I’ve been given some new equipment recently. One of which is a book entitled: Exceptionally Bad Dad Jokes. The subtitle is my favorite though: so frightfully awful, yet wonderfully spiffing. Here’s one of them:
“A police officer caught two kids playing with a firework and a car battery. He charged one and let the other one off.”
I told you they were frightfully awful, yet wonderfully spiffing. I share this because when you and I receive a gift, especially a letter, there’s something that’s enlivened in us when we read it. If you could imagine a world where there are wars all around us, elections clamoring for our attention, and another holiday approaching, oooff, this letter from Philippians is going to show us that it makes 100% sense why you would feel angry, anxious or fearful. And that you can return to contentment, hope, and joy.
Here’s the crux, this – right here – is spiritual maturity. That when you have every reason to be tired and bitter, you find joy, whatever happens. This letter, to the Philippians, serves as a resource for a time racked by tumultuous cultural forces. It is tender to the seasonal times… a historic moment that longs for a cure to the ancient sickness that’s crippling the whole world, so that new life can rise in its place. It’s what the poet Wendell Berry called: practicing resurrection.
20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
I mean, if you want a punk rock statement, that’s one for you. As the students would say, this is “bussing,” is it not?
My mother-in-law asks great questions. The last time she was in town, she asked, “What have you learned in your first year of marriage?”
I paused for a moment, and offered two quotations:
1 – “Marriage is your best, last chance, to grow up.” (haha; :D)
2 – From Paul in Ephesians 5……”love your wife as your own body.”
In a pluralistic, hedonistic, post-truth, and often over-indulgent society, one of the primary ways the gospel receives credibility in this world is where or not we can say that phrase “Christ be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”
Now, for all the good that therapy does, what podcasts accomplish, and the benefits of working out, they cannot produce in us the type of resoluteness & renovation this world craves. Like the psychologists say, “Do we really think we are the answer to our problems, we who’ve generated all of them?” Please hear me, in no way is that meant to shame or be calloused to the other nuances that are at play. The emphasis here (Philippians 1:27-30) is that whatever happens in us, to us, or around us, the Spirit of God has given us a new identity and new equipment so that we might be characterized by a new way of being in this world. V.28; together.
To put it simply, when your flame of faith shines in the darkest places, the darkness will try to douse you and snuff it out. Persecution then and now is a parable. It puts the death and resurrection of Christ on display, again and again. Detractors that try to kill your faith like they tried to kill Jesus, but faith rises in its place….just like Jesus rose. When harassers try everything in their power to kill your faith, but faith refuses to die, resurrection power is on display. That, whatever happens, nothing in all of creation can separate you from His Almighty grip of grace, so that you and I can walk in a manner worthy of the gospel.
So, whatever happens, we can stand firm, strive together, and endure suffering for the glory of God and the good of those around us. We can trust God, because Jesus did all these things. He is strong enough to do something about your life, and He wants to do it. Through our unimaginable suffering and the undeserved gifts of grace, God is making us more like Him, so that our lives will resound with that one thing… That whatever happens, we’d live a life worthy of the gospel.
As Advent approaches, what is your most vulnerable grief or hope this season? As He made room for us, would we make room for Him? Would you and I read the letter to the Philippians more than reading our phones this Advent season? Look more at the Scriptures than our screens? The beauty of Advent is He is much more faithful in His coming than we are in our waiting.
While growing up in Arlington Heights, IL, it wasn’t until the start of my senior year did I start to wonder if Jesus was worth considering. For me, it took the intellectual, communal, and personal components to come together to say – yes – to Him. I like to say He captured the restlessness of my soul and like a guitar restrung my heart with the cords of eternity and it hasn’t gone back since.
Shortly after coming to know Jesus as my greatest hope and reality, my father died. Since then, I’ve taken great comfort in Corrie Ten Boom’s words, “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God, you’ll be at rest.”
Then, not long after that, a family member came out to me. For the first time this dimension of life – spirituality and sexuality – wasn’t an abstract concept, this was and is a person. After attending to them with grace and truth, an odd phenomenon kept happening to me, or has it been for something? Individuals would continually trust me with their questions, wounds, and curiosities about their sexuality. At this point, it’s climbed to 15+. From there, I’ve invested the better part of eight years being engaged with individuals and immersed in the dizzying array of literature on these areas of our personhood.
I’ve found Elizabeth Elliot’s words to have great bearing on our cultural moment: “Faith doesn’t eliminate questions, but faith knows where to take them.” Two prayers that have grounded and guided my life are: “I long to have faith and obedience like those I see in the Scriptures, and I long to preach the gospel to the nations.”
Those are my life’s aims. Among my love of books, reflection, and nurturing meaningful relationships, I enjoy good coffee, jazz music, golf, snowboarding, the movies, pizza (pepperoni), cooking, the mountains, and the beach as well as traveling.
I hold an MDiv from Denver Seminary, and I hope to gain more clarity on pursuing a PhD in the coming years.
I’m humbled and honored to join the WGA staff and contribute to the on-going space they are curating for every person, every story, and every beautiful and broken aspect of our human experience.
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