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Lamentations 3:26.

Wrote this ten years ago, and it seems I’m still learning the same lesson in a deeper shade ten years later.

Her Father: Child, child, slow down.

Her, flying about: I’m sorry, Father, I haven’t the time!

Her Father: Child, the tortured soul will find no rest by running to and fro as you do.  Be still, My child.  Be still, and fight your battles in prayer and in silence.

Her: But I have, I have!  I’ve prayed and prayed —

Her Father: — and have not quietly waited on Me.

Communion with God.

When Christians meet, they talk to each other about their Christian work and Christian interests, their Christian acquaintances, the state of the churches, and the problems of theology—but rarely of their daily experience of God.

Modern Christian books and magazines contain much about Christian doctrine, Christian standards, problems of Christian conduct, techniques of Christian service—but little about the inner realities of fellowship with God.

Our sermons contain much sound doctrine—but little relating to the converse between the soul and the Saviour.

We do not spend much time, alone or together, in dwelling on the wonder of the fact that God and sinners have communion at all; no, we just take that for granted, and give our minds to other matters.

Thus we make it plain that communion with God is a small thing to us.

(J.I. Packer via Justin Taylor)

Thank you, J.I. Packer.

Among the top five most influential books in my life is J.I. Packer’s Knowing God. I read it during college 15-ish years ago.  Among many other things, it gave me a deeper understanding of who God is, especially His sovereign care, and gospel light to the morbid introspection that would regularly spiral me into a dark depression.

When I heard he passed away today, I went downstairs to our little library and searched the shelves, feeling like I went 15 years back as I handled my worn, much-underlined copy of Knowing God. It was like greeting an old friend, and I found some gems that I underlined in years past:

“The width of our knowledge about him is no gauge of the depth of our knowledge of him.” (p. 39)

“His love for me is utterly realistic, based at every point in prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me…and quench his determination to bless me.” (p. 42)

“In God boundless wisdom and endless power are united, and this makes him utterly worthy of our fullest trust.” (p. 91)

“‘He knows the way he taketh,’ even if for the moment we do not.” (p. 98)

“God makes not only the wrath of man to turn to his praise but the misadventures of Christians too.” (p. 241)

“Think of what you know of God through the gospel, says Paul, and apply it. Think against your feelings; argue yourself out of the gloom they have spread; unmask the unbelief they have nourished; take yourself in hand, talk to yourself, make yourself look up from your problems to the God of the gospel; let evangelical thinking correct emotional thinking.” (p. 260)

“For God justified you with (so to speak) his eyes open. He knew the worst about you at the time when he accepted you for Jesus’ sake; and the verdict which he passed then was, and is, final.” (p. 273)

“Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you.” (p. 275)

I trust God held him fast as both physical blindness and faith finally became glorious sight in the face of his Savior.

On Black Lives Matter.

I’ve had many conversations since my last blog post here and have read many good articles and thoughts on this topic, so I thought a little follow-up was warranted.

Along with this “social injustice” topic, I’ve also been reading about biblical manhood and womanhood. And what I’ve concluded (at least in terms of my own convictions) is that “black lives matter,” while true as a statement, might be unhelpful as a banner statement by Christians in the same way that I think it is unhelpful for believers to use “feminism” as their banner. Because while feminism might have a stand-alone definition that says something true about the equal worth of women, it’s a word that has become too loaded with other values, like the abortion agenda, to be helpful in biblical discussions.

So, while it’s true that black lives do matter because they are made in the image of God and their lives are precious to Him, it is admittedly hard to use that phrase nowadays without the assumption that its users also hold to the values of Black Lives Matter, the political organization.

I’ve never used the hashtag or the phrase directly other than to address the conversations surrounding it (e.g., in the title of my last blog post), but I have used #blacklivesmattertoo on my Instagram as a clarifying phrase in response to #alllivesmatter. I don’t know if I would use it again in that way, mainly because I think there are other more helpful conversations to be had surrounding this topic, but I’m still learning.

I think the phrase might be helpful still as a starting point in conversation with unbelievers, that we both agree that black lives are precious, but it isn’t a helpful starting point in conversation with believers who are taken aback by the political and anti-Scriptural baggage of the organization that bears its name.

With that said, I was shocked that some fellow brothers and sisters in Christ assumed that my decision to be vocal about ethnic partiality against blacks was a subtle alignment with Black Lives Matter the organization, critical theory and intersectionality as worldviews, the social gospel, or all of the above. I was surprised that they assumed that my solidarity in grieving with the black community meant that I was anti-white, anti-police, anti-government, and pro-a lot of things that wouldn’t align with the gospel message and holding it up as of first importance. Not because I’m infallible (I’m obviously and definitely not) but because these were friends who I thought knew me well.

