It's the Little Things in Life

My  parents have instilled in me a deep love for the little things in life. You know, those ordinary, seemingly unspectacular moments that hold meaning.

Our neighbor completing the siding on his garage, after leaving a square uncovered for weeks.

The garbage man taking all of our garbage, even though we put out extra.

Using leftover food.

Killer deals in supermarket flyers.

A new podcast coming out.

Getting a stain out of shorts.

Gas going down two cents the day we planned to fill up.

A perfect breeze on a summer day.

Our cats being really cute.

Watching The Price is Right as a family.

Finishing a book.

Everybody says, "It's the little things in life." And it really, really is. Those are the things that create your everyday delights. Sure, the big things hold their magic too -- a major vacation, getting married, having a child, landing a dream job. But if you neglect the wonder in the little things, you miss out on 99% of God's grace in your life.

Take a moment today and appreciate something little, whatever it is. A green light. A great cup of coffee. A stunning sunset. On-sale ice cream. A fan positioned just right. Your favorite t-shirt.

Just appreciate it as a little manifestation of God's glorious, happy grace. Amazing.

Are You Happy Today?

It's easy for me to say that I'm happy in God when I'm actually just happy in circumstances.

It's the most elementary of Christianese, and it sounds enormously spiritual. "I find my happiness in God." So we say it or think it when we actually don't believe it.

When you woke up this morning, were you happy? Maybe you were for a moment and then reality came tumbling in. Or maybe you were and still are. Or maybe you just weren't.

In each of those scenarios, ask yourself: why do I think and feel this way? Is it because I am fixing my identity on God or my own immediate comfort? Is it because I'm gazing on God's beauty or social media? Is it because I'm pouring myself out for the kingdom of God or fighting for personal glory and achievement? Is it because I'm making life about God or me?

And right there, that's my problem. I make life about me. And so my happiness waxes and wanes based on the fickleness of my heart. Life is great, so I'm happy. Then life is not so great, and I'm filled with despair. (And I'm not talking about the grief and sorrow that are natural parts of the Christian life.)

True and authentic happiness in God starts with God, not with us. See, we're subjective. We're moody and motivated by feelings and flimsiness. If we want lasting and soul-deep satisfaction, we need an objective source of happiness outside of ourselves. Once we remove our feelings from the picture, we're free to fix our hope on a rock.

God never changes. He is eternally happy and unfailingly joy-giving. If we base our happiness on Him, nothing can shake it.

When I woke up this morning, the sky was very blue, and I thought, "It's going to be a good day today." And then I thought about my to-do list and ordinary troubles, and my mood dampened. So I asked myself: "Why do you feel and think this way?" Which led to this piece.

I want you to do the same. Why are you happy or unhappy today? And what are you going to do about it?

If I Just Had This, I Would Be Happy

There is always something threatening to steal our joy, isn't there?

Everybody could fill in the blank, "If I just had _____, I would be happy."

When we were little kids, it was a toy. Now it's success or affirmation or a spouse or child or mortgage or certain job.

Christians have to fight against this debilitating discontentment every day. We have a source of ultimate joy and satisfaction that is untouchable by the world or circumstances. Christ is our happiness.

But we still wrestle with living like we believe that.

And so we have to choose to seize joy. It's not just a bubble of emotion that wells up in you unconsciously, as if some people have it and some don't. It's a fight and a seizing.

A hashtag started trending on Twitter this morning. It was: #IWillSmileTodayBecause. Some days, the Twitterverse solemnly acknowledged, you have to make the commitment to smile.

But for Christians, choosing happiness doesn't mean we simply meditate on kittens and pizza and external things that make us happy until we feel it. It means we choose to look to Jesus and find a settled, unstoppable joy in Him.

He saved you. He loves you. He cares for you. He is with you today, every step of the way. He has forgiven you. He is preparing a place for you, a glorious future where you will never have to choose joy because you'll always have it. He is your hope.

