we hit sixteen. If there was no cash in the bank for the gecko of Geico, then there was no driving to be had. To make money, most of the girls I knew would babysit and most of the guys I knew would mow lawns. I married the two worlds together by mowing on weekdays and babysitting on weekends.

Entertaining children before bedtime could sometimes be a challenging task because this was before every child had a computer, iPhone, Wii, or Xbox to occupy their minds. One game that never failed to occupy young minds was good ‘ol “hide and seek.” As I played this game over and over each weekend I stated to notice a trend with the children . . .

The average child liked to either hide or seek, not both.

As I reminisced over this fact the other day I thought about how much it relates to our pursuit of the knowledge of God. Just as the average child was somewhat one faceted in the game of “hide and seek”, we are often prone to be one-sided in our pursuit of a majestic God. We must be a people that seek the truth with all our hearts (Jeremiah 29:13) and that Truth must be memorized and written on our hearts (read Psalm 119).

For most, Bible memory is a daunting and difficult task. But it does not have to be!
There are many great resources available for you to start memorizing the truth of our glorious God, so allow me to point you to a great resource put together by Sally Michael.

http://www.hopeingod.org/resources/scripture-memory/fighter-verse-program

Lovin’ Check-Up

Wedding Rings
Creative Commons License photo credit: Keith Park

However let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Eph 6:33

There are not a lot of scriptures about marriage and your roles as husband and wife. We have to hold onto tightly to the verses that do mention these things. One of them is Ephesians 6:33. It is simple, yet cuts to the core of how God created us as man and woman. Women long to be pursued, romanced and loved deeply by their husbands. Husbands long to be respected and trusted as a man and leader of their family. Yet, it is easy to forget these simple truths in the craziness of life. We have jobs, we have babies to raise, bills to pay, people to see and time for our spouse often gets pushed down the list.

One simple thing we do in the Looney family is have biannual check-ups (or more if we need them) to help focus on loving and respecting and to see what is working and what is not. These have been wonderful at keeping our communication lines open and guiding us to fulfill our spousal jobs well. Keeping in mind, the purpose is a productive conversation, not one that leads to an argument.

Try the following to have your own check-up:

Set the time and place. Always go to a public environment such as a coffee shop or someplace you can sit for awhile. Don’t stay at home. It’s amazing how getting away can diffuse the tension of a difficult conversation.

Pray about your attitude and your words, and ask God to be glorified in your marriage.

Pray in the car on the way and ask the Lord to bless your time together. Once you’re there, talk about the great things that the Lord has done in your lives over the last 6 months. Give each other two compliments on what the other has done well in your marriage (be thinking of these before hand so they can be detailed). Then share one thing that you would like your spouse to work on in relation to loving and respecting. When you are sharing things that need to be worked on, holding hands can make it easier. Granted, this can be hard! And it’s hard to hear things that you need to improve on, but remember the goal is a marriage that gets better and better every year.

Happy Lovin
J

Breath of God

The Message
Creative Commons License photo credit: WTL photos

When my dad came out of anesthesia from a surgical procedure, he had the sensation of not being able to breathe. It took six nurses to hold him down to keep him from panicking and fighting.

The same scenario can be applied emotionally and spiritually after life trauma, and especially-trying times. At least, that’s how I’ve felt after walking through some very difficult days as of late. Emotionally, I felt like I was gasping and although you might not see it on the outside, on the inside I was near panic at times. Just when I felt like I could take a breath, something else would drop in my lap.

Finally, the fight gave way to weariness. But the Lord met me there, and I feel like I’m breathing again.

Breath One

A few weeks ago, I read a verse that has given me purpose for this season:

“The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue to know the word that sustains the weary” Isaiah 50:4a (NIV).

That word “weary” jumped off the page at me. Reading and believing the word “sustains,” I took my first deep breath.

Breath Two

“When you walk through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” Isaiah 43:2 (NIV).

I read this verse in connection to the Bible Study I am going through right now, and it encouraged me greatly beyond the obvious. Notice the movement verbs in the middle of each phrase – “walk through”, “pass through”, “walk through” – going from one place to another, from one river bank to the other side. This encourages me because it shows that the hard times are only part of the journey. The difficult season is not going to last forever. I will reach the other side.

My lungs inhaled with the sweet breath of truth for a second time.

Breathing

When studying my purpose verse (Isaiah 50:4a), I noticed that the verse reads “a word (singular) that sustains the weary” and not “the words (plural)”.

So what is the word that sustains the weary?

The Lord reminded me of the familiar story of Jesus walking on the water in Matthew 14. The disciples have just finished watching Jesus feed the 5000 and after a long day, they get on a boat. Jesus comes to them, walking on the water, and the disciples were terrified, convinced they were seeing a ghost.

