The Invitation

“The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” — Revelation 22.17

What is the purpose of Christian living? We know what it looks like when it’s done wrong. Moralism breeds guilt for failure, intolerance toward others, and pride in perceived successes. Rejection of morality and discipline erodes the transformative power of the sacramental living. To understand the purpose we have to look toward the goal.

Like a masterfully arranged symphony, the final note of Scripture rings with wonder and beauty: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” Grace—and not just grace, but an invitation for others to come into grace. Gregory the Great observed:

Hear how John is admonished by the angelic voice, “let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’” He into whose heart the internal voice has found its way may, by crying aloud, draw others into where he himself is carried.

There are predictable ways a religious text could end: rules, admonition, veiled threats—yet the Christian Scriptures end with open arms. Charles Spurgeon believed that invitation, “come,” is the motto of the gospel:

The cry of the Christian religion is the simple word, “Come.” The Jewish law said, “Go, pay attention to your steps—to the path in which you walk. Go, and if break the commandments, and you shall perish; Go, and if keep them, and you shall live.”

The law was a dispensation of the whip, which drove men before it; the gospel is just of the opposite kind. It is the Shepherd’s dispensation.

The Shepherd goes before his sheep, and bids them follow, saying, “Come.” The law repels; the gospel attracts. The law shows the distance between God and man; the gospel bridges that distance and brings the sinner across the great fixed gulf which Moses could never bridge.

Evangelism is not an action, but the culmination of Christian living. As we cultivate Christian practices—personal devotion, service to the marginalized, and commitment to community—our lives, workplaces, and cities flourish.

In this way Christian living is sacramental. Devotion cultivates peace, peace flows—like living water—into a dry and thirsty world. Gregory the Great concludes:

For the Church dwells in the gardens, in that she keeps the cultivated nurseries of virtues in a state of inward greenness.

Today’s Reading
Isaiah 52 (Listen – 2:46)
Revelation 22 (Listen – 3:59)

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Elisabeth’s Letters :: Weekend Reading List

“Encouragement comes to me from many different sources, and I would like to be able to pass some of it on to others,” reflected Elisabeth Elliot in her first newsletter, penned in the winter of 1982.

In the 21 years that followed Elliot would share stories, encouragement, and struggles with her readers—providing a glance at a heart that was, at the same time, captured and challenged by Christ. In a series on why Christians suffer she wrote:

The last newsletter told of my mother’s [cranial surgery]. I spent Thanksgiving weekend with her in the hospital. It was hard to see her thin, weak, and disoriented—she whom I think of as quick-witted and alive.

My psalm for the day was the sixty-third. I told myself that I must not dwell on things seen, but on things unseen…. When I went to see her later that morning, I read her the passages. I asked for reasons for thanksgiving she could think of, and she came up with quite a long list.

The Lord was there. I was sure of it, and I was strengthened. I think she was too.

Following her husband Jim Elliot’s slaughter by the indigenous tribe the two served as missionaries, Elliot invested her life not only in Christian ministry, but in returning to the tribe to know and serve them.

Though her story is one of inner strength and fortitude, it is also one of inner quietness and responsiveness. Elliot was, in every respect of the word, observant; listening and engaging with what she understood God doing in and around her—in life’s most trying moments as well as its daily frustrations. She explains:

Jesus slept on a pillow in the midst of a raging storm. How could he? The terrified disciples sure that the next wave would send them straight to the bottom shook him awake with rebuke.

He slept in the calm assurance that his father was in control. His was a quiet heart.

Purity of heart, said Kierkegaard, is to will one thing. The son willed only one thing: the will of his father. That’s what he came to earth to do. Nothing else.

A quiet heart is content with what God gives. It is enough. All is grace.

One morning my computer simply would not obey me. What a nuisance. I had my work laid out, my timing figured, my mind all set. My work was delayed, my timing thrown off, my thinking interrupted.

Then I remembered. It was not for nothing. All is under my father’s control—yes, recalcitrant computers, faulty transmissions, drawbridges which happen to be up when one is in a hurry. My portion. My cup. My lot is secure. My heart can be at peace. My father is in charge. How simple!

Response is what matters.

Elliot’s writings are profound in their honesty and simplicity. Above all, she connects faith to daily life—in both its banality and brutality. The source and hope is the same. She reminds:

Whatever may be troubling you at this moment is not new to the Lord Jesus. He is not taken by surprise. He is the same—in a prison cell in World War II and in the midst of your dilemma. It is no dilemma to Him. He is not going to leave you.

Weekend Reading List

Today’s Reading
Isaiah 49 (Listen – 4:55)
Revelation 19 (Listen – 3:47)

Today’s Reading
Isaiah 50 (Listen – 2:09) Revelation 20 (Listen – 2:49)
Isaiah 51 (Listen – 4:35) Revelation 21 (Listen – 4:34)


The First and the Last :: Throwback Thursday

By Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last. — Isaiah 48.12

I have greatly longed for a broken heart and to lie low before God. It is affecting to think how ignorant I was when a young Christian—of the bottomless, infinite depths of wickedness, pride, hypocrisy and deceit, left in my heart.

I have a much greater sense of my universal, exceeding dependence on God’s grace and strength, and mere good pleasure, of late, than I used formerly to have. And I have experienced more of an abhorrence of my own righteousness.