That's why I will smile today.

Happy Lamentations

It sounds like a paradox, doesn't it? Happy lamentations.

Aren't lamentations (by definition) expressions of sorrow? Well, yeah. Yeah, they are.

But if there's one thing I've learned about the Christian life from the Bible, things are not always what they seem.

Have you read the book of Lamentations in the Bible lately? It's a pretty depressing book. There are a lot of, ahem, expressions of sorrow - i.e., lamentations.

But chapter 3 sits smack dab in the middle with a glowing picture of happiness and hope in the midst of a book mourning God's judgment. The author recognizes that God is sovereign over suffering and is a just Judge but He is also the comforter and a loving Father to His children.

I find this passage overwhelming with comfort. Take it in today.

Even in the midst of suffering, we can have happiness and hope in a God who loves.

He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD.” 

Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. 

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” 

The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. 

It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. 

- Lamentations 3:16-27 ESV

Adventure Is Out There

Perhaps today feels like a boring day, with an agenda chock-full of the mundane. Perhaps today feels like every other day. Perhaps it feels sad and tired and ordinary.

If you want to suck any delight out of this day, you need to abandon those feelings. 

This is the day that the Lord has made! Rejoice. Be glad in it. As every Up fan knows, "adventure is out there."

Will you go find it?

Will you look for little acts of kindness? Will you find ways to serve? Will you be an encouragement? Will you meet new people? Will you share the good news of Jesus?

Will you try a new ice cream? Will you walk in the rain? Will you hear God speak to you through His very word?

Will you change diapers? Will you read stories to the little people who are our future? Will you dress up to go to work in a tall building? Will you drive down a highway in a massive chunk of metal?

Will you meet with God's people? Will you trust in God while you're stuck in bed? Will you rest? Will you read a book? Will you memorize God's word?

Adventure, joy, and simple happiness are out there. Only God's people have the freedom to attain it - through everything they do.

Will you go get it?

What Really Makes Us Happy

When I say happy place, a joy-inducing image will indubitably come to your mind.

There might be a cottage or a kitchen or your parent's house or a tire swing or a reading corner or a beach. Wherever it is, it stirs you to contentment and peace.

But what if that place was stripped away? What if your parents sold their house? What if the tire swing was cut down or the kitchen remodeled?

Happy places force us to ask ourselves: What really makes us happy?

And when you get down to it, it's not really any place that makes us happy.

It's the security of a place, the protection it seems to provide. It's the joy of it. It's the memories of happiness - I have the history of warm and fuzzies. It's the fun of it. It's the people there.

So many pieces conglomerate to create your happy place.

Ultimately, what makes us happy are the intangibles in life. Joy, safety, peace, love - and the people that manifest them.

But without the Creator of those good intangibles, we could never be truly happy. It is because our happiness is founded, rooted, grounded in God that we can ever taste happiness on this earth.

When you consider what makes you happy, the material often comes to mind - ice cream, movies, good books, pillows. But when you dig a little deeper, it is really the feelings, the emotions, the tastes these things evoke - the intangibles.

What really makes us happy? The things in life you can't measure. The things you can't necessarily hold in your hand or stuff in your pocket. These are the very things that shape our reality.

And these are the things endowed by the Giver of good gifts.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and Tim Samoff.

You Will Be Known By Your Squiggly Lines

Our fingers are really rather fascinating.

Look at the tips and marvel. There are little mazes inscribed on them, squiggly lines that spin in circles.

Our identity is in those squiggly lines. I still remember my elementary school trip to the police station and pressing my thumb onto a wet pad of navy ink. And then I got to stamp it onto a piece of paper.

"There is no finger print like that," they told me.

I am unique. The squiggly lines make me like no other. 

The infinite creativity of an omniscient God strikes me anew. Our finger tips bear an indelible mark of our individuality. I am different than you, and my fingers - my fingers - display that.

