"Why did you doubt?"

It doesn't matter if it's because of the smallest thing, it is so easy to allow my eyes to slip off of God and onto myself, my situation, my discouraging circumstances. I shrink God down to my size and begin to act as if He is bound by the same borders of ability that I am.

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
— Matthew 14:31

There are times when you have "conquer the world" type of faith. A faith so big, you are full to bursting with it. Other times, your faith is so small, you wonder if it's still there. The kind of faith that can only be seen under a microscope. It's only when I look at God's truth am I reminded of just how big our God is. How he does not operate under human impossibilities.

So that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:5)

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. (2 Timothy 2:13)

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

I will admit, just this evening, I cut my prayer time short because I wanted to instead fume and wallow in my impossible, bleak circumstances. I was convicted (I quickly ran back to my prayer journal and confessed to the Lord my lack of faith!) and so I felt the need to type this up and post it right away since I know a little reminder in this area can be a huge encouragement. It can lift our eyes off of ourselves and our circumstances and place them right back where they belong; onto our Savior who holds out his hand and waits for us to step out from our boat and onto the stormy waters.

For now, 
Jennifer

Wielding The Weapon of Music In The Fight For Joy In God

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I'm borrowing from John Piper's book "When I Don't Desire God: How To Fight For Joy" for this blog post. Being a musician this excerpt about glorifying God with music in his book resounded with me because it presents the proper attitude and end goal all musicians should have for their music; to glorify and exalt our great Creator. 

I've loved music and written music for awhile now and I've undergone temptation time and time again to create a song with one's own glorification in mind. Instead, music should be a tool we have been given that is used to represent and give glory to the One who gave us music in the first place.


Fighting For Joy With Sights And Sounds That Humans Make

And of course, words are not the only way that artists waken others to the glory of what they have seen. There is visual art (drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, film) and there is music. I will not say much here because I am out of my element. What I know about art and music I know from experience, not formal study. I am a witness, not a judge. And what I testify to is the power of visual art, especially music. As it is with creative writing, so it is with these: They have the potential to awaken the mind and heart to aspects of God's glory that were not perceived before. Paintings or photographs of mountains can call forth a sense of wonder and peace. If we are willing to "look along" (not just "at") these picture, as Lewis taught us, our eyes will run up the beams to the Original Glory, and the wonder and peace will rest finally in the wonderful and peaceful mountains and streams of God's power and mercy.


Music,  it seems to me, is the most complex art of all. Who can really explain what happens when music works its power? Its transforming effects are documented in cases ranging from Parkinson's disease to plants. As with all things in nature and in the hand of fallen man, it can be used to reveal or conceal the glory of God--to corrupt the mind or illumine the mind. At its best, music echoes a true perception of some facet of God's glory. The ambiguity of the medium itself, combined with cultural and social and personal associations, complicates the display of that glory in sound. 

I recall reading a story of a tribal person, with no exposure to Western culture, being flown to Europe and taken to a performance of Handel's Messiah. He sat almost the whole time covering his ears with his hands because, as he explained later, it was just so much noise to his ears. That is an extreme illustration of the complexity of communication with music. Nevertheless, the power is there, and it works everyday for good or for ill. My point is that in the fight for joy it is good and right to pursue a deeper sense of God's glory with the help of music.
 

Wielding The Weapon Of Music In The Fight For Joy In God

If this were not right, the Bible would not command us so often to sing (eg., Ex. 15:21; 1 Chron. 16:23; Ps. 96:1) or to play on instruments (eg., Ps. 33:2-3; 57:8; 81:2; 150). Music seems to be into worship and the world of nature. Among the many creatures God has made in his wisdom (Ps. 104:24) are the birds that God has taught to sing: "Beside [the springs]  the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches" (Ps. 104:12). Surely God has not created music as a pointless distractions from rational apprehensions of God. Surely, this too is a part of the creation that is "declaring the glory of God."

To wield music well in the fight for joy we should be filled with the word of God, so that our minds are shaped by biblical truths. If our mind and heart have been molded by the contours of God's character and humbled by the grace of the gospel, we will discern what sounds reveal and correspond to the varied glories of God. And since this depends so much on cultural contexts and personal backgrounds, we will need not only a grasp of musical richness, but also deep theological grounding in God-centered truth, and cultural sensitivity, and an awareness of the dynamics of the heart, and profound love for people of all kinds.