The very thought of any joy arising in me—on any consideration of my own amiableness, performances, or experiences, or any goodness of heart or life—is nauseous and detestable to me. And yet I am greatly afflicted with a proud and self righteous spirit; much more than I used to be. I see that serpent rising and putting forth its head continually, every where, all around me.

Holiness appears to me to be of a sweet, pleasant, charming, serene, calm nature—which brings an inexpressible purity, brightness, peacefulness and ravishment to the soul. In other words, it makes the soul like a field or garden of God, with all manner of pleasant flowers; all pleasant, delightful, and undisturbed: enjoying a sweet calm and the gently vivifying beams of the sun.

The soul of a true Christian appears like such a little white flower as we see in the spring of the years; low and humble on the ground, opening its bosom to receive the pleasant beams of the sun’s glory; rejoicing as it were in a calm rapture; diffusing around a sweet flagrancy; standing peacefully and lovingly in the midst of other flowers; all in like manner opening their bosoms to drink in the light of the sun.

There is no part of creature holiness, that I have such great a sense of its loveliness, as humility, brokenness of heart, and poverty of spirit—and there is nothing else I so earnestly long for. My heart pants after this—to lie low before God, as in the dust; that I might be nothing and that God might be all; that I might become as a little child.

*Abridged and language updated from The Personal Narrative of Jonathan Edwards and His Seventy Resolutions.

Today’s Reading
Isaiah 48 (Listen – 3:39)
Revelation 18 (Listen – 4:48)


Forgiveness in the Sight of God

You felt secure in your wickedness, you said, “No one sees me”; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, “I am, and there is no one besides me.” — Isaiah 47.10

No one sees me—Adam as he hid in the garden of Eden. No one sees me—David after he dominated Bathsheba and sent her away. No one sees me—Peter as he cowered into the night after the crowds identified him as a follower of Christ.

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. — Proverbs 15.3

“Where are you?” God’s voice called after Adam. “You are that man!” the prophet cried to David. “And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.”


Each had legitimate reasons—wisdom and knowledge—that explained what happened and could help self-justify so their lives could move forward. But, “I am and there is no one besides me”— the mantra of self-actualization—quickly turned to “I AM was beside me.” Each caught in their sin.

And, yet, none were left alone. None were crushed for moral failure. God saw not only their sin, but the path of restoration. Richard Rohr remarks,

Perhaps the most difficult forgiveness, the greatest letting go, is to forgive ourselves for doing it wrong. We need to realize that we are not perfect, and we are not innocent. If I want to maintain an image of myself as innocent, superior, or righteous, I can only do so at the cost of truth. We have for too long confused holiness with innocence, whereas holiness is actually mistakes overcome and transformed, not necessary mistakes avoided.

Letting go is different than denying or repressing. To let go of it, you have to admit it. You have to own it. You see it and you hand it over to God. You refuse to let the negative story line that you’ve wrapped yourself around define your life.

Letting go of our cherished images of ourselves is really the way to heaven, because when you fall down to the bottom, you fall on solid ground, the Great Foundation, the bedrock of God. It looks like an abyss, but it’s actually a foundation. On that foundation, you have nothing to prove, nothing to protect: “I am who I am who I am,” and for some unbelievable reason, that’s what God has chosen to love.

Today’s Reading
Isaiah 47 (Listen – 2:52)
Revelation 17 (Listen – 3:19)


Incomplete Joys

Hire a goldsmith, and he makes (a god); then they fall down and worship! — Isaiah 46.6

Because modernism has largely done away with physical representations of deities, it is far more difficult to identify the idols which pursue our hearts each day. As I’ve written, a culture’s idols are revealed by what it pours the most energy and resources into. Ancient cultures built structures that survived millennia; U.S. investment portfolios designed around the 7 deadly sins outperform the S&P 500 every quarter.

Yet our idols are not always sins like lust and anger. Timothy Keller, in his book Counterfeit Gods, explains, “When anything in life is an absolute requirement for your happiness and self-worth, it is essentially an ‘idol,’ something you are actually worshiping.”

The greatest sign of idolatry is its churn. Pursuit after pursuit proves insufficient. Jobs come and go; markets crash; lovers disappoint; things once counted on fall through. It’s not the pressure of modern culture, it’s the result of our heart’s natural path to seek fulfillment in things outside God. In his observations of 19th century America, Alexis De Tocqueville recorded:

Sixty years is too brief a compass for man’s imagination. The incomplete joys of this world can never satisfy his heart.

The fulfilling life we long for isn’t found in our pursuits, but as a result of our ability to prune such things from sapping our time and energy. Only then can we fully pour ourselves into, and receive everything we need from, the one true source of life. Dr. Keller concludes:

Idolatry is not just a failure to obey God, it is a setting of the whole heart on something besides God. This cannot be remedied only by repenting that you have an idol, or using willpower to try to live differently. Turning from idols is not less than these two things, but it is far more.

“Setting the mind and heart on things above” where “your life is hid with Christ in God” means appreciation, rejoicing, and resting in what Jesus has done for you. It entails joyful worship, a sense of God’s reality in prayer.

Jesus must become more beautiful to your imagination, more attractive to your heart, than your idol. That is what will replace your counterfeit gods. If you uproot the idol and fail to “plant” the love of Christ in its place, the idol will grow back.

Today’s Reading
Isaiah 46 (Listen – 2:12)
Revelation 16 (Listen – 3:17)