God's creativity is unspeakably imaginative. Have you ever looked in a mirror at your own eyes? How can my eyes look so similar to yours, yet our faces look totally different? How can two browns be so alien? How can our eyes be unique?

God formed us for His glory, to display His greatness. He knit us together in our mothers' wombs. He made us as individuals.

That's why I can't change my gender.

That's why I can't change my race.

Thank God for the way that He made you - totally unique, yet fashioned in a way that reflects His creative beauty. And even when the world mocks, laughs, and rails against you, celebrate it.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and Dale Martin.

Pursue Fruit, Not Peaches

Once a woman told John Piper, "I don’t think you should say, ‘Pursue joy with all your might.’ I think you should say, ‘Pursue obedience with all your might.’"

Piper responded, "But that’s like saying, ‘Don’t pursue peaches with all your might, pursue fruit.’"

I've been thinking about this as I read the Psalms. Joy and obedience are all tangled up together.

God gives us commands so that we can delight in Him.

"Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!" (Ps. 32:11)

"Let those who delight in my righteousness shout for joy and be glad and say evermore, 'Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant!'" (Ps. 35:27)

"Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth" (Ps. 67:4).

God expects both obedience and joy. But as Piper suggests, aren't they really intertwined? For the Christian, we obey God with joy and delight in God by obedience.

And that's pretty encouraging.

things I want

Once upon a time, yonder back in the ages, in 2010, a social media platform was created. It was called Pinterest. It was all about pictures. You created a board and then you searched and pinned pictures onto this board.

I occasionally poke my virtual head onto this platform and get to wear a variety of hats. I play novice wedding planner, interior decorator, chef, travel agent, fitness guru, and shopper. Picture boards have themes and there is pretty much a board for everything. It's fun to set a time limit and sift through interesting boards.

Once a week or so, Pinterest sends me an email. "Hi Jaquelle," they tell me. "Here are new boards to follow." This week took me to a board with a relatively simple title: things I want.

There were some pretty neat items - things ranging from pretzel-shaped earrings to funky blenders to popsicle-shaped phone cases to enamelware bowls to golden sneakers. But as I scrolled through the many pins, I began to think: is this godly?

To make a list of things that one wants - unrealistic, outrageous, expensive non-necessities - does that foster gratitude?

For me, it would not. I know my heart's proclivity to greed. I know how I can become obsessed with all the things I don't have instead of reflecting on all the things I do. Sure, the board was made in good fun, and it was a silly escape to scan through it.

But then it hit me: I do this too.

Not on Pinterest, but in my heart. I keep an internal list of things I want. And it distracts me from gratitude. Not all the things on my list are material but there are always things I want.

I want a great GPA.

I want to be done school.

I want more money.

I want to go on vacation.

I want satisfaction in all of these things. Satisfaction apart from God. I look to these things to make me happy, because I think that they will. things I want. They can become idols.

So the remedy to my greed, to my idolatry, to my ingratitude is to fix my eyes on God. Take all of my heart's wanting and let that swelling desire in my heart be swallowed up in gratitude to my Maker. Worship to my Life-Giver. Hope in my Saviour. Praise to my Lord. Humility to my King. Joy in my Redeemer.

And service to my God.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and John Bullas.

Home At Last

I've been listening a lot to Josh Garrels' new album, Home. Commenting on the album itself and his journey writing it, he said,

While writing these songs I was searching for joy, and this pursuit instinctively brought my attention back to the people and places closest to me. Because of this, these songs have less of an outward, expansive scope, and rather turn the attention inward, to the intimacy of family, forgiveness, and homecoming.

But what Garrels realized is that every fleeting feeling of home on this earth is only a taste of the true heavenly homecoming that we have to look forward to. And that's why this song, "Home At Last" gives me so much joy.

Musically, it's a light, happy song, but it evokes in us such a longing for our true home.