We must make it our aim that the joy awakened in music be joy in God. Not all pleasures of music are pleasures in God. Then the effort to delight in God in music will involve a prior shaping of the mind by the Word, so that the structures of sound that do not conform to God's character are not pleasing in the first place. Then the effort to delight in God through music will also involve a thoughtful testing after the music has already awakened joy. Is this joy, we ask, rooted in something good about God? Is it shaping my emotions into Christ-exalting configuration?  Is it stirring my desires to know Christ better and love him more and show him to others at the cost of my own comfort? So before and after music has its immediate effect, we pursue the goal that music us more glad in the glory of God.

 

You can find the full book for free in PDF form, "When I Don't Desire God: How To Fight For Joy" by John Piper by clicking here.

For now, 
Jennifer

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Forgiving Myself

Copyright: Jennifer Langley Photography

Copyright: Jennifer Langley Photography

When I was younger the idea of there being difficulty forgiving oneself seemed a bit strange. Usually the only people I worried about forgiving me were the people I had hurt or who had been privy to my sin. If they forgave and forgot I was off the hook and I could leave the memory and burden of that wrongdoing far behind. I knew, more importantly, that God forgave me. After all, it was why He had sent His son to die on the cross for us, a sinful people. (Colossians 1:13-14 - ...who has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have the redemption, the forgiveness of sins...

When I got older I didn't even realize a burden on my shoulders slowly began to grow. A list in my head of all the things I had done, mistakes I had made. I began to label certain things as "un-forgivable" and so I'd hang onto them. These things became my identity. I wore them like a piece of clothing everywhere I went.

After foolish mistakes in my teen years and being in a relationship for over a year with it coming to an end, my burden grew even heavier. I thought back to all the ways I had failed and instead of forgiving myself as God forgave me, I began to let the failures shape how I saw myself. Not as "Jennifer, God's daughter, saved by His grace and forgiven," but as "Jennifer, doer of a million unforgivable mistakes." It felt like an ever increasing weight growing heaver with every failure and shortcoming. 

I compared myself to other people who seemed so good. I felt like such an ugly young woman in comparison to them. They seemed to effortlessly radiate joy and goodness by the work of God in them yet I felt like I could never be like that. Those people didn't have the character flaws I had. Pride, selfishness, jealousy, lust, bad days, etc. Those people had somehow been gifted with perfection in every area. 

Inside I had become beaten down, bent over with guilt. I lost all confidence in myself with other people. How could anyone be around a person like me? Couldn't they see each sin I had committed written all over my face? That's all I saw when I looked in the mirror. It felt good to stand in the place of God and condemn myself. I felt it's what I deserved.

It felt impossible to forgive myself as I knew God had forgiven me. Even though I had all of the knowledge, I could not believe it.  Where did I start? When did the knowledge become practice? I had practiced preaching lies to myself and listening to lies from Satan for so long that I didn't know how to undo my doubt and self condemnation.  I wanted to forgive myself. I didn't want to feel the stab of shame and regret when I thought back to each mistake. I wanted to feel confidence in God's grace that forgave and washed us clean. I felt anything but clean. 

I wanted to fill up and distract from the emptiness I felt in my very soul. I thought an earthly relationship would be the answer to it all. Maybe it would make me feel worth something. I wanted to chase after something to give me temporary relief. But I knew in my heart, no earthly thing could fill me up. God alone was the answer. Earthly things, when we put our trust in them, are like shifting sand. (Matthew 7:25 - The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had it's foundation on the rock.) God is the only one who is never failing, never shifting, constant and unchanging. He is faithful, loving, patient and wise. He loves us perfectly like no one and nothing else can.

Slowly the truth in this began to sink in to my weary heart. Like a balm, it healed. My prayers no longer felt useless. I knew that God heard me. He heard every cry from my heart and knew all the pain that weighed me down. I was not just a voice among the millions, my prayer was a sweet song to my Savior. His sweet voice, his sweet truth, began to shape my heart and shape the way I saw myself and all of my mistakes.

My heart began to overflow with thankfulness for all of the things he brought me through. They had given me a vision for His goodness, His mercy. I saw so clearly who God was. He was not far away, He was so close. When he said he forgave, He really did. It was not, is not my job to forgive myself. I did not have to do penance by carrying around shame and regret til I felt I had paid the sufficient price. Jesus had already done that. My burden slipped off of my shoulders in front of the cross.

But though I know these truths, I still struggle. I still wrestle with believing this truth. When the devil whispers lies I struggle with succumbing to letting them rest in my heart and take up residence. But I have a weapon to fight back. I have the truth to wage war and win. (Ephesians 6:12)

1 John 1:7

 "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin."

For now, 
Jennifer

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