But I understand a little better now — this is an incredibly hard topic, even within the church, and everyone comes to the table with their experiences and assumptions. And that’s okay — as long as we come humbly, in love, and with a willingness to be shaped by a correct understanding and application of God’s Word. And we can disagree over some of its applications without being divisive about it.

I’m learning that it’s helpful to give multiple qualifying statements, to give clear definitions of the words I use, to articulate who my audience is, and to invite private conversation where public conversation is difficult. I’m learning that gentleness goes a long ways in these conversations. I understand better how I shouldn’t make assumptions of others either. And all of these happen best in real relationship, don’t they? I stepped away mostly encouraged, at least in my circles, with the conversations, the humility, and the openness with which people engaged. And I’m grateful.

Some people asked me to share out about the various public and private conversations I had on this topic, and maybe I will at some point if I think it’ll be edifying, but for now, I wanted to share some helpful, free resources that I’ve come across in the last several weeks:

Racism/Ethnic Partiality

Systemic Racism

Critical Theory

Gospel-Driven Action

Gospel Issues

Navigating Social Media

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some here, or maybe I never saw some that are even more helpful than these. If so, shoot me the link. 🙂

And for those who want to dig deeper, there are a handful of books I’ve also read through in past weeks, but I’ll refrain from recommending them until I’ve thought through them some more. ♥

On #blacklivesmatter.

My heart aches for the Ahmaud Arberys and George Floyds of our society. And as a woman, I ache especially for their mothers, their wives, their sisters, their daughters, and their friends.

I’ve listened over the years, and even over the past weeks, to the different responses of different people, especially believers.

Most, I believe, are angry about these historical injustices against our black brothers and sisters. And rightly so (in my small opinion).

But others dismiss these things. They say they shouldn’t have broken the law, assuming the accusations or suspicions levied against them are true. Others say these societal events are irrelevant to gospel ministry. “Keeping preaching the gospel,” they say, “and let these other things figure themselves out.”

It is for this last group of loved ones that I feel compelled to say the following:

Christians ought to preach the gospel. And Christians ought to speak out (and appropriately act) against societal wrongs. And yes, Christians ought not sin in their response nor encourage others’ sin in response.

But wherever Christians see wrong — personally, socially, systemically, wherever — there is a call to take the real hope of the gospel to a personally, socially, and systemically sin-broken world.

We don’t just preach the gospel from the elevated pulpit (or blog or tweet or Instagram post). We take it down to actual broken homes, to actual broken relationships, to actual broken situations, and to actual scenes of injustice.

We are not the final judges of any given situation, but we can use discernment and stand with the historically oppressed whenever we see overreaches of power and abuse or patterns of racism. We can make our best judgment while keeping our ears open and our hearts humble.

We can cry out and do what we can for societal justice even as we trust that God will ultimately bring holy justice to this world, either through His gospel of grace or through righteous wrath.

The personal, social, and systemic sins of ethnocentrism (or racism) were not weeded out with The Emancipation Proclamation, any Executive Orders, or the Civil Rights Act. Legislation does not change a heart or a society; only the gospel can do that. But that doesn’t mean we preach the words of the gospel and then believe ourselves to be fulfilling God’s command to love Him and our neighbor while also keeping our hands folded back from what might be gospel-fueled action.

Preaching the gospel and mobilizing for societal change and justice do not have to be mutually exclusive. Can we take a step back and acknowledge that it’s outrageous to have to say this? Who made these mutually exclusive? (If ever our enemy had a scheme!) Because from what I see in Scripture, one is the root (the gospel) and the other is a fruit (doing good to and for our neighbor, whether on a personal, social, or systemic level).

Change happens on a personal level as people come to know Christ, but that doesn’t mean that change on a societal and systemic level should be ignored. The societal and systemic cannot reflect true gospel change until personal gospel change happens, but we should uphold the truth and love of God at every level as His salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). We don’t do this because this is trendy but because this is right.

We weep with our black brothers and sisters as they weep, we hurt with them, and we cry out for earthly justice with them while preaching the gospel to them and ourselves.

And continuing on, this next portion is for the same believers but also for those who fall so extremely to the human solutions, social justice camp that they lose sight of the greater spiritual warfare taking place:

We demand change as humans to humans (whether to individuals, government leaders, or those within the justice system), we call out human wrongs where we see them (even in ourselves), and we cry out to God; but we do this remembering that the real enemy of the human race is Satan (and sin and death).