Who is there at the end of lonesome roads?
All of us hope there’s a home

A place to rest where wounds get dressed, the table’s full
The sound of laughter in the halls

Light the fire, gather ‘round
Join together, sing it loud
Raise the glass and joyful be
Home at last, one family

We’re all orphans looking for an open door
Hard times come no more

Come on up to the house of the Lord
Father adopts us all

Five Truths to Give You Joy Today

Some days it's harder to have joy than other days. When you wake up and the trying and the tedious loom before you, it's easy to grow gloomy.

But joy is a command (Phil. 4:4), and that means it's worth fighting for. When you don't feel joy, preach the gospel to yourself. Immerse yourself in truth.

This is a post I wrote for me. Soul, here are five truths to give you joy today:

1. You are not in control, but God is. Our most perfect plans are likely to go awry. Unexpected disappointments will come up today. It is a truth I need hammered desperately into my thick, thick skull: I am not in control. 

But God is. And that's where the joy comes from. He is sovereign. He knows every itty-bitty detail of your day. He is at the beginning and the end. And He holds the whole world in His hands.

2. You will mess up, but God is faithful. We will sin a lot today. When we're already lacking joy, the temptations to other sin become fiercer. Anger, frustration, depression, lashing out, bitter words, gossip, self-pity, love-lessness, pride - the list tracks on and on.

But God is faithful. He will not sin, He will not go back on His promises. He is faithful. You will sin, but God is perfect. That is who I want to put my trust in.

3. You will doubt, but God is with you. You will want to believe that you're alone. You'll want to convince yourself that you're trekking through the mires of the miserable on a solo quest. Lacking joy will lead you into a spiral of self-pity.

But God is with you. In the doctor's office and at the break room, in class and your cubicle, at the breakfast table and the red light - He is there. Why do we doubt?

4. You will want to ignore it, but God is speaking to you. My dad has said before that if people were told that God was on the telephone with a special message for them, they would jump at the chance to talk to Him.

But God does speak to us - through His written Word. "But I want to hear the actual voice of God," some might say. My dad would respond: "Then read the Bible out loud." You will be tempted to ignore the Word today; don't. Our heart's deepest encouragement will come from those sacred words.

5. You will feel this will never end, but God is bringing a better day. Sadness, joylessness, loneliness - all of it feels like it will last forever. It clings to us like a sickening weight.

But God is bringing a better day. One day, you will be thrust into eternal joy where you will never, ever, ever have a bad day. Look for that day with monumental anticipation! Read Revelation 21 and 22. Listen to great hymns of the faith that look toward that day.

And trust that God will bring you through this day. Preach the gospel to yourself, and fight for joy.

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled: A Review

In 1951, a London pastor preached eight sermons on John 14:1-12 to his congregation. They had just endured two world wars and the threat of the Cold War loomed ahead. They were struggling with fear, discouragement, depression, unbelief, worry, and cultural confusion. This sermon series was counter-actively infused with hope, comfort, compassion, and strength. The pastor was Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and this sermon series has now been collected in a short, joyously encouraging book called Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled.

At eight chapters long, this book reflects the eight sermons that Lloyd-Jones preached. He patiently plods through the first twelve verses of John 14. The context of the passage is that Jesus is telling His disciples about His imminent death and they don't understand. They are confused and hurt by this, and Jesus addresses the tumult in their own hearts with compassion and encouragement. Lloyd-Jones breaks each sermon (and the editors, each chapter) into just a couple of verses.

This book has buckets of strengths, in my opinion. First off, it's richly encouraging. I read a lot of books, but this short work was like a breath of fresh air, a pure delight to read. While present day political circumstances are quite different from 1951, the core sins and discouragements that Martyn Lloyd-Jones addresses are starkly relevant. I was deeply encouraged by these sermons.