Jesus tells them, “Don’t be afraid, it is I.”

Peter says, “Lord if it’s really you, tell me to come out with you on the water.”

Jesus replies with one word: “COME”.

One word to sustain the weary. One word to change our surroundings. One word holding out its hand to us, offering us breath.

Why one word? Because when you are wounded and weary, you can’t handle more.

Why that word? Because Jesus is the rest-giver. “Come to ME all you who are weary and burdened,” He says, “and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

As my head and heart met in the same place of understanding and began to involuntarily run with abandon towards the Father, I realized for the first time in months…

I was breathing.

“Make me the breath of God, and I’ll show them the one that means the most to me. They’ll see the face of love, be touched by the very one that died upon the tree.” –Shane Barnard

Carrie Wiley

God’s Great Promises

Under the Milky Way
Creative Commons License photo credit: jurvetson

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature,- 2 Peter 1:3-5

Something keeps telling me that God’s promises are meant to be more than a distant vision, more than a beautiful work of the heavens that we can only gaze on from a distance and admire. Something tells me his promises are more than ideology but are intended to be realized.

Some of God’s promises seem this way to me at times. They are quite wonderful and extraordinary. They stand out like a bright shining star placed high in the night sky above me and captivate my attention. My eyes keep coming back to them, to enjoy them, study them and take them in; but as beautiful and as real as they are, that is as far as my possession seems to come. I have yet to pull them down from the heavens and make them mine. They are too far away, too good to be true, outside my realm, outside my reality, but always within my vision high above my head calling me to look up.

This is the way this verse initially struck me. It appeared to be a truth that seemed too high and too extraordinary for me to grasp, I could only gaze and admire it from a distance, but never quite possess it.

For all things are you …all are yours and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. – 1 Cor. 3:21-23

For his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence… 2 Peter 1 :3

Can you grasp the truth that all things are yours already? All we need to have, we have already available to us through Christ. “In every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge…so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end”, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” (1 Cor. 1:7; Luke 15:31)

God’s promises are not just beautiful truths to be wished upon, dream about and admired from a distance. They are extraordinary, but then again so is He so what else are we to expect from Him? As an extraordinary God, he offers us extraordinary gifts that we can never hope to obtain by our own efforts. These gifts are as far outside the reach of this world as He is. But to us, to those who belong to Him, they are within our reach as He is within our reach. His promises to us are as close to us as He is, for they are to be found in Him who dwells within us.

So how does one lasso the heavens and draw them near to grab hold of? It sounds like stuff fairy tales are made of doesn’t it? But we don’t have to. For as Romans says:

But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); – Romans 10:6-8

Jesus is the fulfillment of every promise given to us by God and he is already near us, in our mouths and in our hearts. When I look up and see a promise that seems too great, too far away for me to grasp and realize in my life, I only have to look to Jesus and remember how God made his extraordinary promise flesh that he might dwell among us within our reach so that his promises are fulfilled in our lives. God’s great promises have been grounded, there is no need for me to wish or dream for their fulfillment to take place in my life any longer. In Christ, they are fulfilled. This is the extraordinary and great promise that I am able to cling to and possess as my own.

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      Grace: Lessons from an Ethiopian Beggar

      Worship at St. George’s Cathedral couldn’t have been any more different than a usual Sunday at Providence.  Other than Jesus, it seemed everything was different at this Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Addis Ababa.

      First, there was the leper who was begging outside the gate. I flashed in my mind to the story in Acts 3 of Peter and John healing the beggar outside the temple gates. Unlike the apostles, I didn’t tell him to stand up and walk. Instead, I began to think of how ancient this place was.

      We walked into the courtyard and began to worship. Now, realize the whole service was liturgy in Amharic, so we couldn’t understand a word they were saying. But it was beautiful, I thought on how long these people must have been worshiping like this, back to when the Gospel first came to the Ethiopian people in Acts 8.

      As we stood, we all noticed a blind woman who was making her way around the courtyard. She would take a shuffle forward, poke around with her stick, then reach down with her hands to make sure she wasn’t about to fall down a step.
      It was painful to watch — I can’t imagine how her back felt after a day, much less a lifetime of this.

      As she made her way around, worshipers would walk up to her and give her some change. To give you an idea of her usual donation, the most valuable Ethiopian coin is worth 1/2 half a birr — about a US nickel. One member of our team stepped forward to meet her needs as well. He quietly slipped her a 100 birr bill — the equivalent $10 USD.

      As she pulled out her money purse from around her neck, a nearby woman stepped up and began to talk to her. It wasn’t until someone explained it that I understood what was happening.