The root issue is not white people versus colored people or black people versus the police. On the surface, it may appear so, but if our hatred and anger fall in any final way on flesh and blood, this hatred and anger is misplaced.

Don’t get me wrong. People do wrong things. They should be called out and, when appropriate, investigated and prosecuted for the wrongs they have done. Under God’s sovereignty, the government bears a sword for this purpose (Romans 13:4). And where the government fails, we trust that vengeance belongs ultimately to God (Romans 12:19).

But when our anger and hatred begin and end with flesh and blood (the racist neighbor, the police, the government, or even the murderer of the oppressed), we’ve zeroed in on the wrong enemy. We have sin to call out in each other, sin to hold each other accountable to, and a Savior to point each other to; but we do this while speaking the truth in love because the real enemy is not the one we can see:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
(Ephesians 6:12)

Be righteously angry. But also submit your notions of justice to God’s real justice, because it may not be the hellfire you desire. It might be mercy. It might be Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).

And to everyone, especially myself:

Remember the gospel. And remember the gospel is the person of Jesus Christ, whose body we are called and called to be. Sign petitions, call your local representative, march, and emotionally but peacefully demonstrate on behalf of our black brothers and sisters equally created in the image of God. Don’t make sweeping judgments of all police or all “white” or all (fill in the blank) as evil and hopeless. Do all for the glory of God.

May God give justice, may God give His comfort to the black community in America, and may God especially give His kindness that leads sinners on every side to repentance.

Free brush lettering guide.

Hi friends,

It’s been almost four years since my last brush lettering workshop, and while the oral instruction (which makes up so much of the workshop) is not available with this pdf packet, I still wanted to make this available for anyone who wanted a basic skeleton guide in learning watercolor brush lettering.

It’s been a long time since I’ve regularly done calligraphy, but this COVID-19 pandemic has motivated me to bring my old brushes and paints back out. I have no plans to resume workshops at this point, but I hope this free guide is a blessing to you as many of us are spending more time alone at home.

Click here for the guide TJK Watercolor Brush Lettering
It should take you to a new page with all the material for printing.

For supplies, I usually get mine from Amazon or Blick. (I don’t benefit at all from your clicks here.) Using tracing paper is one of the easiest ways to learn, but you can always get mixed media or watercolor paper and do your best to follow along without tracing.

If you have specific questions, you can send them to me via my Contact page, and I’ll try to answer the most frequently asked questions on Instagram in the coming weeks. ♥

Love in Christ,
Tia

He numbers our days.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:16

Whether we are in the at-risk category or not, Covid-19 does not alter the number of days that God has already ordained for us. Before we were even conceived, He already numbered the days we would live. And He already numbered the days of our loved ones.

A virus does not hold life and death in its hands. Our perfect Father does (1 Samuel 2:5).

And we can trust Him.

A scandalous gospel.

I was asked to contribute a devotional to SOLA’s series, “The Women Jesus Loved,” so with some encouragement from JE, I chose the woman from Luke 7.

This devotional was written as God reminded me last month of the bitterness of my sin and the sweetness of His grace.

I pray it blesses you.

This article was first published at SOLA.



Author’s Note: Text from Luke 7:36-50 (ESV) in bold

She lived during a time when men were said to have thanked God daily that they had not been born women. Behold, a woman of the city.

Not only that, she had embraced an unmentionable sin for so long that it had become her identity. Who was a sinner.

Or in hushed voices, maybe “prostitute.”

When they saw her coming, they quietly avoided her. Cross the road. Avert your eyes. Raise no greeting. Her doorway is the doorway to hell (Proverbs 7:27; 9:18), and her uncleanness is contagious, so keep your distance.

Simon the Pharisee knew her. Everyone knew her, so Simon judged Jesus for what he assumed was ignorance because surely, it could not be informed acceptance.If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

Yet something had transformed her. A woman like her knew she did not belong in anyone’s home, much less the home of a Pharisee. What brought this sort of woman here? But she came, braving the finger-pointing, the whispers, and the risk of being thrown out.

She came for Jesus, and she came prepared. When she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s home, (she) brought an alabaster flask of ointment.

How did she know about Jesus? Did she overhear neighbors questioning if he was the redemption of Israel (Luke 2:38; 4:21)? Did she hear in the marketplace that he healed the diseased and demon-possessed (6:18)? Was she among the crowds when he taught, “Your Father is merciful” (6:36)?