Secondly, it's immensely readable. If I wasn't well aware of the fact, I'd be surprised to find out these words were first spoken in the early fifties. Sure, in the grand scheme of things sixty years isn't that long, but it's long enough. Yet Lloyd-Jones speaks in a timeless manner, offering ageless encouragement. His style is conversational, and I could almost hear his voice (including the crisp British accent) as I read. All in all, it was very accessible.

Third, it's both theological and practical. Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled would be an excellent book for a new Christian, or even as a discussion springboard for an unbelieving friend. While this book is at its root simple exposition of Scripture lacking any sort of flashy or funny illustrations, it's engaging and extensively practical. It's rich with doctrine yet offers easy, practical encouragement.

Last, it's short. While this may not seem like much of a strength, its brevity would appeal to many. It is literally just like a breath of fresh air. It whooshes in, clearing cobwebs of doubt and fear and confusion and discouragement from one's mind, bringing sweet, fresh encouragement and joy instead.

This is a book to invest in for sure. If you are going through a particularly low point in your life or simply find yourself troubled by the world we live in, Martyn Lloyd-Jones has encouragement for you: Believe in Jesus. He has the answer to your questions, and He offers hope for your doubt.

“[Jesus said,] 'Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also'" (John 14:1-3).

*I received this book through Crossway's Beyond the Page review system. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

Image Credit: Amazon

Monday's Divine Armament

In his sermon yesterday, my dad shared this powerful and encouraging quote from R. Kent Hughes. It is good news for a Monday morning.

There is safety for all believers in the joy of the Lord. Matthew Henry, the Puritan expositor, wrote, “The joy of the Lord will arm us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies and put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.” The joy of the Lord is a divine armament. Those living in his joy are resistant to attacks that take others down. Resiliency marks their steps. The taste of joy renders the tempter’s offerings bland by comparison. So we see why the apostle is happy to continually urge his followers to rejoice in the Lord — because rejoicing will serve as a safeguard through all of life. 

Quoted from Philippians: The Fellowship of the Gospel (Crossway Books: Wheaton, 2007.)

Reflections on a Year Gone By: 2014

Happy New Year. At twelve o'clock tomorrow morning, we'll ring in 2015. Where did the last year go? It was like blinking - first we were blow-horning goodbye to 2013 and wondering what 2014 would hold and now we're on the cusp of 2015 with a handful of memories leftover from the last year. And what a year it was. We saw so much ...

We saw the Seahawks wipe out the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. We saw Sochi host the Winter Olympics. We saw the multiple-million-times retweeted Oscar selfie. We saw a plea to #BringBackOurGirls. We saw disaster and death and prejudice in Ferguson. We saw the fear of Ebola. We saw celebrities dump ice buckets on themselves. We saw Derek Jeter retire. We saw the deaths of Robin Williams and Maya Angelou. We saw Malala Yousafzai co-win the Nobel Peace Price. We saw threats from North Korea over one raunchy movie. We saw madness and mayhem and kidnappings and murders and missing planes and famine and tragedy. We also saw beauty and life and forgiveness and victory and grace. It was a year of sorrow and joy. You have your own memories of this year. Perhaps for you it was marked with pain - or maybe pleasure. The one constant this year: God was faithful.

For me it was a year of blessing and growth. I got my full driver's license. I became a college junior. I started working at Reitmans. I went on a road trip. I read Les Miserables (and a whole lot of other good books). My family got two kittens. I started writing over at TheRebelution. And a host of other things - some nice, some not so nice. But I pray that, as we look back on this year, reliving memories, laughing over the joys, and still weeping over the sorrows, we ask ourselves some important questions.

How did I glorify God this year?

What were the sins I struggled with most?

Was I faithful to the gospel?

Did I become more holy?

Did my actions reflect my commitment to the King?

Did I choose joy?

How many people did I share the gospel with?

Did I pray often?

Was I relying on the Word of God?