      Being blind, she didn’t know how much she had been given. She couldn’t read the bill. The blind woman assumed it was only 1 birr, which was probably as big a gift as she ever got. It wasn’t until the stranger intervened that she realized the gift was 100 times what she thought.

      This woman fell down on her face and worshiped Jesus, for the great and unmerited gift she had been given. As I watched her weary bones rest and give heartfelt thanks to the King, I wondered how much I needed to do the same thing. How often God gives me a gift, and I treat it as routine and mundane, just enough to get me by.

      I am increasingly convinced that this is what we do with God’s grace.  With think that God’s grace is enough to save us, and tuck it way and forget about it.

      Yet God’s grace is some much richer than we ever imagine.  It’s not just enough to save us, but it’s enough to sustain us through the everyday.

      When Paul was struggling through the thorn in his flesh, Jesus said it this way:

      My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. -2 Cor 12:9

      Jesus is the ultimate gift of grace.  The question I face everyday is, Do I think Jesus is sufficient? Is Jesus enough?

      I pray I will grow in grace enough to realize He is enough — everyday in every way — He’s enough for what I need.

      Editor’s Note: Jamie Preached a sermon expounding more on this topic you can listen to here.

      88 Ounces and Substitutes

      die
      Creative Commons License photo credit: the|G|™


      It was not too long ago that I saw a construction site just around the corner from our office proclaiming it was the future home of a 7-Eleven. Oh, thank heaven indeed.

      You see, I have what some people would call an addiction to the blessed nectar of Diet Coke, so a 7-Eleven sitting around the corner with its veritable buffet of Big Gulps suits me just fine. Now it was not until just a couple years ago that I actually drank anything with carbonation or indulged in the supposed cancer-causing artificial sugar-y goodness. Those days seem to be long gone as it is normative to have a can or two as I work away in the office. I guess 12 ounces or so four times a week is not that bad, bet every so often having that 7-Eleven around the corner gets out of hand.

      Out of hand because three out of the five Providence staffers are Diet Coke aficionados which means it is not rare to get a phone call from a staff member saying, “Want anything from 7 Eleven?” My normal response is, “I will take the usual.” And here is where the addiction comes in, “the usual” is a 44 ounce Super Big Gulp. Thus, on a day like this past Monday if “the usual” shows up on my desk twice in one day, I drink no less than 88 ounces of the righteous and sweet liquid.

      My purpose for drinking such large amounts of the fake version of The Real Thing actually has nothing to do with thirst, rather it has everything to do with hunger. It is on pretty rare occasions that I eat lunch while at the office, so Diet Coke serves to trick my stomach into thinking it is full, maybe it is because of the airy qualities of carbonation or just the sweet taste – who knows. Call it suppressing the appetite, satiating hunger, or just a demented diet (one that I would never recommend); the fact is that I am substituting drink for food. In place of more, I am taking less.

      As the Spirit was doing the normal work of conviction within my heart, I came to realize how often the Christian substitutes less for more. For example, how much more time do we spend reading books about the Bible than reading the Word itself? Is our mind more committed to the memory of sports statistics than Scripture verses? Are the songs we sing ones that are formed by the Word of God or are we singing cheap contemporary phrases about God formed by pop culture?

      I guess the real question is: Is the Word alone sufficient for our life or do we need a substitute?

      So here’s to the sufficiency of Scripture, may we taste and see that the Lord is good, and may we know that substitutes cannot satisfy!

      . . . I think I am going to bring my lunch tomorrow.

      Presuming Patience


      I have always wondered what it would like to be a patient person.   An average day in the life of Jordan Stone is filled with instances and actions that scream impatience.

      I am in a hurry whenever I drive somewhere, regardless of whether or not I am in the proverbial “pinch.”  And if you know me well, for me to be late means that the previous night brought the rarely seen blue moon.  I talk write fast, read fast, and talk even faster.  Every time my wife and I go out on a date she has to remind me to eat slowly – you have no idea how hard that is for me – so we can enjoy our meal together.

      The constant impatience and hurry is a problem not just practically, but spiritually. Paul exhorted his young apprentice Timothy to

      Preach the word; be read in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching – 2 Timothy 4:2

      I love to meditate on this verse, but up until a few weeks ago I rarely thought much about the command to preach and exhort with patience.

      Too often I am anxious (read impatient) for people to grow in maturity of the grace and knowledge of our Lord, forgetting how long it took me to grow in grace and knowledge.  And I am still not there.  So what can we do to grow in the fruits of patience?

      Pray and remember the patience of God in His dealings with us.  Let us not be like those who presume upon the patience of God (Romans 2:4), rather let us stand back in amazement that God is continually patient with sinners like us.