She must have known he was “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (7:34) because little else could explain her brazen act. Standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

Scandalous. How dare she touch the Holy One?

Her actions were a silent rebuke to the false teaching of her day. No, God’s kingdom is not for the proud; it is for the poor in spirit (6:20). It is for those who mourn (6:21). It is for tax collectors and sinners (15:1-2). For the crippled and blind and lame (14:21). The prodigal (15:11-32). The prostitute (7:50).

But she did not show up to refute false doctrine. She simply wanted to love Jesus. And the members of her body that were once presented to sin as instruments for unrighteousness she now wanted to present in his service (Romans 6:13).

He had walked and taught among the crowds in dirty streets, but when he entered Simon’s home, Simon did not task a servant to wash Jesus’ feet or even give him water to wash his own feet. Simon opened his house to Jesus but not his heart, and he withheld a most basic gesture of hospitality. “He who is forgiven little, loves little.”

In sharp contrast, here was this who and what sort of woman bending over Jesus’ soiled feet, washing them with her tears and gently wiping his feet with her hair. After pouring precious ointment on his feet, her worship overflowed in reverent kisses to his feet. Simon was regarded better than her in every way, but Jesus knew their hearts (Luke 2:35). “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.”

What would evoke such costly love and worship from this woman?

Costly forgiveness.

Jesus had something to say to Simon. “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

No doubt she was the debtor who owed five hundred denarii. Her sins before God were legion, but God himself absorbed the cost and canceled her debt. Her sins were neither excused nor minimized, but – hallelujah! – they were forgiven. Every single one.

Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much.”

And her love was the fragrant flower that grew from the seed of divine forgiveness. She loved much because she was loved much first (1 John 4:19).

He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”

This was hardly a genuine question. More likely, they were mocking Jesus’ implicit claim to be the moneylender, God himself. He came to cancel their debts, but they rejected him and grossly underestimated their debt. Thanks, but no thanks, they could pay it themselves. They needed no Savior; they had themselves.

So, justification was not for the self-righteous who prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like this sinful woman.” Justification was for her who cried, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:9-14)

And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Jesus’ words were more scandalous to the Pharisees than this woman’s past. But his words were true. God’s kingdom was for her and, by God’s grace, those like her.

Us.

Regarding Covid-19, the flu, etc.

I sent this email to my church family on March 5th, a week before the coronavirus was declared pandemic and beginning to spread in exponential numbers in Southern California. Some of the details I would change if it were sent now (e.g., more encouragement toward social distancing) but I’m posting it here to remind myself when I get swept up in the latest news … and for anyone else who visits here.


 

Hi church family,

I was reminded of this psalm today as I was reflecting on some personal conversations I’ve had with some of you:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Psalm 91:1-6

 Don’t Be Afraid — Pray

The news is blaring with all things coronavirus, and some of us have a bent toward panic and control while some of us have a bent toward passivity and a whatever attitude. And we can all waver between the two. 🙂

But as a church, I think we can encourage each other not to fear but to pray, and to speak truth to one another. We can also remind each other of who God is.

Would you pray with me? That God would cause those fearful to repent of their idolatry and cause them to ponder their mortality and turn to Him. That we as a church would be bold and eager and loving to share the gospel with our neighbors and those who express fear in our families and church family. That God would stem the tide of this virus and not allow any others to become ill or die.

But also, I wanted to encourage us to consider how we might practice love to our neighbor during flu season and with the slow spread of this specific coronavirus.

Love Our Neighbor

We have an increasingly “young” church, and those of us who are healthy and young without any underlying health conditions and strong immune systems might find it easy to scoff at the fear of those who are more cautious. Or we might think it no big deal to just show up sick.

Let’s remember that we have precious elderly saints among us who are more susceptible to severe illness. Let’s remember that we have young babies who are vulnerable to viruses. And we have immune-compromised church family among us who we might not see for long stretches of time during the cold and flu season because some of us don’t think twice about showing up, even when we’re very ill and contagious.

I don’t think this means we should never show up when we’re sick, but I think some of us can more lovingly consider our neighbor as we decide.

And for those who are more prone to fear and extreme isolation, let’s remember that we are church family, not just fellow carriers of illness. 🙂 Christians were often distinguished during times of plague and pestilence by their willingness to welcome people into their homes and to go out and care for the sick, even at personal risk.

Pray Together

Would you pray with me for all these things? That we would be this kind of church in the face of pestilence? And for the health workers among us who come in contact with the most ill? Let’s pray for their protection.

Rest for the weary.

“No rest for the weary, when you feel like it all rests on you.” (Tim Keller)