As we enter upon this new year, the first in our years of eternity ahead, join with me in focusing our minds and hearts on the one truth that affects everything. Let us strive to know God more. Let us seek to sin less. Let us long to love better. Let us dedicate "another year for Thee," as Francis Havergal penned in "Another Year is Dawning":

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.
Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.
Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training for holier work above.
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.

It's Okay to Be Sad at Christmas

The Christmas season naturally buoys many people's moods. The lights, the tinsel, trees, turkeys, canned carols - all of it contributes to a positive boost in many's mental state. As Jim Carrey's Grinch facetiously quips, "Even if we're horribly mangled, there'll be no sad faces at Christmas." After all, it is the most wonderful, magical, twinkly, sparkly, holly, jolly time of the year!

But not everybody is happy at Christmas. And that's okay. Sometimes grief lingers at Christmas. Sometimes Christmas reminds us of loss. Sometimes Christmas reminds us of empty chairs. Sometimes Christmas reminds us of the things we can't do any more. Sometimes Christmas reminds us of the physical disabilities that restrain us. Sometimes Christmas hurts. Sometimes Christmas makes us sad.

We need to remember the hurting this Christmas, those suffering loss, those who are discouraged and depressed, those who are ill. Christmas is not a naturally cheery season for them. And then we need to encourage them in joy. That doesn't mean we play "Jingle Bells" until their ears bleed or tell them Santa jokes until they proffer a conciliatory chuckle. We don't necessarily try to cheer them up; we encourage them to seek their joy in the Lord. We model that and we love them and we point them to Jesus.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

Only in Christ do we see joy. Only because of Christmas can we say, "Joy to the world."

Image Credit:

The Intense Comfort of God's Non-Death

We will die. It is a plain fact, inevitable and undeniable. Everyone will die. And in comparison to the vast eternity that stretches before us, we will die soon. Our life is but a mist, a smoke, a breath, a blade of grass - here for a moment and then gone.

That's why I find the same deep comfort in God's non-death that the psalmist did.

"My days are like an evening shadow; I wither away like grass," he writes in Psalm 102. "But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations. ... They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away."

This psalmist has no name, he is simply called "one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord." Death is troubling. It is painful, heart-breakingly so. That's why there is intense comfort in God's eternality, the fact that He has no beginning and no end, no birth and no death.

The Bible calls death a curse. Even though God redeems our suffering and uses it for His purposes, death is still a result of the Fall, of the curse that came with sin. That's why God's non-death is such good news.

When I was little, I hated to be the only one awake at night. I felt alone if everyone else was asleep - especially Dad since he was always up the latest. So a way that I comforted myself was with the thought that God never went to sleep. That feeling of strength and protection that I had when Daddy was awake I focused on God. God was always awake, He was always protecting me, and I felt safe and comforted.

In a way, that is how God's non-death ministers to us. When those we love pass away and we begin to feel alone, we have a Rock who never dies. Death is a bitter and lonely companion, but what a friend we have in Jesus. Even in our darkest times, we have a Father who never falls asleep. This is the intense comfort of our God's non-death.

What I Learned from Failure

You could call me a successful person. I'm a hard worker, I get good grades, and I don't fail tests. Actually, I don't really fail much.

So while failing your first driving test may not seem like a big deal to you, to me it was crushing. It was a week before my birthday, a month ago. Though I was nervous, I was desperately confident. When I backed into that spot at the DMV, clicked on the parking brake, and turned to my instructor with bright eyes and an expectant smile, I was ready for success. I was ready to hear, "You passed."

I didn't hear that. Instead I heard, "I can't pass you today." Failure. Instant and bitter and cold and unexpected. My stomach dropped and with a slightly trembling lower lip, I stepped back inside and told Mom. She could read it in my eyes before I said anything. I failed.

Since that test, I've learned a lot about failure. Both my parents and I refused to let this failure be wasted. It was a learning opportunity. Now as I look back, there was a lot I learned from failure. And here are a few things:

Failure is only failure if you don't learn from it. It sounds cliche and trite and perfect for a Pinterest inspirational quote board, but it's true. Everything God gives us is because He knows that it is best for us. Everything is for our good. And He expects us to give Him the glory and to become more sanctified through our experiences. Failure is a growing experience. Failure is a sanctifying experience. It should make us better Christians.

Failure exposes pride. Jon Bloom said that pride is the pathological core of all of our sin, and nothing reveals the crippling pride in my heart like failure. Why was I so disappointed that I failed my road test? It's just a road test. The answer is wrapped up within my own pride. I wanted to pass for my own glory and good. Coming away from that failure, I felt my sin exposed nakedly before me. I am proud. This truth was stapled to my failure. If I had passed, I would never have realized the depths of my sin. Failure, meanwhile, was used by the Spirit to expose my sin blackly before me and convict me and lead me to repentance.

Failure makes me a more realistic person. Being someone who's rather alien to the concept of failure, the "real world" is going to seem pretty bleak if I don't at least have some experience with failure. Success will not be guaranteed solely by hard work. More failure is going to come - worse failure than road tests. And if I don't know how to deal with it, it will destroy me.

Failure makes me work harder. My road test instructor gave me a checklist of reasons why I failed. I memorized that list and I learned from it. I worked harder. I pushed for success. Just because I know failure might come, it doesn't mean that I ever stop doing my best and trying my hardest. And failure just means I have to work harder than before.

Failure is not the end of the world as I know it. So I've been known to be a bit of a dramatic soul. I feel things very deeply and sometimes respond to disappointment irrationally. I felt devastated after my failure. It took some tough love from Mom to get me to look at things more objectively. Because no matter how I feel, failure is not the end of my world. Failure is only a negative experience if you let it be. If you let feelings dictate what you think, you'll find your failure wasted.

Failure makes success sweeter. And the happy ending to my failure story is that yesterday, success came. I passed my road test and my new license sleeps happily in my wallet. There is no way that I could have possibly felt this good about passing if I had not failed my first test. Failure makes victory so much richer and more meaningful. I can look back on my first failure and smile. Sure, it still stings, but its sting just reminds me that I have to learn from it and refuse to waste it.

Nobody wants failure. I don't. But regardless of what we'd like, it's going to come and we're going to have to deal with it. We can waste it. We can sin because of it. We can let it destroy us. Or we can use it for our good and the glory of God. We can learn from it. We can become better people because of it. We can let it teach us.

Welcome to the Culture of Youth

I have grown up in a culture that trumpets a strange theme: young is the ideal and old is an insult. This theme is deeply entrenched among the mires of the images and beliefs the culture transmits to me. Media shouts it from the roof tops, both explicitly and obviously implicitly. The workplace tells me. The government tells me. Simply put - this culture places an overwhelming devaluation on age.

I don't think I could ever count all of the anti-aging products sold at a cosmetics shop, or how many Ellen DeGeneres Cover Girl commercials I see on TV. This culture is obsessed with youth. Why do you think calling someone "young" is at the height of compliments, while calling someone "old" is offensive and tactless? This culture, unlike most in the past, values young over old.

Now make no mistake - the physical effects of aging are no blessing. They're a curse, one which resulted from the Fall. But the underlying maturity and intense societal value of those older in age is a blessing that no young person can have. Yet culture mocks. With an obsession over looks, the remarkable role that the elderly play in our society is brushed aside. Young people are prettier than old people - so in the eyes of this culture, that somehow makes young people better.

I began this post by calling this cultural theme strange. And it is. This idea has only become mainstream in the last few hundred years, and compared to the Bible, it is shown to ring sharply false.

Over and over throughout the Scriptures, we see the model of the old training and teaching the young (e.g., see Paul's counsel in Titus 2:1-10 and Solomon's (among others) wisdom in Proverbs and Song of Solomon). The older generations are given the greater tasks and responsibilities, and the young are meant to watch them, learn from them, and grow because of them. The older are the wiser and the more godly; the younger the more foolish and spiritually immature. That is the way the world works. Yet in God's economy that doesn't make the old necessarily better as people than the young. We are all of equal value and inherent dignity in God's sight.

That is how God designed it - older should be greater in wisdom and spiritual maturity and the younger should respect and grow from them.

"Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life." (Proverbs 16:31)

That doesn't mean that there aren't some young people who are wise and mature beyond their years or older people who lack that maturity. But it does mean that with more years comes more wisdom. And we should praise that! We should rejoice with age and celebrate the birthdays that mark more maturity.

But recently I've discovered that this peculiar cultural theme is not always just "out there" in the world; rather it has leaked into the church. May we strongly combat this! Age is not a curse. Scripture shows us that with it comes wisdom and abundant blessings.

This strange cultural theme has had a massive impact on how we (even as Christians) view age. Let's reject this false trap that youth is the ideal and growing older is a curse. May we shun the devaluation of age. May we embrace the ideas presented in Scripture that with age comes blessings and maturity, and may those of us who are still young seek out those older than us and learn from the wisdom that they have

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Learning Contentment in the Saviour's School

This poem by William Cowper both convicts and encourages me. May we look to Christ for contentment every day.

Fierce passions discompose the mind,
As tempests vex the sea,
But calm, content and peace we find,
When, Lord, we turn to Thee.

In vain by reason and by rule
We try to bend the will;
For none but in the Saviour's school
Can learn the heavenly skill.

Since at His feet my soul has sate,
His gracious words to hear,
Contented with my present state,
I cast on Him my care.

"Art thou a sinner, soul?" He said,
"Then how canst thou complain?
How light thy troubles here, if weigh'd
With everlasting pain!

"If thou of murmuring wouldst be cured,
Compare thy griefs with mine!
Think what my love for thee endured,
And thou wilt not repine.

"'Tis I appoint thy daily lot,
And I do all things well;
Thou soon shalt leave this wretched spot,
And rise with me to dwell.

"In life my grace shall strength supply,
Proportion'd to thy day;
At death thou still shalt find me nigh,
To wipe thy tears away."

Thus I, who once my wretched days
In vain repinings spent,
Taught in my Saviour's school of grace,
Have learnt to be content.

-- "Contentment" by William Cowper (1731-1800)

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Our Colour TV Affections

I've been reading Bryan Chapell's book on prayer, Praying Backwards, and in a recent chapter stumbled upon a powerful illustration. Chapell was explaining how when a person is first given the Holy Spirit and they become a Christian, their affections change. Thus, they no longer lust after the world but they long for their Saviour. But see how Chapell illustrates this:

It is as though, after years of possessing only a black-and-white TV, a generous relative provides us a new high-definition color console. Suddenly the entertainment that appealed to us for so long loses its allure. We desire that which fills our senses with greater sound and color - and seems more real. Of course, if we wander away from the HD-TV and pass by the room that holds the black-and-white, it may still draw us in and even mesmerize us for a time with its old images. But it no longer has the appeal for us and the power over us that it once did. Our desires have shifted because we have experienced something better.
The believer discovers that life with Christ is better than the empty and colorless pursuit of the world's pleasures. Walking with him, loving him, and loving all that he loves now fulfill us and give our world its color. Old pursuits can still beckon us when we wander from him, but they will never fulfill us as they once did. Our hearts have been forever changed. As a result, the things of the world do not have the power over us that they once had and our prayers reflect more and more the priorities of the One we treasure. We become less selfish, less concerned for personal gain, and more eager to be used for and fulfilled by God's purposes. Jesus' glory becomes the priority of our prayers because we love him above all and most desire that he be honored and pleased.

(Taken from Bryan Chapell's Praying Backwards, pgs. 76-77)

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